BOOS: What we know about allegations of sexual abuse at The Voice of Holland
The Voice of Holland, one of the country's most prominent entertainment shows and undoubtedly one of the biggest exports of Dutch media tycoon John de Mol, has been a staple on TVs across the Netherlands for 12 years. While the show’s influence isn’t quite as big as it once was, it continues to draw in millions of viewers per episode, and is one of RTL 4’s biggest shows.
However, recently the programme and its creators have come under fire as news emerged of several of those involved in the show abusing their position and taking advantage of young female contestants and colleagues.
Reports of sexual assault at The Voice of Holland
In August 2020, presenter of the BNNVARA web series BOOS, Tim Hofman, issued a request to members of the public who had either worked on or taken part in The Voice and who knew about or had experienced (sexual) misconduct from senior members of staff.
The past few weeks have seen various reports of sexual misconduct surface surrounding the show, with Jeroen Rietbergen - the show’s bandleader and brother-in-law of De Mol - announcing his resignation on January 15, saying in a statement that he had had “contact of a sexual nature” with women involved in the show.
In addition to Rietbergen’s resignation, allegations had been made against two other employees involved in the making of The Voice, one of which was celebrity coach Ali B.
BOOS: This is The Voice
While some information had already leaked, much was left unclear ahead of the airing of the most recent episode of BOOS. After Hofman’s public request last summer, the programme carried out an investigation into the allegations, spanning several months. The findings were presented in an 80-minute long episode that aired on Thursday afternoon.
BOOS reports that dozens of women experienced sexual assault at the hands of four staff members on The Voice: Rietbergen, Ali B, Marco Borsato, and one of the show’s directors.
19 women - both (former) employees and contestants - have come forward with allegations against Rietbergen, who ahead of his resignation had worked on The Voice for over 10 years. The allegations include inappropriate text messages in which Rietbergen sent young women unsolicited nude photos, or suggested booking hotel rooms for them to meet.
Rietbergen is also reported to have made inappropriate comments of a sexual nature to one 18-year-old contestant. Former candidate Nienke Wijnhoven has also said Rietbergen sexually assaulted her, touching her inappropriately in his studio. Rietbergen denies the allegations.
Ali B, who has been a coach on the show since 2016, has also come under fire. He has been accused of rape and of groping young women. Several women have explained how the rapper promised to help them make a success of their music careers, making plans to meet them late at night or outside of the television studio.
Two charges have been filed against Ali B, one of which is for rape. Ali B denies the allegations, saying he had consensual sex with one former candidate.
At the end of last year, reports emerged that Marco Borsato had inappropriately touched a woman when she was just 15 years old. Now, six women have accused Borsato of sexual abuse, three of whom were underage at the time of the incident.
Borsato has been involved in The Voice since 2011, and has been a coach on The Voice Kids since the show’s inception in 2012. The singer is yet to respond to the allegations.
The Voice director
BOOS also mentioned at least 15 reports of sexual misconduct against one of The Voice’s directors, who remains unnamed. Various women say he made inappropriate comments and would touch them inappropriately. He has denied the allegations.
BOOS interview: John de Mol’s response
The final part of the BOOS episode included a lengthy interview with John de Mol himself, in which the media tycoon reacted to the allegations presented in the episode.
De Mol was quick to express his shock at all that he had heard and was adamant that, in spite of Rietbergen’s family connections to De Mol and his role in the show, he held no power over any of the contestants on The Voice, and appeared unable to understand how he could be perceived as having any real power: “I know what his role is. If he pretends to be more important and someone is not able to distinguish between them, it is out of my sight.”
De Mol said that in his years at the helm of The Voice, only one allegation had been brought to his attention, when in April 2019 a candidate said she had been harassed by Rietbergen. De Mol explained how Rietbergen was issued his first and final warning, but that no investigation was carried out into the bandleader’s behaviour. De Mol also said that no protocol was in place to monitor the behaviour of coaches or prevent any misconduct: “I never thought that could happen at all.”
Since the episode aired, De Mol has come under fire for his response to the various allegations. “Make sure you open your mouth,” he said to those who experience sexual abuse. “I hope it doesn't have a big impact on their lives,” De Mol said to the victims. “If this happens again [I hope] they have learned, they have learned to report it immediately."
What happens next?
Ahead of Thursday’s episode, RTL had already announced the decision to shelf all remaining episodes of the current series of The Voice until further notice. The show has also lost a number of big-name sponsors, including T-Mobile and Lidl. RTL has also suspended all collaboration with Ali B, and the publishing company responsible for the rapper’s book De Ali B-methode has suspended all sales.
On Thursday, RTL chief Sven Sauvé announced in a statement that the channel had asked the Public Prosecution Service (OM) to actively investigate all allegations of abuse: “All parties involved must actively map out which concrete measures can be taken to prevent future abuses.” Sauvé said. "RTL has asked the OM this week to actively investigate the reported abuses. In addition, the producer of The Voice (ITV) has commissioned an external investigation. RTL has urged ITV to conduct this investigation with the greatest possible care and impartiality.”
Meanwhile, female employees at De Mol’s media company Talpa took out a full-page advertisement in the AD on Friday which read “Dear John, it isn’t up to women.” Many Dutch celebrities and journalists have also expressed shock at De Mol’s reaction to the allegations.
The Dutch police and the OM are calling on all victims and witnesses to report any cases of unwanted sexual behaviour.