Dutch Public Broadcasting (NPO) wants to launch a new radio station in 2011. NPO Director of Radio Programming Jan Westerhof explained to the broadcasters’ magazine Spreekbuis that the new station, Radio 7, would take over the programming currently carried in the evenings and weekends on Radio 5.
Radio 5 now has a split personality. The new daytime format known as ‘Radio 5 Nostalgia’, which is targeted at the older listener and plays music from the 1950s and 1960s, has been very successful. It has helped increase the the station’s market share from 0.6 to 2.7 percent. But from 7 pm, when the specialist programmes start, the audience drops dramatically. Mr Westerhof believes that it is better for each network to have a coherent personality.
The NPO plan is for daytime programmes on the proposed Radio 7 to be delivered by the larger public broadcasters, while the small ones will continue to have their programmes aired in the evenings. Not surprisingly, the larger broadcasters are attracted to the idea, as they would have more airtime, but the minority broadcasters aren’t so keen. Another bone of contention will be whether the mediumwave frequency, 747 kHz, remains with Radio 5 or is reallocated to the proposed Radio 7. The specialist broadcasters naturally believe they should have it, and say that public broadcasting shouldn’t be about audience share, but about pluriformity.
But the NPO’s plans extend further. Mr Westerhof suggested that some music programmes currently on Radio 2 could be moved to Radio 5 when the specialist programmes switch to Radio 7, and he argues that Radio 2 can then concentrate on targeting a younger audience, closer to that of pop music network 3FM. This is a controversial point, and will certainly not go down well with the commercial stations, and probably not with 3FM either.
There is already a battle going on for the future of Radio 4, which plays a lot of classical music. Mr Westerhof says this network also needs to lower the average age of its audience, currently 64 years. But there has been a negative reaction to some programme changes that have already been made, particularly the replacement of its breakfast show, and things got so heated that Radio 4 even had to close the listeners’ forum on its website.
Mr Westerhof admits that not everyone will be happy with the changes, because people like familiarity, but says that refreshing a schedule normally means something has to disappear. Concerns have also been expressed by the broadcasting organisations about the financial implications of starting a new network. Since it’s unlikely that any additional funding will be provided by the government, they’re worried that it may have a negative effect on the overall quality of the programmes. Mr Westerhof argues that the public broadcasters have already saved 20 percent of the radio budget in the past five years, and believes that there are still ways to squeeze more efficiencies out of the total.
Before Radio 7 and the other changes arising from it can become a reality, the minister responsible for broadcasting, Ronald Plasterk, has to give his approval. He will decide in the summer whether or not to agree with NPO’s proposals.