Withdrawal of religious broadcasting funds in Holland will silence Jewish voices

LATE last year the Dutch Government declared that was cutting the annual £11.24 million that it gives to nine religious broadcasters. The cut, announced on December 6, cut was part of a wider effort to reduce the government’s culture expenditures.

Broadcasters that wish to continue to receive public funds must sign up 50,000 subscribers each by 2016 and reapply.

For large religious communities, according to this report, this should be a snap. There are more than a million Muslims in the Netherlands, 170,000 Buddhists and at least 90,000 Hindus – and each of those groups has their own broadcasting service, two in the case of Dutch Muslims.

But Holland’s Jewish community of 40,000 stands little chance.

Said Bart Wallet, a historian at the University of Amsterdam and an expert on Dutch Jewish history:

The government’s decision therefore spells certain demise only for JO.

JO, know locally as as Joodse Omroep was receiving just £75,000 of public funding, and local Jews say it provides a vital platform for community members to talk to one another and to Dutch society at large, while also providing an avenue for Jews outside Holland’s major cities to stay connected to the community.

A documentary called 'Make Jewish Babies' stirred public discussion in the Netherlands after it was aired by the Jewish Broadcasting Company last year.

A documentary called ‘Make Jewish Babies’ stirred public discussion in the Netherlands after it was aired by the Jewish Broadcasting Company last year.

Prem Radhakishun, a Surinam-born Hindustani television personality said recently in a prime-time television appearance:

Generally speaking, our taxes shouldn’t go to spreading religion, but I would make one exception here, and that is in the case of the Jews.

In relative terms, he said:

More Jews were murdered here than elsewhere in Europe, and we have a moral debt to Jews.

But for some Jewish leaders, such appeals to Holocaust guilt are discomforting. Said Alfred Edelstein, director of the JO:

I don’t want to immediately go all the way back to the Shoah. The JO is important for Jewish life here and now, for the community and especially for people who live in small towns, for whom it is a way to stay connected.

It seems the only way that JO can continue broadcasting is by being nested with one of the larger broadcasting groups. Edelstein said he would raise that possibility in a meeting with government officials on January 16. But Wallet is less optimistic.

I don’t know which broadcaster will want to be Santa Claus for the JO, which only costs money and brings nothing in. I’m afraid all Dutch media are feeling a serious pinch right now and I’m not sure at all a satisfactory solution will be worked out.

Meanwhile, in the UK outrage has been expressed by some Christians because Radio 2’s Sunday Half Hour is to be usurped by a secular musical programme. From January 20, Sunday Half Hour will be moved from 8.30 am to 6pm and be broadcast in a new-60 minute format as Sunday Hour.

But, according to this report, there was a deluge of criticism of Twitter, with some users describing the new time as “ridiculous” and an “insult” to the audience.

Some accused the BBC of being “unfair” and deliberately driving loyal listeners away, with one tweeting:

Moving from 8.30pm to 6am looks like marginalisation.

Announcing the switch, Presenter Diane Louise Jordan told listeners that those who would be “fast asleep at six o’clock” could listen to the programme again on the BBC’s iPlayer – though this may not be of much comfort to those not familiar with the Internet service.

Miss Jordan said:

Sunday Half Hour is moving to a new time. So instead of Sunday evenings I will be bringing all your favourite hymns as well as some new ones in a new Sunday morning slot at six o’ clock.

Now I know some of you like me are morning lovers and so are always up bright and early or at least have the radio on to help you start your day.

But for those of you that are still fast asleep at six o’clock there is of course the opportunity to listen to BBC iPlayer so you can still enjoy being part of this very special time we have together.

A Radio 2 spokesman said:

We understand how well loved Sunday Half Hour is for many regular Radio 2 listeners so the decision to move the programme has not been taken lightly.

Over the past decade, the number of people listening to the programme and on Sunday nights generally has declined significantly and early Sunday mornings actually reach a much wider audience than Sunday evenings.

The programme is making way for a show presented by musical star Michael Ball, focusing on popular music from the 1940s to the present day, which will air between 7pm and 9pm.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn (BBC report)