Radio Netherlands Worldwide was founded in 1947, but the origins of Dutch international broadcasting go back much further.
In the beginning
The history of Dutch overseas broadcasts began on 11 March 1927 with broadcasts to the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia) on the PCJJ short wave transmitter at the Philips laboratories in Eindhoven. Philips perceived the possibilities of what was then a new medium and developed a market for short wave transmitters and receivers. Philips wanted good quality programmes and a strong political and economic basis. On the evening of 31 March 1927 the company scored a publicity coup when Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands addressed listeners in the colonies on the Philips PCJJ transmitter.
The development of the short wave market proved to be a long-haul prospect. In April 1940, Interior Minister Hendrik van Boeijen submitted a bill to parliament proposing an international radio service along (the then-prevalent) denominational lines. In May, Germany invaded the Netherlands. The Dutch government in exile decided to set up Radio Oranje (named after the royal family) in London and the BBC provided airtime and facilities. While Radio Oranje’s programmes became increasingly important in the occupied Netherlands, the head of programming Henk van den Broek was thinking of the future.
The royal decree of 17 September 1944 placed radio under the control of the Cabinet Office Minister, who in turn made the radio section of the military authorities responsible for providing the broadcasts. Henk van den Broek, now a captain, travelled to the liberated city of Eindhoven where he started broadcasts as Herrijzend Nederland (Reborn Netherlands) on 3 October 1944.
Radio Netherlands in the Transition Period
The first ‘world programme’ for Dutch people abroad was broadcast on 24 May 1945. Since the domestic facilities had been destroyed in the war, the BBC was once again asked to help. In July 1945 the post-war Dutch government decided to create Radio Nederland in den Overgangstijd (Radio Netherlands in the Time of Transition), a foundation made responsible for domestic and international broadcasting and put in charge of all Dutch broadcasting organisations. From 13 October 1945, broadcasting was resumed on the domestic transmitter, which had been repaired.
Radio Netherlands Worldwide
In the years which followed, the government considered the future of broadcasting in the Netherlands and elected for a separation between domestic and international broadcasting. On 15 April 1947, Radio Nederland Wereldomroep was set up and Henk van den Broek appointed as its director. The new foundation was charged with “putting together and preparing radio programmes to be received outside the borders of the Netherlands” and began broadcasting in Dutch, Indonesian, English and Spanish.
RNW from 1947 until 2011
In the early days RNW had a ‘Greetings Department’, since making phone calls across the globe was difficult and very expensive. RNW also broadcast news, current affairs and cultural programmes. The broadcasts of this period reflect the post-war reconstruction phase. In 1949, broadcasting started in Arabic and in Afrikaans for South Africa.
In 1950, a new department was set up to compile radio programmes and distribute them to foreign stations. At the same time music activities were also begun by way of partner stations abroad. RNW also gained an important new target group: Dutch emigrants in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. In 1952, RNW began broadcasts aimed specifically at them.
In 1964, RNW’s music department was one of the first in Europe to make music recordings in stereo for foreign FM stations. The Radio Netherlands Training Centre (http://sites.rnw.nl/rntc) was set up in 1968 to train radio personnel from developing countries. A French department was opened in 1969 and broadcasts in Portuguese to Brazil began in 1974. In 1975, there was a review of the programmes broadcast on short wave: a stronger emphasis was placed on news and current affairs programmes.
1990 and beyond
In 1991, Radio Netherlands Worldwide became the first organisation in the Netherlands, apart from the Dutch PTT, to be granted a licence to broadcast programmes directly by satellite for radio stations in Latin America. This was followed in 1992 by collaboration with local radio stations in Latin America. In 1994, the collaboration with local stations in Latin America, Africa, Europe and North America was intensified. Dutch language broadcasts in Europe were expanded to 12 hours a day and RNW began working together with domestic broadcasters on the exchange and co-production of programmes. An RNW office was opened in West Africa in 1995 to serve listeners in the region via local radio stations.
The television department was set up in 1960. As Radio Netherlands Television (RNTV) it sold Dutch television documentaries and animated films on the international market at the going rates. In 1996, in collaboration with the domestic broadcasting umbrella organisation NOS, it started a Dutch-language television service for viewers in Europe entitled Zomer TV (Summer TV). This was the forerunner of het Beste van Vlaanderen en Nederland (the Best of Flanders and the Netherlands) which was set up in 1998.
BVN is a joint venture with the Dutch public broadcasting system and the Flemish radio and television (VRT) and Flemish government in Belgium and was originally only available in Europe. In 1999, the United States and the Caribbean were added to its area of operations. The service was expanded to include southern Africa in 2002 and Australia and New Zealand in mid 2003. In early 2005 Canada joined the list of BVN territories. Today BVN can be seen almost anywhere in the world by Dutch speakers living abroad temporarily or permanently. In 2011 the Dutch government has decided to shift RNW to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. The budget has been cut down for seventy percent, as well as the amount of emplyees. Dutch expats no longer belong to the target group of RNW. The last program in Dutch was broadcasted on 11 may 2012. The central desk is closed. RNW has said goodbye to the editorial teams which were targeting at the Caribbean islands, Indonesia and South East Asia. Also the ediorial teams webworld and Music have ended their activities.
In 2011 the Dutch government has decided to shift RNW to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. The government has cut down the budget with seventy percent, resulting in a reorganisation in which RNW has lost seventy percent of its employers. Dutch expats no longer belong to the target group of RNW. The last program in Dutch has been broadcasted on 11 may 2012. The central desk is closed. RNW has also said goodbye to the editorial teams which were targeting at the Caribbean islands, Indonesia and South East Asia. Also the ediorial teams webworld and Music have ended their activities.
The new RNW focusses entirely on Free Speech in countries where acces to reliable information is by no means a matter of course. Countries in Sub Saharan Africa, the Arabic World, China and Latin America. RNW targets young people who are building up their lives. RNW publishes online and actively uses social media. Where needed, RNW also broadcasts satellite television and short wave radio.
Robert Zaal is its new director. William Valkenburg starts his job as editor in chief in january 2013. The hundred remaing employees will work in one of the smaller buildings next to the old buidling. Trainingcentre RNTC also is located there. BVN is now hosted by the NPO.