WebWorld: the controversial issues were always the most popular ones

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) is changing course and goes forward in a slimmed-down version: a smaller organisation focussing on Free Speech. From the old RNW to the new: a tour of the desks which will be terminated or changing their approach.

Header photo, clockwise from left: Amsterdam Red Light District (photo: Puisney); Morning in Holland photo; EuroHit40's Tim Fisher; video reporter Eric Beauchemin; the Holland football squad

"RNW 2.0" is the name we use for the "old" Radio Netherlands Worldwide. Version 3.0 will be RNW, the Dutch free speech promoter from 2013.

Part 1: WebWorld, the English-language desk

“Subjects such as drugs, prostitution, euthanasia and homosexuality were particularly popular.”
WebWorld pulled out all the stops one last time for Euro2012. Football expert Theo Tamis provided extensive reporting on the performance of the Dutch team, making WebWorld the only English medium to cover the activities of the Holland team on a day-to-day basis. Theo Tamis’ dispatches from Poland and Ukraine were picked up by foreign media such as the BBC and RTE.

"WebWorld is a relatively new department at Radio Netherlands. It was formed when the old English department was split up. The State We’re In and Earth Beat programmes became part of another editorial desk. The current affairs programme Newsline and the RNW website became a new department: WebWorld,” says editor Rob Kievit.

Focus on the Netherlands
In addition to running the English website, WebWorld was in charge of RNW’s 24/7 English-language radio programming via satellite and webstream. Some programmes were broadcast to Africa and Asia via shortwave. These programmes included popular shows like The State We’re In, Bridges with Africa, Live at the Concertgebouw and European Jazz Stage. The website underwent one significant change: it was focussed exclusively on the Netherlands.

‘Even though that was quite a radical change, it did provide clarity,” says Ashleigh Elson, WebWorld’s social media producer. “The choice of the Netherlands made the work more manageable and clearly defined. Before, the site was very broad in scope, covering a huge variety of subjects from across the globe.”

About 20 staff were assigned to the new desk. “The web reports were doing well and the videos on Dutch subjects were popular. The videos were edited so they could be understood by a global audience. Some of them drew thousands of visitors, particularly on subjects such as drugs, prostitution, euthanasia and homosexuality.”

Some of the radio programmes and web articles were passed on to partner sites such as Expatica, a website for English-speaking expats in the Netherlands. WebWorld also collaborated with Flandersnews, a site offering Dutch-language news reports from a Belgian perspective.

Rob Kievit and Ashleigh Elson look back with pride, singing the praises of the fine productions and the enthusiasm and team spirit of their colleagues. These were the foundations on which WebWorld was built. Rob Kievit specifically mentions the department’s freelancers as a major factor in the WebWorld success story. “They were mostly native speakers who took root in Dutch society and were ideally suited to work from a Dutch perspective.”

Free speech
Radio Netherlands Worldwide will continue to host an English-language website but its content will change, albeit gradually. The Netherlands will no longer be the site’s main focus. The new site will instead focus on promoting free speech in China, a number of countries in Africa, the Middle East and some countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

On 29 June, WebWorld is bidding its listeners a festive farewell with a one-hour radio show via shortwave and satellite that can be listened to around the globe. The 24-hour programming for that day will include a number of older programmes, such as Happy Station, Curious Orange and Euroquest.

After that sad farewell, visitors of WebWorld will have to turn to Dutchnews.nl, Expatica or English Breakfast Radio for Dutch news reports in English. 24 Oranges (blog and Twitter) provides funny stories about the Netherlands

Reactions to the demise of WebWorld, and with it the Netherlands' English voice on the radio, varied from shock and surprise to anger.

“I am gonna miss the great programs coming out from your Hilversum studio. Many thanks for being a unique broadcaster on the radio scene with quality programs standing out from the rest,” wrote one fan.

Another listener said: “I will miss you guys very much. RNW helped me feel connected with my Dutch roots, and to a country I’ve never visited.” And finally: “These cuts are crazy. I’ve been learning a lot about Dutch culture thanks to RNW. I’ll miss your excellent service.”

The editors will also feel the loss. “The bond with our audience has been severed. And that’s painful. Even though we’ve never met, you know you share something.”