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Dutch watch TV news more often than 20 years ago

Over the past 20 years, Dutch TV viewers have started to watch the news more often. The increased supply of other TV programmes has not led to a decreased interest in the news, as is the case in many other European countries. These are the conclusions NWO-funded researcher Anke Wonneberger draws in her PhD thesis, which she will defend at the University of Amsterdam on 1 December.

The typical Dutch TV viewer watches Dutch TV news (NOS or RTL4) for an average of 100 minutes per week. Twenty years ago this figure was just 60 minutes. Communication scientist Wonneberger refers to this outcome from her research as surprising. ‘With the launch of commercial TV stations at the end of the 1980s there was a strong increase in the supply of programmes. When the news is on there are dozens of other programmes you can choose from. However, people choose the other programmes far less than we had thought. The Dutch still like to watch the TV news.’

Serious and light-hearted
Wonneberger used data from the Stichting Kijkonderzoek (SKO) and market research agency Intomart GfK to investigate the changes that have occurred over the past twenty years in the viewing of TV news and current affairs programmes. She established that the Dutch supplement their watching of TV news with serious and more light-hearted current affairs programmes. This holds for both younger and older viewers.

Contrary to what is often thought, almost nobody watches just light-hearted news and current affairs programmes such as ‘Hart van Nederland’ or ‘De Wereld Draait Door’. Wonneberger: ‘It is sometimes claimed that light-hearted current affairs programmes draw people away from watching more serious news programmes. My research does not support that viewpoint. Nearly all viewers watch both the news and current affairs programmes. So it is not true that the more light-hearted programmes attract a group of viewers that would otherwise not be reached with news and current affairs.’

The rise in the number of minutes that the Dutch spend watching TV news is a unique situation. In other European counties and the US, the number of people watching the news has dropped in recent decades. The Dutch watch a good 3 hours of TV each day. Twenty years ago that was just 2 hours per day.

Wonneberger tried to find out why the Dutch have started to watch the news more often over the past twenty years. According to her this trend is not indicative of an increased interest in the news and politics. ‘My research reveals that instead, watching the news each day has become a fixed routine for many people. This applies to both people who expressed a strong interest in the news and politics as well as those with less of an interest in this.’

Anke Wonneberger’s research was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

About NWO
The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) is the independent Dutch science funding body and its mission is to facilitate excellent scientific research in the Netherlands by means of national competition. Each year NWO spends more than 500 million euros on grants for top research and top researchers, on innovative instruments and equipment, and on institutes where top research is performed. NWO funds the research of more than 5000 talented researchers at universities and institutes. Independent experts select proposals by means of a peer review system. NWO facilitates the transfer of knowledge to society and industry.