“Now turn that cover up and put the truth on the table,” Chantal Janzen wrote on Instagram today. The presenter refers to the messages about The Voice of Holland who came out yesterday. But how do you do something like this within an organization where, according to various sources, not one, but several people are guilty of sexually transgressive behaviour?
RTL and production company ITV have announced an external independent investigation. One of the experts in this field is Tamara de Reu. As an organizational psychologist for undesirable behaviour, she is regularly engaged by companies and institutions to conduct this research. When she got the news about The Voice heard alarm bells ringing at her.
“This evokes the feeling that something has been going on for a long time,” she said in radio program With a view to tomorrow. “This sounds like a serious and serious matter that many people could be involved in.”
The moment these kinds of messages come out at organizations, De Reu always starts its conversations with those involved. “You quickly hear about which people are involved, and they also have their side to tell. Then you look at: what has already happened within the organization? Has there already been support for those involved? But that often concerns employees. With the issue we are now discussing, that may be different, we don’t know exactly yet.”
She points out that boundaries in the creative world are often blurred. “There is often an important physical component there and there are many power relations.” This is also seen by Linda German, media scientist at the University of Amsterdam. “It’s unfortunate that this is happening, but this news doesn’t surprise me anymore; this is an industry where dependency relationships come into play.”
Preventing this from happening remains complicated. “It is very unfortunate that people gradually get damaged,” says De Reu. “But you can see that work has been done on this in recent years. I see that people in more and more places are talking to each other about manners, including in the cultural sector. You can see that the safety net is also being better organized; if something is done about the hand it must be clear who you can turn to.” She points out that this also applies to a program such as The Voice can. “You can clearly indicate to everyone: if there is something, you can go here. A confidential counselor can also be present.”
“It is important that you as an employer do everything you can to create a safe workplace for your employees,” says German. “When there are friendly or family relationships between powerful people, it’s very complicated to raise something like that.”
She refers to Rietbergen’s position at The Voice. He is married to Linda de Mol. Her brother John de Mol is the owner of Talpa, the company that The Voice invented and produced for a long time. “Of course he’s not just the pianist on that program. That’s what makes this extraordinarily complicated. If the man who sends you inappropriate messages is also in close contact with the most powerful man in Dutch show business. Then there is certainly a power relationship.”
De Reu comes to the same conclusion. “In an organization where power plays a role, saying that you have experienced something unpleasant is sometimes very complicated. People are then afraid of the consequences.” RTL Boulevard reported yesterday that an app group with victims of transgressive behavior has now been added The Voice is. There would be more than 40 people in it. De Reu has seen similar reactions before. “Usually something like this happens when one or two people have spoken up. Then others think: I’m not alone.”
“More people must have seen this, right?” German wonders. “It is of course a bit of speculation, but you often see in these kinds of cases that people knew. The problem is that often nothing is said about it, especially if it can be harmful to your career.”
De Reu says it is important to know what happened after reports about Rietbergen were made. In his statement, he said that a few years ago he “was already spoken to severely by his client”. According to his lawyer, that is Talpa, which was later taken over by production company ITV. Yet after that reprimand he was allowed to continue to join as band leader at The Voice.
“We do not know what he was held accountable for at the time. Was that one case? Or did his employer know that there were more? That is unclear.” De Reu wonders when Rietbergen has been tapped on his fingers. A lot has changed since the #MeToo movement. In the past, it was not customary to immediately start an investigation. “That only happened with a formal complaint.”