Patrick Kicken: A maximum of three FM packages per company? That’s still one too many

[BLOG] Again unrest in radioland. The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) advises the cabinet that in the new auction each radio company may only have a maximum of 3 FM packages. It is a step in the right direction, but still not the right way to restore a healthy radio market in the Netherlands. We have to go back to the situation of 2003, where one party may have a maximum of two FM packages, preferably one of which is also included. I know I’m not making myself popular with this, but that’s nothing new. Will it try to explain to you why this really is the best solution, for the maker and the listener.

The current radio market is of course unworkable, especially for the makers. John de Mol’s Talpa has about the 4 most important FM packages, except for 100.7. This not only gives him a dominant position when it comes to selling advertising, but he has also been holding back real innovation in radio land for years. The best man still believes that you can do everything the old-fashioned way, treat listeners to endless commercial breaks with a picture and a chat. The wages and working conditions for the radio disc jockeys are also pitiful, because try to get a job elsewhere. Many talents even say ‘fine to make radio there, but not under John de Mol’.

With three FM packages in the hands of a billionaire, these kinds of North Korean situations will of course remain normal. Involvement down to the detail level, as a result of which Edwin Evers, for example, decided to call it quits a year earlier than planned. Many disc jockeys hardly dare to go on-air anymore, because before you know it John hears it and you’re out. The same goes for radio managers, of course, who just do what they did every year so that they don’t have to come to the mat or even worse get fired. As a result, more and more listeners are turning their backs on the medium and are seeking refuge online in podcasts, for example.

But there is another reason why it is not good to house so many radio stations under one roof: mutual competition. You can bet that they are cheering at Radio 10 if they are the only ones who have not dropped in terms of listening figures and 538, Sky and Veronica have. Everyone keeps an eye on each other, especially in a culture of fear. Imagine that not only Feyenoord, but also Excelsior and FC Dordrecht all train, meet and play football in De Kuip. And what that does to the mutual atmosphere. For good radio you need a top team that gives each other something and where there is peace and safety. Not a wasp’s nest where stations are mutually jealous of each other marketing budgets, jocks, advertising revenues, press attention, etcetera. With a dictator in power who kills creativity.

I think back fondly on the fantastic time I had for twelve years at Radio Veronica, from 2004 to 2016. We were in one building with Sky Radio, which had no deejays. Of course there was some bickering about which of the two channels was on in the canteen or in the hallway, but otherwise you wished each other the best. That was also because both stations were not fishing in each other’s pond, the division was clear: Veronica focused primarily on the men, Sky on the women. The Formula 1 action was with Veronica, the Disney action with Sky. Sky played current hits because not specified, Veronica played 80’s and 90’s hits. Easy peasy. Such a clause is not so bad, because ‘the true artist shows itself in the limitation’. Now that everything will be released immediately, except for Dutch and news, it will become an even bigger uniform sausage on FM where everyone will sit down and do the same thing again. The listener shrugs further and gets the surprise from somewhere other than the radio. And rich owners only think how can I make that shop here even more profitable so that I can resell the business with a substantial profit. Count out of your creative poverty.

Patrick Kicken

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