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Getting there and staying there or building a regulatory framework for community media in the Netherlands


04 / 1996

Many game theorists would probably agree with me that a game can hardly exist without rules. One of the most important lessons OLON had to learn in order to achieve its goals was that in order to get a regulatory framework for community media it was important to adapt to the rules of the lawmaking game. OLON, the Dutch federation of local radio and television organisations, represents almost 400 local community stations nation wide. In February 1982, OLON published its first policy document promoting the establishment of independent local radio and television organisations. The policy paper presented a solid financial position and even demanded radio FM-frequencies. (Frequencies for television are not a high priority in the Netherlands since almost 90% of the population is connected to cable television and cable distribution has been guaranteed by a "must-carry" rule in the Media Act.)Today, almost fifteen years later, most of these goals have been achieved. The Media Act gives a right to public funding and FM-frequencies are now available. Getting those frequencies took approximately ten years of political lobbying and public funding was put into law last December but still awaits final approval by the Dutch Senate. How did we get there?

Here are some of the keys aspects to take into account:

1. Study the rules of the political game and learn the tricks. To some extent adopt a Machiavellian approach by creating alliances with those who might be your political enemies, but who might be helpful in achieving your legitimate goals. Meet members of parliament, lobby groups, etc. Write texts amending regulatory proposals. However, use publicity prudently as it could scare off those who might be most useful to you, such as civil servants who are sympathic to your ideas.

2. Accept that it will take time. To change a law normally requires years or decades. Whether you like it or not, this is a fact of life. Fight it and you will most certainly fail.

3. Negotiate and try to find a solution that is acceptable for most of the parties involved. Getting fifty percent of what you want means that you are half way there. Flexibility should not be seen as equal to a compromise.

4. Learn to deal with disappointment. Being persistent is the only way to get results.

5. Buy a suit and wear a tie. If the rules of the political game demand that you respect certain conventions in order to be allowed to join the game, comply with those rules. It’s not worth fighting them and you will be amazed by the results.

Should we as OLON be proud of our results? Yes and no. Getting there is just the first part of the game. Staying there, "je persiste et signe" is even more important. Parties involved are already claiming the local FM-frequencies for commercial broadcast and are challenging the not yet implemented rules on public financing. One of our new objectives involves extending the existing "must-carry" rules for community radio and television broadcasts on cable networks to the electronic highway by creating a technology independent access right to the telecommunications infrastructure. Will we succeed ? It might take another decade...

Palabras claves

comunicación, derecho, reforma de la legislación, legislación, medios de comunicación

, Países Bajos


Translated into French and Spanish.

Nico van Eijk is a member of the Board of Directors of:OLON, Postbus 441, 6500 AK Nijmegen. Netherlands. Tel. (30 24)360 1222. Fax (30 24)360 1656. Email: Internet: Private email:


Artículos y dossiers

Videazimut, DESIGNING A LEGAL FRAMEWORK in. Clips, 1996 (Canada), 10

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