Talpa and RTL recently announced a merger. With all the ifs and buts about the intentions of the main commercial media companies in our country, one element is invariably omitted: what does this mean in the long term for independent journalism and the multiformity of the journalistic media offer?
The reasoning behind the new television merger is that the Dutch product needs protection in the media against the international threat of the streaming media platforms. The question is whether this is a valid argument. How will this merger help to counter the moment when Google or Disney simply puts an unavoidably high sum of money on the table to take over the whole thing? And why shouldn’t international platforms be able to make a Dutch product? In fact, this is already happening as witnessed by the first popular Netflix crime series. The offer is meager. That is one of the reasons that the Council for Culture made recommendations in its report in 2018 to tie market access for global players to production quotas for Dutch products. Unfortunately, the government has done too little with this, because Economic Affairs in particular is ideologically opposed to market regulation.
Talpa recently sold its shares in the ANP. It saw no future within its media chain in the main Dutch news agency. While John de Mol considered a journalistic leg to Talpa indispensable a few years ago, that is apparently no longer necessary. Perhaps a bad sign. From the point of view of independent journalism, the merger is no guarantee to prevent a further erosion of diversity in the journalistic offering.
Also read: What is The Mole? The channel boss prefers to be a producer
The public broadcaster says it sees journalistic quality as a trademark, but the channel managers focus on market share and not on diverse news offerings. much of the same, bystander-journalism and opinion programs at the expense of deeper digging formats and research. RTL and Talpa also invest too little in journalistic depth and local journalism. That’s a shame because it’s not the journalists’ fault. Few countries have so many innovative platforms and start-ups, for example think of Follow The Money. A platform that enforces responsibility and transparency from those in power.
With the additional power of social media as spreaders of hate and polarization, a problematic scenario arises for the information landscape for generations to come. Young people already have less faith in journalism than older people. That is why the Forum on Information and Democracy – an international coalition of press freedom organizations and research institutes – in her latest report a New Deal for Journalism advocates investment. The report calls on the OECD and countries that care about press freedom, among others, to set a fixed development budget for journalism. Tax measures targeting the social media platforms are needed, including facilities to allow for more philanthropic investment in quality journalism. Chris Oomen saw what many in the media world refuse to recognize: that a monopoly in the journalistic news supply is imminent. He recently bought the shares of ANP, a very welcome move that more investors should take. Who follows?