NPO director Leeflang about DWDD: 'How could this have gone on for 15 years?'

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NPO chairman Frederieke Leeflang is concerned about the current working climate at public broadcasting. Following the revelations of de Volkskrant about abuses at the The world goes on she wonders, “How could this have existed for fifteen years?” Leeflang believes that there are still many questions, and therefore wants to investigate where things went wrong.

According to Leeflang, the publications of de Volkskrant give reason to investigate the matter more deeply. “It is precisely in situations like this that I think that you always have to look at multiple sides, which is why research is important. You not only look at what happened to the employees involved, but also: how did a presenter get to do this? behavior.”

Earlier today it became clear that the NPO is investigating cross-border behavior in the program of Matthijs van Nieuwkerk.

According to Leeflang, she was not previously aware of the working climate because she has only been chairman of the public broadcaster since January of this year. She notes that adequate action was not taken at the time. “I wonder why it could go on for so long because there have certainly been signals, I read de Volkskrant.”

According to Leeflang, it is not yet possible to say who is responsible for this. “It is really too early for that now. We have to look very closely at what actually happened, and what we could have done differently.”

The Voice

Last June, the Council for Culture sounded the alarm about transgressive behavior in the culture and media sector. In a report, the body described such behavior as “a persistent and urgent problem” in the industry. “The increasing number of reports of recent times only shows the tip of the iceberg,” said the Council.

The advisory body emphatically underlined that transgressive behavior is not only about sexual behavior, but also about bullying, racism and sexism. “Apparently this is the time when revelations emerge,” said Leeflang, who refers to DWDD, but also to abuses at The Voice of Holland.

She declined to comment on possible consequences. The NPO chairman first wants to know what “actually happened”. This applies to the role of Van Nieuwkerk, but also to the top of the broadcaster and the NPO. This includes the current video director of the NPO, Frans Klein. As media director of the VARA, he was responsible for DWDD for many years. Leeflang: “I would have liked to know that this was going on, yes.”

‘Remains a good program’

Van Nieuwkerk was the only presenter since the start of the popular program in 2005 until March 2020. During that period, Vera Keur was chairman of the VARA (1995 to 2009). Later that broadcaster merged with BNN. Keur says she was not aware of the extent of the abuses, she thinks they mainly took place after 2011.

According to Keur, broadcaster Klein had a lot of contact with the editor-in-chief of the program, Dieuwke Wynia, at the time. She led the editorial team from 2008. “He said that there were production problems and that Matthijs was not the easiest presenter. But he was not alone in that. We knew that when presenters are under pressure, it is difficult for them to always feel good. to behave.”

Cees Korvinus, former director of BNNVARA (2009-2011), denies having heard the signals before. “In my time I have not heard anything about it. If I had known that then and heard complaints or reports, Matthijs would certainly have been spoken to.”

“There have been situations that really weren’t possible,” Korvinus now says based on the reports de Volkskrant. “On the other hand: DWDD has really achieved something. The world goes on remains a very nice program. We must not forget that.”

Korvinus says he understands that the program was not stopped at the time. “It doesn’t happen that quickly that you stop a golden program. A lot depends on such a program.”

Research and action plan

According to Janke Dekker of reporting center Mores, there is no doubt about it: the leadership of BNNVARA failed at the time. But the decision to wait for further investigation first, chairman Janke Dekker calls sensible. “It is a program that has long since been discontinued, if you want to find out how this could have arisen, you must set up a culture study. Anyone who has come into contact with such behavior must be given the opportunity to tell their story. Only then you can draw conclusions about what you can learn from it.”

An ‘action plan’ is intended to prevent abuses in the public service broadcasting from occurring more often in the future. NPO chairman Leeflang and state secretary Gunay Uslu have made agreements about this, it became clear earlier today.

A number of things must be reflected in such a plan, says Dekker. To begin with, it must be described how a culture change can take place in the workplace. “It has to move from a culture of silence to a culture of accountability. And that also means, for example: don’t act weird if someone indicates that he or she doesn’t like something.”

Dekker also insists that it is important that the labor market position of employees is scrutinized. The broadcasting collective agreement stipulates that employees may be given up to six temporary contracts. They must be employed after four years. Dekker: “People are very vulnerable with such a temporary contract. They are less likely to stand up for themselves, because they still have to pay a mortgage.”

“The program has always been about the well-being of the employees,” says Dekker. “The fact that the leadership has not acted is the most reprehensible of the situation.”

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