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13/1 Paintings of the Zuidas

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10/1 Zuidas: People feel that we are losers

9/1 Fun on the ice - but not for all

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9/1 I Amsterdam must remain exclusive

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3/1 Gaza protest criticises politicians

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1/1 Mustapha Laboui leaves district council


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Local TV as social worker

28 April 2008 - Local television channel AT5 should opt for an apolitical role and strenghten the 'I Amsterdam' feeling, according to a report written by media guru Irene Costera Meijer. Director John de Zwart says it is a non-issue.

Partially in response to recurrent discussions about AT5's reason to exist, the channel asked Costera Meijer to find out what AT5 means to Amsterdammers. Her report confirms that it is by far the most important source of news in Amsterdam and that many viewers appreciate the way in which the channel reports the news.

AT5 did not just contract any researcher. Costera Meijer has previously advised the national NOS Journaal on how to reach out to young viewers, an issue she wrote an often-quoted book about. She also advised broadcasters VPRO and KRO.

Costera Meijer's views elicit both enthusiasm and resistance. She thinks that the news should be brought in a 'soap-like' manner, in easily manageable chunks and with at least as much room for emotions as for the facts and figures.

In her eyes, AT5's primary task is not so much to uncover the interests that are at stake in political choices, but to 'keep things together' (to borrow Mayor Job Cohen's expression) and create oneness. An example of good political reporting is a report on residents who say that the 'cosy feeling' of the Mercatorplein has gone.

In addition, she sees a role for AT5 as a continuation of social work, for example by broadcasting educational programmes on parenting.

Also, "a social psychologist working with a janitor or neighbourhood caretaker could help solve problems among neighbourhood residents at the request of residents. As a potential sponsor, we were thinking of a housing corporation".

Will AT5 indeed opt for such a rather apolitical course? Director De Zwart dismisses the suggestion as a 'non-issue'.

At a more practical level, he does want to act on Costera Meijer's advice. For example, Amsterdammers want more news from their own neighbourhoods. Also, they would like to have the news updated 24 hours a day.

AT5 already tries to bring more neighbourhood news by asking journalists to monitor developments in specific districts. The organisation does not have the means to further intensify its neighbourhood reporting.

De Zwart thinks a solution might consist in using more 'user generated' news. Amsterdammers can already upload photos and videos to the 'Gespot' section of the AT5 website. Sometimes, their material is used in the 'real' news.

The internet is of increasing importance and journalists are aware of that. "Frequently, editors call us when their programme isn't instantly online", says an employee quoted by Costera Meijer.

However, De Zwart says that the funds AT5 receives are inadequate for running a good website, even though this is expected of the organisation.

AT5-report (in Dutch)


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