Friday, June 17, 2011

Cabinet announces details of proposed cuts to Radio Netherlands

The Dutch cabinet has announced plans to cut back the activities of Radio Netherlands Worldwide. RNW will no longer provide information for Dutch people living abroad, nor be responsible for providing a realistic image of the Netherlands to the rest of the world. RNW will concern itself solely with providing information in countries where free speech is suppressed or threatened.

The cuts to RNW are part of a widespread austerity programme the current government is implementing to bring the national budget into balance. In the wake of cuts to higher education, the arts and defence, the government today announced a reorganisation of the entire public broadcasting system.

As part of that reorganisation, RNW will no longer fall under the media budget, but will become the responsibility of the Foreign Affairs Ministry. That move is scheduled to take place on 1 January 2013. Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal confirmed the focus on free speech and press freedom for Radio Netherlands Worldwide:

“Radio Netherlands Worldwide will concern itself with free speech under Foreign Affairs starting in 2013. I will not say anything else about it right now.”

Mr Rosenthal explained that, since RNW will remain part of the media budget next year, he does not want to step on his fellow minister’s toes.

The exact financial consequences of this limiting of RNW’s activities are not yet known. Parliament must still approve the cabinet’s planned cuts. No detail has been given about the extent of future budget cuts. The lower house of parliament will debate the cabinet proposals on 27 June.

During his press conference after the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Mark Rutte praised the work RNW has done: “Radio Netherlands Worldwide will limit itself to one role, promoting free speech. I think the other tasks Radio Netherlands Worldwide performs are nice, valuable, but not enough to finance them with public money.”

In reaction to the news from The Hague, former foreign minister Bernard Bot, chairman of the RNW Supervisory board, said: “I find this Cabinet decision incomprehensible for a government whose foreign policy should serve the long-term interests of the Netherlands and the Dutch.”

RNW Director-General Jan Hoek echoed the feelings of Mr Bot: “This is an incomprehensible and sad decision. The Ministry has chosen the easy way out by passing one quarter of the cuts in Public Broadcasting (two hundred million euros) in its entirety to one organization - RNW.”

RNW Editor-in-Chief Rik Rensen said: “Our country is known as an important and reliable trading nation. Radio Netherlands Worldwide is making a unique contribution in ten languages 24 hours a day. For tens of millions of people around the world, RNW is an important source of information and a journalistic calling card for the Netherlands. Is our country really going back behind the dikes? ”
(Source: RNW News/R Netherlands Media Network Weblog)