NOS News•today, 10:45•Amended today, 1:25 PM
Transgressive behavior is a widespread issue within the national public broadcaster. Signals about this have not been responded to in a sufficiently professional and decisive manner by the broadcasters and the Dutch Public Broadcasting (NPO). This is evident from the study into the work culture at public broadcasters by the Research Committee on Conduct and Culture of Broadcasters.
The committee’s report was presented this morning and is entitled: ‘Nothing seen, nothing heard, nothing done. The misplaced responsibility’. The committee was led by former minister Martin van Rijn.
In a questionnaire, three out of four respondents indicated that they had experienced inappropriate behavior in the period from May 2022 to May 2023, “as a target or witness”. That amounts to 1484 employees.
A total of 1996 people responded to a call to complete a questionnaire about their work experiences during that period. In addition, another 570 respondents completed the questionnaire for the period before May 2022.
‘Outcome is relevant’
According to the committee, the respondents are a broad reflection of all employees at the public broadcaster. According to the committee, it is possible that not all employees have had negative experiences, but it does involve “a large number of employees”. According to the committee, this outcome is therefore relevant.
“If three out of four respondents indicate that they have had to deal with this, then there is really something going on. So that deserves serious attention,” said committee chairman Van Rijn at the presentation:
Research: transgressive behavior is widespread in public broadcasting
Examples of inappropriate behavior that emerge from the report include gossiping, ridiculing, breaching confidentiality, verbal abuse, verbal intimidation of female colleagues and discrimination based on gender, age, ethnicity or skin color.
The report discusses, among other things, grabbing colleagues by the throat and pushing them against the wall, and work being thrown into the trash in front of employees. There are statements like “You’re doing everything wrong”, “Do you want to see my carrot?” and “Why aren’t you wearing that skirt from last week?”. The committee says it is shocked by the seriousness of the behavior and the number of people who came into contact with it.
Looking away too much
According to the committee, the management at the broadcasters were aware of the work-related risks and “insistent signals” came from the shop floor and from HR departments.
But these were not properly handled, the committee writes. “Too much has been ignored at all levels by managers, organizational professionals, supervisors at broadcasters and the NPO.” An important recommendation in the report is therefore to develop leadership competencies and strengthen the HR departments.
“A healthy culture involves openness, daring to speak out and not being afraid about it,” Van Rijn said at the presentation. “Healthy organizations are not characterized by the absence of conflict, but by the way they act when such a conflict situation threatens or occurs. That has happened too little.”
Based on the answers given in the questionnaire, the committee concludes that transgressive behavior occurs more often at NOS Sport and NOS News than at the rest of the public broadcaster. Negative experiences in the workplace are also reported more often to the NOS, including a less good relationship with managers.
At NOS Sport, 85 percent say they have been the target of or witnessed forms of bullying, intimidation, sexism and discrimination. At NOS News this is 84 percent. Many NOS Sport employees have experienced or seen forms of sexual harassment. Women were seen here as “wild animals” and felt like “prey”, the report states.
The reason for the investigation into working conditions at the NPO was reporting in the Volkskrant about abuses in the BNNVARA program The world goes on. The newspaper spoke to dozens of former employees. They spoke of a culture of fear and extreme outbursts of anger from presenter Matthijs van Nieuwkerk and some editors.
NOS Sport also had an unsafe work culture, as a new publication by de Volkskrant revealed a few months later. Reports from employees and former employees mainly concerned misogynistic behavior, including from presenters. Ultimately, the work culture at the entire NOS was examined. The report on this was published last November.
The Van Rijn committee did not look at the work culture at commercial broadcasters such as RTL and SBS for the study.