Despite a long tradition of television that pushes the boundaries of the acceptable in the Netherlands, Dutch viewers are being turned off by a wave of controversial programs.
Some weeks ago, Rotterdam-based columnist Hugo Borst was watching the daily news on family channel RTL with his 11-year-old son while having dinner. At 6:45 p.m. -- with no warning -- father and son were witness to excerpts from a home video showing the goalkeeper of a Dutch professional soccer team being introduced in embarrassingly intimate terms to a sex toy by a girlfriend.
Furious about the unexpected images, Borst called the program's editor for an explanation. The response was that the sex video was considered a news item because it was placed on the Internet that day by the goalie's vengeful ex-lover.
Borst's reaction was to write a column under the headline: "Have they lost their minds at RTL?"
Maybe they have, but until recently such programs drew big ratings. That appears to be changing, however. Citing a "less explicit—but nonetheless controversial" program called The Golden Cage, the Reuters/HR story notes, "The storm of publicity surrounding the Talpa program has not resulted in high ratings. Since its October bow, the show has lost nearly 66% of its original 1 million viewers. This may indicate that the Dutch are no longer impressed by taboo-breaking programs."
Another show raising eyebrows is "Spuiten en Slikken" (Shooting and Swallowing), on which every sexual persuasion can be found. It broadcasts on the youth-oriented public broadcaster BNN, currently the most risque station in Holland. The program, which claims to have an educational purpose, caused a scandal even before its first episode. One of the presenters experiments onscreen with all kinds of soft and hard drugs. The program also features the exploration of sexual activities, including S&M, swingers clubs, squirting female orgasms and prostate milking (shown in full detail), leading to a flurry of political disapproval.
The Dutch have had their fair share of tasteless television in recent years. Considered by some as the nadir of gutter TV, "Patty's Fort," which aired in 2004 on RTL, saw minor Dutch celebs led by former pop singer Patty Brard gather for a colonic irrigation session in a health spa, with the scatological results shown to the audience.
How such things can be considered either educational or entertaining is a true mystery to this analyst, but that the Dutch are tiring of such fare certainly is an interesting news item with real implications. Perhaps leaving a little mystery to such things really is a good idea.From Karnick on Culture.