HILVERSUM, Netherlands — Change is in the air at Radio Netherlands Worldwide.
The public broadcaster recently moved to a new building and appointed a new editor-in-chief, William Valkenburg, following the departure of Rik Rensen.
These modifications followed the announcement in mid-2012 that, due to drastic budget cuts, RNW (www.rnw.nl/english) would stop airing its Dutch-language broadcasts. At that time, the broadcaster also began laying off much of its staff and, in light of the of the announced changes, sold most of its existing studio and mobile broadcasting gear.
Since the beginning of the year, RNW has been functioning with a slimmed-down workforce of 80 and a different focus. “Programs now target Africa, the Middle East, Latin and Central America and China,” said Marc Brouwer, technical coordinator at RNW.
“We are targeting young decision-makers in the 15 to 30 age group, the newsrooms are now thematically organized and RNW is concentrating on ‘free speech’ production — without becoming missionaries,” he said. “We remain an organization of journalists who promote freedom of speech and emphasize the importance of having an opinion.”
With its former broadcast facilities, which comprised five on-air studios, four production studios and six self-op units being auctioned off, RNW decided to invest in new studios. “RNW relocated to the building next door,” said Brouwer. “We refurbished the former RNW training and education center, which has become both the radio headquarters and our training facilities, with the latter concentrating on training radio staff from foreign broadcasters rather than run[ning] specific projects like in the past.”
RNW voice spaces make use of Neumann BM104 mics. Photo courtesy of Story FM
The ground floor of the new building in Hilversum, houses three “traditional” radio studios, two individual production workplaces and two voice booths. “We opted for DHD gear thanks to its user-friendliness — everybody should be able to work with the equipment, record and edit files,” said Brouwer. “We still continue to produce radio programs, which are recorded and transmitted via the Internet, satellite or shortwave broadcasts.
The radio studios are built around DHD 52/SX consoles, housed in modern studio furniture. The production studios use the DHD 52/SX, making them fully compatible and interchangeable. The two individual production workplaces have a “light” version of the DHS 52/DX.
Each studio is equipped with Genelec monitors, Dalet 5.1e workstations, MDC.net for hybrid and line control, plus a mobile Blackmagic video set with an Atem 1 console, three Sony PMW-EX1 cameras and two Blackmagic cameras for the live transmission of programs on RNW’s Web stream. The new building also houses a video editing suite. “We transformed the former lecturer’s room into an extra studio with visual contact to the main control room,” said Brouwer.
An open office configuration is the nucleus of RNW’s new editorial workplace on the new building’s first floor — a huge and spacious room with lots of daylight, offering space for the 80 journalists, reporters and writers.
“This is part of the evolution at RNW,” said Brouwer. “We’re now aiming for a younger audience, and the open office culture is just part of it. The whole design is very user-oriented, and whereas in the past, we focused on ‘broadcasting,’ we now deal with elements like text TV and streaming and with the immediate feedback from social media.”]
The newsroom also features two voice recording spaces, allowing editors and journalists to record and edit interview footage. “We have a slogan on the wall saying ‘Let’s make it better,’ another saying could perhaps summarize our mission: ‘It’s either fun or relevant,’” said Brouwer.
RNW's Studio 2 -
operated by technician and the station's playground for audio/video integration
innovations; Photo courtesy of Story FM
Brouwer is convinced that RNW will play a complementary role by offering alternative content in countries where freedom of speech and opinion are not always obvious. “From now on, the Internet is the primary instrument for the distribution of our message, but we will continue to produce ‘regular’ broadcasts for certain territories where online radio is still difficult.”
Listeners can still tune into RNW on FM or AM — partners in countries like Morocco, Libya and Syria are happy to transmit content from RNW’s Internet-feed, says the station.
“Most of these stations cannot risk producing certain programs themselves, thus RNW works supplies the content. We work in cooperation with these broadcasters; a partnership can include, for example, one hour of RNW-produced programs in exchange for local marketing on the airwaves or in print media,” said Brouwer.
“In Cuba, we decided to rent broadcast time,” he said, adding that RNW shut down all of its radio stations worldwide and now stations like in Madagascar are independent units no longer belonging to the RNW network.
“This new building marks the end of an era for RNW,” said William Valkenburg, RNW’s newly appointed editor in chief. “We’ve slimmed down and have a new mission, focusing on a younger audience and in fewer territories. All this implies a new modus operandi — we’ve stepped away from being a traditional broadcaster to become a multimedia production company.”
With the Web as the core medium, RNW wants to make use of all different kinds of media and equipment to disseminate its message, Valkenburg explained. “Creativity is essential, and we’re on the lookout for new media partners in different countries to attract a new and youthful audience,” he said.
“We want to stimulate co-creation, in addition to our own content, to effectively communicate with youngsters abroad, by combining all kinds of media.”
Marc Maes reports in the industry for Radio World from Antwerp, Belgium.