Bekkers, Wim      

  Spouse: Cora Rooker Laurens,  Alexander    

October 14th, 2011
Dear Friends,

Wim BekkersInspired by Peter, Tony , Michael, Alexander, Graham and also Erik now in the tail of 2011 perhaps it is time to come with a personal update.

 After leaving the Netherlands Public Service Broadcasting organisation and its Audience Research department I was appointed to director of NICAM in 2000. NICAM stands for the Netherlands Institute for the Classification of Audio-visual Media. It is a non-profit foundation. Founders are the national public service and private broadcasters (including NOS, my former employer), the distributors of cinema films, DVD’s and games, plus the cinema, video shop and retail trade associations. So NICAM is an audio-visual broad initiative. The legal basis is in the Media-act and in 2001 we were officially acknowledged by the government. De facto the establishment of NICAM is the result of the European Directive Television without Frontiers, it is the Dutch reaction to the Directive as far as the protection of minors is concerned.

That’s our core business, the protection of minors. Typical aspects of our approach are:
-one cross media classification system for TV (all genres), film and DVD, this means one set of classification criteria;
-in the form of an online available questionnaire, created and built by independent academic experts (communication science and psychology);
-the classification process – resulting in uniform ratings for TV, film and DVD – is the work and responsibility of the suppliers of audio-visual products: self-classification;
-the name of this system is ‘Kijkwijzer’ (‘watch wiser’ or ‘viewing guide’) and Kijkwijzer is a uniform classification and information system. The main target group is parents with growing children;
-it is an information system, not censorship, meant to help parents to make ‘informed decisions’: a tool for parents (and as we now know also used by adults and children themselves when making choices in terms of television programmes, cinema films and DVD’s);

-the Kijkwijzer information consists of an age rating (all ages, 6, 9, 12 and 16 years)  and one or more content descriptors, indicating the reason for an age rating (there are pictograms for violence, fear, sex, drugs, coarse language and discrimination): see for the descriptors and all further details of the system: click the English flag button for the English language section;
-this is or rather was a new approach in the field of classification and protection of minors: this year we celebrate 10 years of Kijkwijzer in the Netherlands. We have learned in the course of the years that it is an efficient and viable system. When we started in 2000 creating and building the system and NICAM, it was new and unknown territory;
-the government is still involved; the half of the Kijkwijzer costs are paid by the national government (the other 50% by the audio-visual media) and the government is monitoring and evaluating the system regularly;
-Kijkwijzer in the meantime is well-known and established over here: it is a very ‘visible’ system, because the ratings and pictograms are shown on TV-screen, in TV-guides, Teletext, on DVD inlays, advertising for cinema films, EPG’s etc;
-9 out of 10 parents do appreciate the system and reporting to use the age ratings and pictograms when making choices for their children;
-it is a form of co-regulation; a study commissioned by the European Commission concluded that Kijkwijzer is role model for Europe;
-there is substantial international interest: the European game industry’s classification system PEGI (Pan-European Game Information) was derived from the Kijkwijzer system;
NICAM is the Administrator of PEGI;
-Germany, the Czech Republic, Iceland and Belgium are interested in Kijkwijzer and in Turkey a Turkish version of Kijkwijzer was introduced in cooperation with NICAM (interesting to work there it was!).
This in short is the Kijkwijzer story; it was not always easy and often quite challenging. What I find the interesting thing is that our territory is audio-visual, including television and now of course (new) digital and online challenges.  Plus to find out if it is possible and feasible to create cross media systems, in our case for classification and informing the parents and public, that are making some sense for people.
NICAM now is running two systems, the Kijkwijzer system for the Netherlands and the PEGI system for Europe. Kijkwijzer and PEGI are ‘warning’ systems, signalling to parents: keep out!
In addition there are two projects. On request by the government a small team is working to create a ‘positive recommendation’ system for audio-visual products, with the aim to provide parents with real ‘positive’ recommendations for television programmes, films, games, websites etc.
Target group: parents with children under 12 years of age. The name of this is Mediasmarties, it is meant to be a pendant of Kijkwijzer and PEGI.
Mediasmarties is a pilot project and a feasibility study. The Dutch language website is

Last but not least there is the so called Buro 240a project. Also requested by the government, this project has the aim to substantially raise the level of compliance with Article 240a Penal Law. This law prohibits to allow children under the age to cinema films and to sell games and DVD’s to under aged children in shops and retail. The main activity of the project team is to instruct all personnel of cinema’s, relevant shops and libraries, in charge of allowing and selling, how to handle and deal with under aged children. For this purpose an e-learning  programme was developed. Up until now some 20,000 personnel have finished this e-learning programme. Mystery visits have shown that the level of compliance with the law has risen significantly.

So far the little outline of my current work and situation.
It might be interesting to notice that our institute is located in the building where earlier I worked for NOS Audience Research. So if you come to the Netherlands, come to Hilversum (again!) and visit us at the Mediapark! That’s it for now, I hope you are well and give you my best regards, and, in French, hopefully: au revoir!

 Wim Bekkers, Hilversum

 NICAM   +31 35 6460860

Wim at the "Euromedia"
                                  (ORF/Vienna, 1995)

Wim tries to exercise long distance running and hopes to be able to finish the half marathon of Egmond aan Zee, partly over the shore. That would be the third time in succession.

NICAM/Kijkwijzer is doing very well, there is concrete interest in Poland and Turkey and in last November the Dutch government (including the critical Christian Democrats) sent the Parliamennt a very positive evaluation. The European PEGI (game classification) was launched in May last year and very succesfull, even beyond expectations.

Interesting is that Austria might step out PEGI to work with the German USK system (momentarily Germany is the only non-PEGI country because of amandatory system that was introduced last year (a reaction to the Erfuhrt massacre).

The GEAR+ Website is interesting and good, for the moment I don't have moer to add than a link to the PEGI website (that will be redesigned shortly) it is:

At this time it is hectic here at the office; we will move to the Mediapark in April, in fact back to the Hoofdgebouw, now called Mediacenter, where I worked for NOS many years!

7th January, 2004

10 years of Kijkwizer