Dutch talent show The Voice of Holland has been taken off air in the Netherlands amid a sexual misconduct scandal that has cast a shadow over the future of the TV ratings juggernaut in the country where it was first conceived by media mogul John de Mol.
The furor is one of the most serious #MeToo reckonings yet to hit the Dutch entertainment world and focuses on a show created in the Netherlands but broadcast in local versions around the globe.
It also draws in a family considered television royalty in the Netherlands — the original creator De Mol and his sister Linda, a television star in her own right in the Netherlands and Germany who split from The Voice of Holland's pianist and band leader after he admitted sexual contact with some contestants.
The Dutch scandal erupted after a local broadcaster's YouTube show called BOOS, the Dutch word for angry, contacted The Voice to say it has spoken to victims of “sexually transgressive behavior” and is planning a show about their allegations on Thursday.
Even Prime Minister Mark Rutte has weighed in.
“I think everybody is very shocked and it’s good that it is investigated,” he told Dutch daily De Telegraaf.
Dutch broadcaster RTL, which airs The Voice of Holland, reacted swiftly, saying over the weekend that it was suspending the show. It called the allegations “very serious and shocking” and said they weren't known to RTL.
The show’s pianist and band leader, Jeroen Rietbergen, quit over the weekend and issued a statement acknowledging his actions.
“During my years of involvement with The Voice of Holland I had contact of a sexual nature with some women involved in the program and exchanged sexually tinted WhatsApp messages,” he said in a statement to the RTL Boulevard entertainment news show.
He went on to say that after initially considering the encounters “as reciprocal and equal” he later came to understand that the women “may have experienced this very differently. This insight has made me realize that my behavior has been completely wrong.”
His statement also suggested the show's producers had known about his actions and cautioned him in the past. Rietbergen's lawyer didn't immediately respond to a call and email seeking comment.
Rietbergen’s partner, Linda de Mol, said in a statement on her website that she split from Rietbergen after the scandal broke and was taking a break from her own television career.
RTL said it contacted the show's producer ITV Studios which agreed to “immediately initiate a diligent, independent investigation.” The Dutch broadcaster said in a statement that “Participants, employees, everyone must be able to work in complete safety. There is no room for interpretation in this. The priority now is to get the facts on the table.”
ITV Studios said in a statement: “Our highest priority is to provide a safe and supportive environment for everyone who participates in — or works on — our shows and ITV Studios has a zero-tolerance policy towards the type of behavior it is said to have taken place.”
The company said its investigation aims to “build a complete picture of what happened” and encouraged victims or witnesses to speak to the investigation.
Dutch singer Anouk said she was quitting as one of the show's panelists, who first get to know contestants by listening to them “blind” from a swiveling chair facing away from the stage before going on to mentor them.
“I don’t want to work in a place where for years a number of men have abused their position and deliberately chose to keep it quiet and look the other way,” she said in a film on Instagram.
The Dutch public broadcast organization NPO also took action as a result of the scandal, sending a letter to public networks urging them to check if they have sufficient checks for misconduct.
“We treat everyone equally and respectfully," the organization said Tuesday in a letter to the broadcasters. "Attention is paid to unequal power relationships and dependency relationships, where there may be an increased risk of undesirable transgressive behavior.”