Television and Satellite TV

Find out what TV and radio entertainment is available in English in the Netherlands...

  • There are three main television/video standards in use throughout the world.
  • The system used in the US, Canada, Japan and some other countries is called NTSC
  • Most of Western Europe (including Netherlands), Australasia and Southern Africa use a system called PAL
  • Eastern Europe and France use SECAM

The three standards are not compatible with each other. This means that a TV signal (or video) produced for one system will not work on machinery that's been designed for another.

The Netherlands' system is PAL, therefore a non-PAL compatible television will not receive a signal or be able to broadcast sound and picture.

Note too that Dutch PAL television broadcasts a different frequency for sound, so many PAL TVs from other countries will transmit picture but not sound. Dutch television receivers are mostly multi-system and can be used in most other countries.

Multi-standard European TVs and VCRs with automatic switching circuitry are available from electronics suppliers.

Digital TV and differing video standards

As many countries, including the Netherlands, have long since made the switch from analogue to digital broadcasting, does all the PAL, NTSC, and SECAM coding still apply? Unfortunately, yes. Digital decoders built into TVs (or sometimes still in the form of a set-top box) are still designed based on the tv/video standard in the region they are made for.

TV Licence

There is no licence fee to watch TV in the Netherlands although public channels are limited and many households opt for cable.

Digital TV Broadcasts in the Netherlands

The Netherlands was the second country in Europe to stop analogue broadcasting in favour of digital.

Public television

Dutch public television, supported by the government, operates three national channels (all in Dutch):

Commercial television

There are several nationwide channels operated by commercial broadcasters:

  • The RTL Group operates four national channels (all in Dutch):
  • RTL 4
    RTL 5
    RTL 7
    RTL 8
  • SBS Broadcasting offers three national channels (all in Dutch):

Cable TV and English language

There are several hundred channels available from a handful of cable providers. In general Dutch TV is not dubbed except in the case of programs for small children who are not yet able to read subtitles. This means that most programs screened are in English, with Dutch subtitles.

In most areas, on the standard cable system, the following English language stations are available: BBC1, BBC2, BBC World, Discovery Channel, CNN, CNBC and National Geographic.

The following commercial channels broadcast localised versions of their programmes:

Cable Television Providers

Cable television (kabel televisie) is available in most areas in the Netherlands (except in rural areas) and more than 90 percent of the population is equipped through cable. Each area has its own provider so it is most likely that any new home will be receiving cable TV. It will only be necessary to provide the new personal details for the contract and bills. The estate agent can help to arrange this.

Cable companies also offer Internet and telephone via cable. Packages are generally priced upwards of 40 euro per month. All cable provider websites listed here are in Dutch:

Satellite Television Providers

Relatively few people access television through digital satellite, which provides the usual Dutch channels. Satellite television can be watched with a card and decoder, for a small fee. The card cannot be exported outside of the country. Note that in rented accommodation the landlord's permission is needed to install a satellite dish. Also, check with the local town hall for any restrictions on the placement of the dish.

  • For information on FM radio stations or to listen online visit

Radio Netherlands can be listened to nationwide and broadcasts many items including news programmes in English. Go to their website (also in English) to view news items online and to find details of English language broadcasts.

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