Can the public find out who owns the media through free access to the essential information required?
It is not possible to find out who owns print, online or broadcast media in the Netherlands through media-specific or company laws.
The Media Act does not require broadcast media (and some online media) to submit the basic data required to establish ownership; for example, there is no disclosure of those with significant interest or indirect control and changes in the size of shareholdings only have to be disclosed once every five years when the licence is renewed (except for radio stations with an FM frequency). Access to this information is also not straightforward; the media authority has not created a general public register of licensed broadcasters which can be accessed online. The information can be only be accessed by checking the decisions of the media authority online and/or requesting a copy in writing under the Dutch freedom of information law.
Print media and most online media are only subject to the company law. The Trade Register Act does not require adequate reporting of the size of shareholdings to identify ownership. The only information available in the Trade Register information covers organisations that: fully manage or control other organisations in the group; are 100% shareholders of other organisations in the group; or are fully responsible for other organisations in the group. Thus, if there are more shareholders involved (which is often the case in practice), the register might not provide all information necessary to assess the degree of control and impact of other shareholders involved. In addition, if a foreign company which is not established in the Netherlands has a share of less than 20% in a Dutch company, the Dutch system does not apply to them and they will not have to disclose their stake in the Dutch company.
DRAFT – FOR PUBLIC CONSULTATION: This research has been carried out by national experts and is open for consultation. Please let us know if you have any suggestions, or if you spot any errors or omissions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.