Behind the scenes of the popular program The world goes on (2005-2020) has been dominated by a culture of fear for years due to the transgressive behavior of presenter Matthijs van Nieuwkerk. Dozens of former employees set this tonight de Volkskrantwhich spent months researching the culture at the NPO talk show.
According to those involved, Van Nieuwkerk had extreme outbursts of anger, in which employees were ‘shouted at, humiliated and intimidated’ in front of others at a distance of centimeters. It caused stress, a feeling of insecurity and in dozens of people even burnouts and other serious psychological complaints, according to the newspaper. The top of broadcaster BNNVara was repeatedly warned, but would not have intervened.
Several former employees are said to still suffer from anxiety and nightmares today. In one of dozens of incidents, after an error around the sound in the show, Van Nieuwkerk screamed and demanded that the soundman involved apologize by humbly saying ‘sorry Mr. Van Nieuwkerk’. The incident went ‘across all borders’, says one person involved. “It was like the devil got inside him,” adds one editor.
The presenter, who is still working at the broadcaster, who initially did not want to respond to the investigation, made himself heard this afternoon. “I am very sorry that we were apparently not able to give everyone a safe and pleasant feeling and that it even made colleagues sick,” he said.
This mirror hangs in my room
“Now we have a number of inconvenient things to do. Unfortunately, they don’t take time, but they do make you think. This mirror will hang in my room.’
Editor-in-chief ‘wrestled’ with Matthijs
Some former employees say they have been even more damaged by the former editor-in-chief of DWDD Dieuwke Wynia. She and Van Nieuwkerk were often seen as the golden duo behind the success of the talk show, a twosome. In reality, that was not the case, she now says. “I struggled with Matthijs,” she says. “His tantrums were intense, he seemed like a different person at such moments.”
I have tried so often to address Matthijs about his behavior, so often asked him to adopt a different attitude towards people
She continues: ‘When we talk about perpetrators and victims, I’m in a gray area. I have tried so often to address Matthijs about his behavior, so often asked him to adopt a different attitude towards people. If he had failed, I would call him in the evening. Sometimes he just went wild with me one more time.’ She admits that she herself has been ‘blunt’ and ‘lack of empathy’. “I’m sorry about that.”
Wynia says she has raised Van Nieuwkerk’s behavior several times with Frans Klein, who was media director at BNNVara at the time and NPO director since 2014. She said he did nothing. Klein states that he did indeed act when staff turnover turned out to be remarkably high, for example by making the editorial staff larger. In retrospect, that was ‘perhaps insufficient’.
In 2015, then DWDD ten years old, this site also concluded that Van Nieuwkerk could be merciless. ‘If it all goes wrong or the item is insufficiently highlighted, Van Nieuwkerk and Wynia are ‘unmerciful”, claimed many a former editor.
BNNVara says it is shocked by the stories of former employees. The broadcaster acknowledges that Van Nieuwkerk and Wynia should have been held accountable for their behavior and calls it painful that this did not happen.
“The pressure to make a good program should never be at the expense of our employees,” said the broadcaster, which has opened a helpline with an external organization. ‘We want a culture never to emerge in which this kind of behavior is accepted.’ The current management has had ‘penetrating talks’ with Van Nieuwkerk and is continuing to talk to him.
The NPO is also shocked and says it will continue to work for a safe working environment. “This should never have happened,” the statement said. Thomas Bruning, general secretary of the Dutch Association of Journalism (NVJ), says via Twitter: ‘This is precisely the reason why the NVJ has been arguing for a safer culture within broadcasting for years. Temporary contracts and mediocre freelance contracts lead to dependence on employees who do not dare to report abuses.’
Cross-border behavior goes according to the advice Across the border, towards a shared culture, which the Council for Culture published last June, not only about sexual harassment and abuse. It can also involve bullying, racism, sexism, discrimination and other forms of undesirable behaviour, which lead to an unsafe working environment.
Victims often develop physical and mental complaints such as stress, burnout and depression. It also occurs in other sectors, but in the culture and media sector there are specific risk factors that provide extra vulnerability, the council says. For example, the sector often selects from a wide range of talent, while there are only a limited number of performance and show places.
It is the second time this year that Van Nieuwkerk’s behavior has been widely reported behind the scenes. In June late The Telegraph a former employee also spoke, who spoke of ‘monstrous behavior’ of the presenter and DWDDeditor-in-chief Dieuwke Wynia. BNNVara then stated in a response that ‘the working climate within the editorial offices has been a continuous point of attention for some time now’.
– Angela de Jong on culture of fear DWDD: ‘Serious stain on an iconic program’
– BNNVara: We told Matthijs: we do not want this behaviour
Watch below how Matthijs van Nieuwkerk concluded his last episode of DWDD in 2020:
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