Dutch cutbacks likely to spare The State We’re In, Earth Beat

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A Dutch government proposal to scale back activities of its overseas broadcaster, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, is unlikely to affect its most widely carried English-language programs on U.S. public radio stations, according to editors and managers behind the shows.

The subject areas of The State We’re In and Earth Beat both would fit well within reorganization plans outlined by Dutch policymakers this month — to focus the service on freedom of expression in countries where such rights are suppressed. The Dutch cabinet also proposed to operate RNW as an arm of the Foreign Ministry.

The change — set to be debated by the Dutch Parliament this week — is part of a fiscal-austerity plan that would strip some 20 percent of RNW’s government funding. The agency would drop its mandates to provide news and information for Dutch people living abroad and to give other countries a “realistic image of the Netherlands.”

“We feel confident that when the belt is tightened we’ll be above the waistline,” said Greg Kelly, editor of The State We’re In. The show, launched in fall 2007, was designed to address issues related to human rights and freedom of expression. “It’s consistent with what is coming out of Parliament.” Earth Beat, a newer show, deals with sustainability issues, and its prospects for survival are also strong.

In addition to distribution deals in the U.S., Canada and Australia, both programs are gaining carriage in Africa and India, regions of the developing world that Dutch policymakers want to reach.

“The political climate here — I won’t kid you, it’s dire — but the prospects for our particular show have never been better,” said Jonathan Groubert, host of The State We’re In, which airs on about 100 U.S. pubradio stations. This American Life’s Ira Glass has called Groubert “one of the best radio interviewers I have ever heard.”

While deliberations over RNW’s role and service strategy will likely extend into the fall, the current service is funded through January 2013, said Arjen Van Dijkhuizen, exec in charge of new initiatives.

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