Comprehensive complaints procedure

The NPO ombudsman is independent and impartial. The ombudsman follows, examines, evaluates and judges, whether or not on her own initiative, all journalistic programming and production by the Dutch public broadcasters that are part of the NPO (Dutch Public Broadcasting). These are: AVROTROS, BNNVARA, EO, Human, KRO-NCRV, MAX, NOS, NTR, PowNed, VPRO and WNL.

The ombudsman’s authority does not cover all programming by the public broadcasters, only the journalistic programming on radio, television or the internet that fall within the genres of news, sports, current affairs, events and opinions. The ombudsman makes an independent judgment and does not represent a general viewpoint of a national public broadcaster or the NPO.

You can appeal to the ombudsman if you have a complaint regarding journalistic practice or product by one of the Dutch national public broadcasters, or if a program or reporter has transgressed the NPO journalistic standards.

What to do if you have a complaint?

  1. The ombudsman only deals with complaints about journalistic programming and production that fall within the genres of news, sports, current affairs, events and opinions.  See the extensive list of titles (the list is not exhaustive).
  2. You can contact the ombudsman directly, via ombudsman@npo.nl. The websites of the broadcasters mention the possibility of filing a complaint with the ombudsman, with a reference to the ombudsman. Also, when a specific editorial office or a Public Reports department is dealing with a complaint, broadcasters refer to this possibility.
  3. The complaint can pertain to  the content of a journalistic program or publication (on radio, television, online) of up to a maximum of six months previous to submitting the complaint.
  4. Complaints must be motivated and accompanied with name, (e-mail) address and residence of the complainant. Anonymous complaints are not taken into consideration. The complainant's n.a.r.-data (name, address, residence) will only be used for handling and processing of the complaint, and will not be provided to third parties unless regulatory, supervisor and/or judicial authorities so request. Because a broadcaster and/or editorial staff is always involved in handling a complaint, the complainant's n.a.r.-data is shared with the broadcaster and editorial staff to which the complaint relates. 
  5. If you have previously submitted your complaint to a broadcaster and/or editorial office, your complaint with the ombudsman must be accompanied by the response of the editors or the Public Reports department of the relevant broadcaster. 
  6. If the complaint submitted does not meet the conditions under 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, your complaint is inadmissible.
  7. You will receive a receipt from the ombudsman within 14 days. If your complaint will be investigated, you will be notified. 
  8. When a complaint comes in, the ombudsman gives the relevant editorial office a maximum of six weeks to respond to the complaint, with a copy to the ombudsman.
  9. If you are not satisfied with the response or the editors fail to reply within the said deadline, you can report this to the ombudsman. The ombudsman in response may decide to  investigate your complaint. The ombudsman can also independently decide to investigate your complaint. Whether the ombudsman is going to conduct an inquiry into the complaint, and if so in what way, is at the discretion of the ombudsman.
  10. The ombudsman will inform the management of a broadcaster and the main editorial board of a program about a possible inquiry in response to a complaint.
  11. An investigation must be concluded within three months after receiving a complaint, the ombudsman informs you of her findings. In case the ombudsman needs more time to examine the complaint, you will be notified.
  12. If you think your complaint should be dealt with urgently, you may ask for priority. The ombudsman will decide whether or not your request is honored.
  13. The ombudsman may consult internal and external experts and stakeholders when assessing the complaint.
  14. The broadcaster and/or the editors will provide the ombudsman with all available relevant information regarding the complaint, although the main editorial board may decide to withhold certain information (for example, information retrievable to sources requiring confidentiality or privacy data) . The ombudsman will always  ask the editors and/or the broadcaster for a response.
  15. The ombudsman's findings are communicated to you as a complainant, to the (main) editorial board of the relevant publication and to the management of the relevant broadcaster. Excerpts can also be published on the ombudsman's website. Personal data that is traceable to you as a complainant will not be published.