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.

TV Licence

The licence fee for television and radio was abolished in 2000 and public broadcasting is now funded by government subsidy and advertising income. On the public channels commercials are limited and can never interrupt programmes; they are only shown between shows.

Digital TV Broadcasts in the Netherlands

The government decided to switch off analogue TV completely in the Netherlands (consisting only of the public national and regional public channels) from October 2006.

Most people in the Netherlands are connected to TV via cable, otherwise they will need to get Digitenne, digital terrestrial TV, which requires a set-top box and sometimes an antenna, in order to receive public and some commercial television upon payment of a monthly fee.

A subscription to Digitenne will provide 24 TV channels.

Public television

Dutch public television, supported by the government, operates three national channels:

Commercial television

There are several nationwide channels operated by commercial broadcasters:

English programmes

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:

Movies and DVDs in the Netherlands are usually not dubbed, so on the Dutch public and commercial TV stations foreign programmes would be shown in the original language with subtitles (apart from cartoons and children's 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 the cable and are now introducing digital structures. Cable TV will provide about 30 channels and the monthly fee is between 10 and 15 euros.

Digital Terrestrial Television Providers

Digitenne is the terrestrial television operator and is mainly owned by telecom operator KPN (24 TV channels). However, at the moment digital terrestrial TV is only available in some parts of the Netherlands (mostly in the West).

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.

Providers of TV Services through ADSL

The quality of broadband television is still improving. It is available through the following providers:

  • Special digital and broadband possibilities are now also being offered by UPC and KPN
  • For some channels, such as Film1 and Sport1 for instance, a special decoder box must be purchased and a monthly fee is charged. For more information: Click here
  • For information on FM radio stations or to listen online: Click here

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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