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Half of the Dutch population supports the establishment of an independent hallmark that shows the general public which news media outlets offer journalistic quality. These are the findings of research conducted at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR) of the University of Amsterdam (UvA).

Half of the Dutch population supports the establishment of an independent hallmark that shows the general public which news media outlets offer journalistic quality. Three in five Dutch people want the news media to be financially liable for damage caused poor quality reporting. Over 60 per cent of the public feels it is important that the news media listen carefully to complaints and wishes. And nearly two-thirds think that journalists who do not adhere to journalistic standards should no longer be allowed to practise their profession. These are the findings of research conducted at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR) of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) commissioned by the Foundation Media Ombudsman Netherlands.

Assistant professor Richard van der Wurff of the UvA and Klaus Schönbach, Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Vienna, recorded the opinions of the Dutch population aged 18 and older. They commissioned market research company TNS NIPO to conduct interviews among a representative sample of 3,203 Dutch people.

Independent expertise

The vast majority of Dutch people regularly follow the news. On average, Dutch people give the news media a higher than average score (7.0) when asked how well the media inform them about what is happening in society.

The general public play a fairly passive consumer role. Most readers, listeners and viewers prefer to leave the provision of news to journalistic experts. Approximately 80 per cent of the public feel it is crucial that these experts are independent. They need to clearly separate news from advertising, and facts from opinion, as well as giving a voice to the different views in society as much as possible. Conversely, only one fifth of the public supports the idea of the government playing a role by checking or financing the news.

Monitoring

Professional monitoring is important to the Dutch public, to be carried out in particular by news media bosses but also by the profession itself. Over 60 per cent of the public want it to be compulsory for journalists to have completed vocational training. And 65 per cent think journalists who do not adhere to journalistic standards should no longer be allowed to practise their profession.

The general public therefore clearly favour tightening current controls on journalistic self-regulation, whereby the Press Council can only voice opinions, but cannot impose sanctions, with some news media outlets not taking the Council seriously. Fifty-six per cent of Dutch people would have an independent expert working at every news media outlet who would purely deal with complaints from readers, listeners or viewers treats.

The researchers feel that the combination of professional independence, self-control and financial liability desired by the majority of the general public is strongly reminiscent of the self-regulation within the medical profession, which has its own training, professional disciplinary boards and the possibility for victims to seek damages through the courts. The introduction of such a model would lead to the further professionalisation of journalism.