Dutch farmers' party seeks an end to 'discriminatory' subtitling of rural accents on TV

·2-min read
Caroline van der Plas, the leader of the Farmers-Citizen Movement - REMKO DE WAAL/AFP
Caroline van der Plas, the leader of the Farmers-Citizen Movement - REMKO DE WAAL/AFP

Subtitling people with regional accents is “discriminatory”, the Dutch farmers’ party has said, calling for an end to the practice.

Caroline van der Plas, the leader of the Farmers-Citizen Movement (BBB), which came from nowhere to scoop 17 seats in the Dutch senate, has already warned that her populist movement is about more than just fighting the EU climate targets.

Among the BBB’s more outlandish demands are a sweeping reform of Dutch broadcasting practice in a country that is the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter.

In the Netherlands, it is usual for people from rural areas such as Limburgers or Frisians, who have their own dialects, to be subtitled when they appear on television.

But the BBB wants that changed so that everyone, from town or countryside, is subtitled unless they are speaking standard Dutch.

Equal treatment on television

Often conversations on television with people from the countryside are subtitled as standard and BBB considers this discriminatory, the party’s website says.

“BBB wants all dialects on television, rural and suburban, in which no standard Dutch is spoken, to be subtitled. And that includes if someone speaks with an Amsterdam, Hague, Rotterdam, Gooise or Utrecht accent. The same rule for everyone."

The BBB won a landslide victory in regional elections in a vote that has called the survival of the ruling coalition into question.

In the lead up to the election, farmers staged a series of large-scale tractor protests over government plans to cut nitrogen emissions, which are caused by fertilisers and manure, with compulsory farm buyouts.

Ms van der Plas has predicted Mark Rutte’s ruling four party coalition will not last after what became a referendum on the leadership of the Netherlands’ longest-serving prime minister.

Possible general election

She expects a general election to be called before the end of the year.

Mr Rutte will hold emergency talks with his coalition partners on Tuesday after the BBB became the largest party in all 12 Dutch provinces in the regional vote.

The BBB, which has registered for next year’s European Parliament elections, is also on a collision course with the EU over rules demanding nitrogen emissions be cut by 50 per cent by 2030.

The European Commission warned that compulsory farm buyouts were the only way to hit the target earlier this week.

The farmers are suspicious of Brussels, although they are not calling for “Nexit”. They want the EU to be a common market and not a super-state.

It has also called for a southern and northern version of the euro to prevent richer northern member states having to bail out poorer southern countries in the EU.