Radio Netherlands Worldwide: Activism replaces Nice Cups of Tea

The Dutch government simply decided it didn’t need an international broadcaster anymore.

Andy Sennitt, formerly Radio Netherlands Worldwide, quoted by Shortwave America. Radio Netherlands’ broadcasts in English and Indonesian ended on June 29.

Radio Netherlands 1987 QSL

Prince Claus of the Netherlands pushes the button: inaugurating a new transmitter park (probably for the Flevoland transmitter park), on May 19, 1987. Flevo replaced the Lopik site, Radio Netherlands’ transmission site from 1947 to 1985. (Click picture for info about Lopik in Dutch.)

Once RNW’s English web stream ended on June 29, there would be no more daily reviews of the Dutch papers, coverage of Dutch news stories and listening guides, the Jakarta Post quoted Radio Netherlands’ website in a report on June 24.

According to a statement posted on Radio Netherlands’ website on June 26, RNW will

concern itself solely with making information available in countries where free speech is suppressed or threatened, where “free speech”, according to the vision of chief editor Rik Rensen, should encapsulate Dutch values.

The statement quotes chief editor Rik Rensen as saying that this

[..] means RNW should produce ground-breaking stories about freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to freedom of sexual orientation and women’s rights. Actually, these issues are already under RNW’s spotlight, but they’ll be even more accentuated in the future.

My (personal) view of the “changes”

I believe that to make information available where it’s otherwise suppressed might be  a great idea. However, if that can’t be done in practice – i. e. by exemplary day-to-day journalism -, RNW is running a risk of coming across as increasingly bigoted and divisive. That’s what I expect to happen, not because the values RNW intends to promote wouldn’t be important – it’s because these issues will, according to the chief editor, be even more accentuated than in past broadcasts. To be fair, one should  acknowledge that even if Radio Netherlands had kept a budget that would allowed it to keep operating on shortwave, and on the internet, it would have lost many of its audience – the media world provides readers and listeners with a range of choices which make that almost inevitable.

But the truth is that the programs had become so full of “Dutch values” even more than a decade ago, and so void of the former cheerfulness from programs like the “Happy Station”, that I could smell the influence of politics across the miles. I have rarely listened to RNW for years, and I’m therefore not going to miss their programs.

But many listeners probably will. The political class – not only in the Netherlands, but in Germany, too – seems to be so convinced of particular projects close to their hearts that they are prepared to give away thousands of dedicated listeners or online readers, just to intensify their own message. Bluntly said: if people aren’t aware of “our” values, let’s yell them  into their ears until they start cherishing them. Good luck with that approach.

Even in totalitarian countries, there are propagandists who doubt the effect of campaigns on foreign audiences. No matter if a message tries to sell suppression as “humane”, or if it actually stands for human rights, this assessment of Chinese soft-power explorers, recorded in 2009, is likely to cut both ways:

If the significance of propaganda becomes too strong, it can easily evoke the other side’s suspicions and resentment.

I hope that practice at RNW will prove itself to be better than what the (former) station’s recent announcements seem to suggest.

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Related

Keith Perron runs the revived Happy Station Show. It used to be among Radio Netherlands’ most popular programs, broadcast every Sunday, until it was terminated there in the 1990s. It’s now produced in Taipei, and a special edition on June 29 was a tribute to Radio Netherlands –

» part 1
» part 2

PCJMedia, the producing company, has a website, but without permalinks, it seems. Tom Meyer (Meijer) was a Happy Station host at Radio Netherlands, and he unmistakably has some influence on the choice of music played on Perron’s show, too.

The program on June 29 started with “A Nice Cup of Tea” – a signature tune when Meyer’s predecessor, Edward Startz, hosted the show.

» Free Speech, Dutch Values, June 10, 2011

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Updates / Related

» Canada Signs Off, Garth Mullins, July 6, 2012

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2 Responses to “Radio Netherlands Worldwide: Activism replaces Nice Cups of Tea”

  1. Agree whole-heartedly about the influence of politics on content being baleful. This, for me, was always the the main differentiator between the BBC World Service and Voice of America – this and over-all quality, although politicised content (as opposed to political content) always spells poor quality anyway.

    The BBC still manages to stay relatively unpoliticised, although the World Service’s quality is way down (remember when it was the home of Letter From America?), a decline which the move to Broacasting House will hopefully do something to arrest.

    Like

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