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EBU urges Netherlands to scrap broadcasting budget cuts

The EBU (European Broadcasting Union) has appealed to the Dutch government to abandon a proposed 100 million Euro cut in the budget of the Netherlands Public Broadcasting (NPO) from 2016. This would be taking austerity to excess, coming in addition to a 200 million Euro cut already announced in 2011, according to EBU President Jean-Paul Philippot.

“The Dutch government needs to realize that this proposal is excessive and should be dropped,” said Philippot, adding, “while belt tightening is necessary, cutting 300 million from NPO’s budget — one third of the total — is akin to tightening a noose around its ability to serve the public properly.”

Philippot credited the NPO for making radical reforms to absorb the 200 million Euro cuts while honoring its commitment to producing high quality, multiplatform programming. These reforms included reducing the number of broadcasting organizations under its wing from 22 to eight in 2015, when the 200 million Euro cut takes effect.

But Philippot argued that a further cut would irreparably damage the NPO’s programming.

“Cuts this deep will start a downward spiral that it will be near impossible to recover from, starting with a hit on the quality and variety of NPO’s output — the key to its success,” Philippot said. “This will also lead to harmful knock-on effects on the Dutch creative industries, such as program and film making.”

Naturally the NPO Management Board itself has spoken out against the proposed cuts, but its chairman Henk Hagoort welcomed the support of the EBU, as well as of the Dutch public, given more widespread opposition to the latest cuts than the earlier round.

The Netherlands has been Europe’s strongest advocate of tough fiscal medicine as treatment for the illness afflicting the whole Eurozone, but so far evidence is that it is not working. While moderate growth in Germany and France has lifted the Eurozone as a whole out of recession, in the Netherlands it is still going on over a year after it set in mid-2012. Dutch gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 0.2 per cent over the most recent quarter and 1.8 percent over the year. But whether the apparent failure of the country’s tough fiscal medicine will persuade the government to relent over the latest broadcasting cuts remains to be seen.