Financial boost for Dutch newspapers

AMSTERDAM - The Dutch government and opposition members have joined forces to boost the financial position of the country's newspapers and investigative journalism.

Dutch newspapers have been on the decline for several years, particularly since the launch of the Internet.

Each day, 5463692 newspaper copies are printed in the Netherlands, but the number is falling about 2,5percent a quarter.

In the second quarter of this year, the print run of the quality newspaper Volkskrant dropped 4,5percent.

Now that the credit crisis has reached the Netherlands - next year the economy is expected to shrink around 0,75percent - the number of advertisements in newspapers is also dropping rapidly.

Tomorrow, the Dutch parliament is due to debate possible measures to assist newspapers.

The Minister of Science, Education and Culture, Ronald Plasterk, has proposed transferring money resulting from public television commercials to a so-called printed media innovation committee.

During the same debate, opposition lawmaker Boris van der Ham of the liberal left D'66 Party will file a petition for the government to establish a special fund to support research journalism.

"Investigative journalism is of great importance to a democracy," Van der Ham said.

The liberal-left lawmaker said "all projects demanding long-term investments are commercially unattractive".

This is particularly the case with investigative journalism, Van der Ham said, because "you can never predict whether an investigation will bear any results".

Van der Ham proposed expanding existing Dutch legislation for innovative scientific research, which covers the special funding given to researchers for projects from the Dutch National Organisation of Academics. - Sapa-DPA