The Netherlands: in Belgian hands

In 2017 the battle over the daily paper De Telegraaf kept the Dutch in suspense: Who would take over the country's largest tabloid? The confrontation showed that even in a country so trendsetting when it comes to new media, traditional media are far from obsolete.

Online newspaper kiosk Blendle (© picture-alliance/dpa)
Online newspaper kiosk Blendle (© picture-alliance/dpa)
In the end the Belgian group Mediahuis won out, despite having underbid its main competitor John de Mol. Media entrepreneur and billionaire de Mol revolutionised European television with programmes like Big Brother and The Voice. Now his company Talpa wants to become a major player in the Netherlands. It already owns several TV and radio stations, although his bid to take over De Telegraaf failed.

The Van Puijenbroek family, a major shareholder in the Telegraaf group, awarded the contract to the Flemish publishers. The media company Mediahuis had already made a name for itself in the Netherlands when it took over and revamped NRC Handelsblad. Now all the major newspapers in the Netherlands are in Belgian hands. The Persgroep publishing group took over the Dutch publisher PCM Uitgevers (which owns Trouw, De Volkskrant and other prominent outlets) in 2009 and acquired the magazine publisher VNU Media in 2012. In order to prevent a monopoly, NRC Handelsblad was outsourced from PCM and taken over by the Belgian company Mediahuis.

Fears that this concentration could impoverish the media culture or kill off outlets have proven unfounded. The Belgian publishers have invested in their publications and their strategy has brought modest successes. It now remains to be seen if they can save De Telegraaf, which has seen its circulation figures drop by more than half since 2000.
But John de Mol hasn’t given up: he acquired the national news agency ANP in 2018.

Press Freedom Index (Reporters Without Borders):
Rank 5 (2018)

Last updated: May 2018
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