Dutch classical music audience found too old
November 24th, 2009 - 10:45 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.

RNW’s Rob Kievit writes: Listeners to Dutch classical music station Radio 4 are angry about planned format changes. In an attempt to increase listening rates, a popular morning music show on Radio 4 will be scrapped in February 2010 in favour of a news magazine. Critic Bas van Putten fulminated in NRC daily that the new programme “will be light stuff, with newspaper reviews and a low-threshold approach. A haphazardly formatted mix of chat, quotes and bits of music”.

According to the critic, the “knowledgeable and eloquent” host of Viertakt Vroeg magazine, RNW presenter Hans Haffmans (pictured right), has been declared “elitist” by the “anti-elite yobbos” of the public broadcaster. Station co-ordinator Marwil Straat defended her plans for the publicly funded station in a newspaper interview, saying that its 700,000 classical music listeners are getting older and older, and younger listeners need to be drawn to the station to keep it viable. “Highly educated older people are overrepresented in Radio 4’s audience,” she said in the interview. The average listener age is 65. As a result, Haffmans’ morning drive-time music programme and others have to go. On the Radio 4 listeners forum, contributors are demanding publication of the research results on which Ms Straat’s policy decisions are based.

Critic Bas van Putten points out that elderly intellectuals are a target audience, too. “Radio 4 is for well-educated, native Dutch music lovers. Public broadcasters need to cater for them as well as for teenagers and immigrants”. He is accusing the radio policy makers of populism.

Apart from public Radio 4, there is one other classical music station in the Netherlands. Commercial broadcaster Classic FM, however, lost its national FM license in the most recent frequency auction, and can only be heard on cable. Unlike Radio 4, Classic FM rarely broadcasts entire concerts, complete symphonies or works by little-known composers.