The Netherlands: diversity despite media concentration

In recent years, the Netherlands has become a trendsetter in the new media sector. Its traditional media are also doing quite well. The diversity in the daily sector remains enormous: five national dailies and numerous strong regional papers in a country of 17 million inhabitants.

The management of the Finnish Sanoma group informs the journalists at about plans for a takeover by the Belgian group DBG.
The management of the Finnish Sanoma group informs the journalists at about plans for a takeover by the Belgian group DBG.
More than 40 percent of the population over 13 years of age reads a daily paper on a regular basis, and the situation is similar for television. Despite competition from numerous commercial broadcasters, streaming services and web platforms, traditional television is holding its own, and public-service broadcasting has a market share of just over 35 percent.

However, the centre-right government is making efforts to significantly reduce the public broadcasting network. Agitation on social media against its allegedly leftist bias and reporting is gaining momentum and has in some cases led to threats against journalists.

Newspaper owners based in Belgium

The dailies in particular are reaping the benefits of digital and cross-media investments. The mergers and concentration of ownership have cut costs, helping to ensure the survival of titles that might otherwise have gone down.

All the major newspapers are in Belgian hands. The Belgian De Persgroep publishing company (DPG Media) took over Dutch publisher PCM Uitgevers (which owns Trouw and De Volkskrant) in 2009 and acquired magazine publisher VNU Media in 2012. De Persgroep now holds about 50 percent of the Dutch newspaper market. At the end of 2019 the group also acquired the Dutch titles of the Finnish magazine publisher Sanoma, including, the country's largest news site.

Publishers standing up to Facebook and Google

To prevent a monopoly, in 2015 NRC Handelsblad newspaper was moved out of the PCM group and taken over by the Belgian company Mediahuis. The latter also bought De Telegraaf, the country's leading newspaper, and now has a market share of around 39 percent in the Dutch newspaper market.

And finally a third player is now nosing his way into the Dutch press sector: media entrepreneur and billionaire John de Mol revolutionised the European television industry with TV formats such as Big Brother and The Voice. He already owns several TV and radio stations, and with his company Talpa Network he plans to make inroads in the press sector, and bought the national news agency ANP in 2018 as part of this initiative.

However, fears that this concentration in the hands of a few companies would have a negative impact on diversity have proved unfounded. The Belgian publishers are investing in their media and achieving results. And they now hope to hold their own against Facebook and Google in the fiercely contested advertising market.

World Press Freedom Index (Reporters Without Borders):
Rank 4 (2020)

Last updated: April 2020

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