Election campaign in children’s news

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as a little boy

A while ago, elections were held in the Netherlands – and as in Germany, this fact had a great impact on all the news programmes and political talk shows in the weeks beforehand, where viewers were confronted with rather contrived and tiring battles of words. The situation in the Netherlands is somewhat confusing simply because it takes four or five parties to form a government (out of a total of 18 (!) parties represented in parliament) rather than two or three as in Germany. 

A breath of fresh air came from the Dutch “Jeugdjournaal” – the daily children’s news programme I became a fan of when I started learning Dutch years ago. The top candidates of the six largest parties were guests there three days before election day, along with children, of course (this time only a dozen, due to Corona).

The politicians were given various tasks: Among other things, there was a guessing game on topics that interest children. Of course, the ladies and gentlemen with their own children had an advantage when it came to “TikTok”, for example. The mutual rebukes and accusations were quite spontaneous (“Hey! Don’t copy, man!”). And the fact that not a single one of them knew the name of the first and so far only giant panda baby born in a Dutch zoo seemed a little embarrassing to some.

The candidates also had to give a short presentation on their party’s objectives, during which the children obviously enjoyed the fact that the roles were reversed for once. They did not have to perform – as in school – but could give feedback. This was done in a very diplomatic way with “tips” (the points of criticism) and “tops” (the highlights). The children were very gentle with the politicians, only exceeding their allowed speaking time was met with an ungracious reaction!

Another item on the programme were statements on school policy and climate change. I t was all too apparent that you cannot start early enough with assessing and weighting politicians’ arguments. When one of the politicians – known as a climate crisis denier – argued that the problem was not really that big, and if too much money was invested in solving the climate problems, the children’s parents would have no money left for holidays and McDonalds, some of the children looked quite stunned. In general, the reactions were refreshingly clear. When the leading Green candidate was asked if he was a vegetarian and answered he was not (“flexitarian, meat now and then” etc.), the children’s disapproval was clearly noticeable.

For me, the highlight of the programme was when all six politicians were shown photos of themselves as children and asked to say what they were like as a child. Who would have thought that of all the children depicted, the “far-right” candidate was the cutest? And did all those who claimed it really play outside all day when they were children? And were they really such sports aces? When Prime Minister Mark Rutte confessed that his reports often said “he distracted others”, the representatives of the other parties immediately remarked that nothing had changed.

The Q&A session at the end was also interesting. Any adult who dared to ask intimidating candidates “Which animal would you most like to be?”, “What are you most afraid of?” or – even better – “What exactly do you do with your hair that it’s always so tight and so blond?” would surely (purely rhetorically, of course) immediately be made into sausagemeat. But children get away with it and get an answer themselves. Only the secret of the hair was not revealed here either!

In my opinion, Jeugdjournaal was the programme with the most interesting TV contribution to the election campaign. In late summer I’ll be watching to see if there’s anything like that in Germany! I wonder which animal the German top candidates would most like to be? I already have ideas about almost all of them…

Original text: BBR
English translation: BCO


Author: bbr

Hello, I am Beate Brinkman, the bbr.harlekin. I am editor and author for Harlekin.Blog e.V. and my “main job” is support coordinator in an international IT company. So far I have worked in German, Dutch, American and Indian companies and have acquired a great deal of experience of multicultural cooperation. I have been living in the Netherlands as a German for many years and have discovered that the cultural differences between Germans and Dutch alone could fill entire books. For professional and private reasons, I am particularly interested in multicultural (mis)understanding. Whether it’s about food, language, official conference calls or the organisation of funerals – when the cultures of several countries collide, things get lively. And that leads to sometimes unpleasant, often very funny, but always instructive situations.

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