By Stephanie van den Berg
THEHAGUE – Dutch media mogul John de Mol, billionaire owner of the production company behind hit talent show “The Voice”, met with government officials on Wednesday to discuss allegations of sexual misconduct against celebrity jury members.
De Mol is not personally accused or named in any of the legal complaints against people working for The Voice. However, as the creator of the show, a global TV blockbuster, and one of its producers until 2019, he was closely involved with the programme at the time some of the alleged incidents happened.
De Mol’s firm, Talpa, declined comment while an independent investigation is ongoing. De Mol’s production company is also behind the international hit “Big Brother” reality show.
Allegations of harassment and abuse of power on the set of The Voice have prompted an outpouring of disgust in the Netherlands and sparked a nationwide debate about the workplace treatment of women.
The junior culture minister requested the meeting with de Mol after broadcaster RTL pulled the original Dutch version of The Voice following allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour, including by celebrities.
After the meeting, Junior Culture Minister Gunay Uslu said she spoke with de Mol and other media bosses about possibilities for a joint approach to combat sexual harassment and sexual abuse in the media sector. She did not elaborate.
“This is the Netherlands’ big #MeToo moment,” Chantal van den Berg, a criminologist at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam who researched the impact of #MeToo, told Reuters.
“People know the show and they know the people being accused so that hits a lot closer to home.”
Two prominent Dutch entertainment figures implicated in the scandal have seen their songs pulled from airplay by radio stations and their statues removed from the Madame Tussauds wax museum in Amsterdam.
“We see there is suddenly a lot more attention on workplace harassment and the legal requirements for employers,” Annika Heerekop of the largest Dutch labour union FNV told Reuters.
It is the first big #Metoo moment in the Netherlands since the global movement to stop sexual harassment of women began some four years ago.
The Centre for Sexual Violence said the volume of calls to hotlines surged fivefold after public broadcaster BNNVARA first aired allegations this month against the two entertainers, including rape and inappropriate touching of minors.