October 13, 2022 – The Dutch and Flemish public broadcasters are going to work together intensively, NPO’s Board of Directors and VRT management announced today. The partnership should lead to the creation and exchange of programs, sharing of technology and innovations, but for example also joint production of educational material, sharing of strategic research and the development of techniques to detect (and combat) disinformation.
"Our countries already share so much, so now we are going to do that when it comes to media, as well,” says NPO Chair of the Board Frederieke Leeflang, regarding the new partnership. VRT CEO Frederik Delaplace adds, “We will join forces to be even better public broadcasters for our viewers and listeners.”
Benjamin Dalle, Flemish Minister of Media: “The Netherlands and Flanders have a lot to offer one another. Our strong public broadcasters are going to work together even more intensively and ensure that media consumers in the Netherlands and Flanders can enjoy both broadcasters’ high-quality offerings. And they will do so in a way that suits the oftentimes digital preferences of the modern media consumer. But that is just a first step. There will be more initiatives aimed at strengthening the ties between the media landscapes in Flanders and the Netherlands. In doing so, we aim to ensure that our media players and viewers are ready for the challenges of the future.”
In the years to come, NPO and VRT will work together in four areas: developing programs together, exchanging existing programs, sharing new technology and innovations, and creating added value to society. In all of these areas, specific partnerships will be developed in the coming years. A number of specific initiatives are already in the works.
NPO Board Member Martijn van Dam, one of the people behind this partnership, says, “We see all kinds of parties around us who can operate internationally and take advantage of that. As public broadcasters, we can do that too, using our shared DNA to work together and create an even stronger partnership between the Netherlands and Flanders – an exchange which will enable us both to serve our audience even better and, what’s more, which can have a positive impact on the entire media sector in both countries.”
Lieven Vermaele, VRT Director of Partnerships & Operations says, “The increasing importance of a public broadcaster for society and the current challenges in medialand bring us together, not for a bit of ad hoc collaboration, but for an intensive, sustainable partnership.”
NPO and VRT are launching the creation of new co-productions. Frans Klein, Video Director of the NPO says, “Various teams are currently working on the stories that we will tell together, formats that we will develop together, such as, for example, innovative drama series and online productions, but also podcasts.” VRT colleague Ricus Jansegers adds, “We can exchange experiences and learn from them. Ultimately, we want to make a broad catalogue of programs available to each other’s audience, with a focus on genres and formats that surprise people and offer more insight into each other’s culture and identity.”
As already announced, the drama series Arcadia is the first full-fledged co-production between VRT and NPO – with the support of the German broadcaster ARD and the Flemish Audiovisual Fund (VAF). This prestigious dystopian drama will hit the screens in Flanders and the Netherlands in the course of 2023.
NPO and VRT will boost the visibility of the broadcasters’ offering in both countries even more on their own public digital platforms, NPO Start/NPO Luister and VRT MAX. The ambition is to further enrich the digital platforms through mutual exchanges of podcasts and video series. In addition, NPO and VRT will see if one broadcaster’s successful initiatives or projects can also be launched with the other.
Technology & innovation
When it comes to technology, the focus is strengthening the digital platforms VRT MAX and NPO Start/NPO Luister. Both organizations will share new functionalities, public data algorithms and collaboration on innovation. In addition, NPO and VRT will work together on a new data infrastructure that places personal (user) data back in the hands of the users themselves.
Added value to society
Furthermore, VRT and NPO will specifically work together when it comes to the added value to society and effective societal impact a public broadcaster has. To begin with, two VRT projects will get a Dutch version: the educational package EduBox (thanks, in part, to an EU subsidy and the efforts of broadcaster NTR), as well as the development of joint EduBoxes. The broadcasters will also join forces to combat disinformation – for example, the development of tools that support journalists and media makers in detecting fake news.
In addition, VRT and NPO will more actively share more results of strategic research in the area of societal trends, media usage, international marketing trends, use of social media by public broadcasters, media savviness and e-inclusion.
Karen Donders, VRT’s Public Mission Director says, “This partnership between the two public broadcasters is based on our shared DNA – namely that we are not driven by profit, but by a societal ambition. We will join forces in a whole new way.” NPO Chair of the Board Frederieke Leeflang concludes, “Socially, culturally and economically, this is an incredibly important step for both countries.”