NICAM stands for the Netherlands Institute for the Classification of Audio-visual Media. The institute enjoys broad support within the audio-visual sector in the Netherlands and is responsible for the coordination of the Kijkwijzer scheme. More than 2,200 companies and organisations are affiliated to this, either through their sector organisations or directly to NICAM.
NICAM’s board consists of representatives of both public and commercial broadcasters, film distributors and cinema operators, distributors, videotheques and retailers. The independent chair of the board is Mr Boris van der Ham.
NICAM is supported in the performance of its duties by an Advisory Committee. The members of this Advisory Committee are experts in the areas of media, youth, education and welfare, representatives of parents’ organisations and other social organisations, as well as of the companies participating in NICAM. The actual implementation of Kijkwijzer is in the hands of the audio-visual institutions and companies.
The following umbrella organisations from the audio-visual sector participate in NICAM:
• Dutch Exhibitors Association (NVBF)
• Film Distributors Netherlands (FDN)
• Netherlands Association of Producers and Importers of Picture and Sound Carriers (NVPI interactive)
• Netherlands Video Retailers Organisation (NVDO)
• Netherlands Association of Entertainment Retailers (NVER)
• Netherlands Broadcasting Corporation (NPO), which represents all national public service broadcasting organisations
• Associations of Regional (OLON) and Local (ROOS) Broadcasters Netherlands
• Association of Commercial Broadcasters (VCO)
As early as the beginning of the 1980s, politicians were pressing for self-regulatory measures within the audio-visual world, aimed at protecting young viewers against possible harmful effects. New impetus was given to this discussion with the explosion of the supply of audio-visual media, prompting the European Commission to call on all Member States to take action. This resulted, in 1997, in the policy document ‘Niet voor alle leeftijden’ [‘Not for all ages’]. This argued for the establishment of an independent body, which would act as the national support group for self-regulation within the audio-visual sector.
Intensive and result-oriented consultation
A range of representatives of the audio-visual sector responded to this call from the government. It was then decided in consultation to bring about such a self-regulatory body. This finally led, in 1999, to the establishment of the Netherlands Institute for the Classification of Audio-visual Media, or NICAM.
The institute was set up in close cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Culture & Science (OCW), the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) and the Ministry of Justice. In turn, NICAM played an initiating and coordinating role in the development of Kijkwijzer, the new classification system that warns parents and educators of children up to a certain age whether a television programme or film may be harmful.
Broad support from parliament and the cabinet
The legislative proposals that paved the way for Kijkwijzer were passed by a large majority in parliament in 2000. Most members of parliament expressed a preference for self-regulation and a belief that the audio-visual sector is capable of bearing the responsibility for this. In addition, NICAM’s plans to provide information on the content of audio-visual productions, alongside the age recommendations, also met with appreciation. On 22 February 2001, the new legislation then passed into law. This replaced the old Film Censorship Act, thereby also heralding the end of film censorship.
Early in 2004, NICAM and Kijkwijzer were evaluated by the cabinet and parliament. There was appreciation of the results achieved within a short time. The conclusion was that, although there are certainly areas for improvement, NICAM works well.
The government closely monitors actual compliance with the self-regulatory measures. This supervisory role is delegated to the Media Authority, which regularly investigates and evaluates the functioning of the system of self-regulation. NICAM itself also performs regular quality assessments of compliance with the rules. In addition, it regularly tests consumer perception and use of Kijkwijzer.