Gunay Uslu: ‘My baptism of fire was The Voice’

As a newcomer to politics, State Secretary Gunay Uslu (Culture and Media, D66) was immediately confronted with the sex scandal at. The voice of the Netherlands: the popular talent show disappeared from television, more employees being prosecuted. She jumped at it with a series of roundtable discussions with Talpa boss John de Mol and others involved. She is also so intensely involved in measures against increasing aggression against journalists, which has led to the Netherlands recently dropping no less than 22 places on the international press freedom list. She talks to journalists, editors-in-chief – what is the problem, what do they need.

She does not want to comment on the content of public broadcast programs. She believes that it is not up to her to openly distance herself from racist theories (population) or disinformation (corona) at Ongehoord Nederland (ON). She also talks to NRC with restraint: as a liberal politician, she does not comment on the content of programs. Next week, Uslu will send her first media letter to the House of Representatives, in which she explains her political plans.

How are the #MeToo conversations going?

“My baptism of fire was The voice – I was suddenly engaged in cross-border behavior. I immediately thought: That responsibility I must take. It’s really serious, we need to do something about it. As a manager or supervisor, I also think you have to say out loud, ‘This is not good.’ That’s where it starts. This is a hard, bound pattern. With John de Mol, I saw a desire to really change. ”

Why is this typically a problem with media and culture?

“It’s not true. My first idea was also: It’s common in the media and culture sector because you are vulnerable there. Irregular working hours, drinks late, people with a passion who are willing to give a lot for what they do. But this is happening everywhere. In sports, at Zuidas, within political parties … “

Gunay Uslu (1972) grew up in Haarlem, where her father owned a number of coffee houses and guest houses. In primary school, she received an LBO recommendation (the current VMBO basis) because her teacher believed that practical training would help her better if she ‘returned’ to Turkey – even though she was born in the Netherlands. Eventually, Uslu would obtain a Ph.D. in cultural studies from the University of Amsterdam, after which she held management and director positions at Corendon, her brother Atilay Uslu’s travel organization, and was project manager at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Why the primary school councils?

“I went to a strict, reformed school, they did not really know what to do with me. My sister Meral, who was ten years older than she later became a documentary filmmaker, was very activist. When she heard about the elementary school councils, she thought, ‘Why? Gunay is a smart girl! ‘ So he arranged a kind of job interview at the Montessori Lyceum Amsterdam. There, I seem to have told you that I wanted to be the first female Prime Minister of the Netherlands. I was surprised it was not there yet. I was accepted and lived with my sister in Jordaan. He took me to movies I was too young for, for example, Polanski because she did not have a babysitter. I enjoyed Montessori. “

You wanted to be Prime Minister, why did you go into politics first now?

“As a student, I was an intern at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, I really had political ambitions at the time. It was around the note ‘Space for cultural diversity’, a political plan by State Secretary Rick van der Ploeg (Culture and Media, PvdA) for a more diverse cultural sector in terms of supply and audience. At first I thought: that’s what I’m after. But then: wait a minute, I’m of Turkish descent, female and young. I myself was the problem we had to solve, but that’s not how I experienced it at all. Then I got an offer from the University of Amsterdam to give lectures, and I chose science. ”

Do you think it is important to promote diversity in public broadcasting?

“Yes, I have invited the chairman to discuss this. But I must not interfere too much in that kind of thing. “

Why not? You’re the Secretary of State.

“I often forget it myself, but in the eyes of others I am now ‘the power’. The media should be free to control me. I will also be asked to comment on Ongehoord Nederland, but I must keep my distance. “

You will stand up for the safety of journalists. When ON says that the ‘mainstream media’ is selling lies, they are creating an insecure situation for journalists. Why do not you comment on that?

“The media is very good at organizing and controlling itself. Ungehoord Nederland has entered the broadcasting system according to the rules, I do not want to interfere in the content of the news media. To speak out against hardening, against discrimination – it is possible. But specifically about a TV show, I think it is too much intervention by the government. “

You will find news media indispensable to democracy. Now there is a television station attacking democratic values. What prevents you from saying ‘it can not be’?

“It is up to the ombudsman, the NPO board, the media board, the judge – democratic institutions, which I do not want to bypass. Then, as ruler, I would like to influence the control mechanisms that we ourselves have set up for this. “

You want to respect the separation of powers, but you consult with journalists. What’s up with that?

“I want to know how I can ensure that journalists can carry out their work as well as possible, for which I am responsible. And I can not find out if I only talk to my officials and industry associations. But on the other hand, I must also ensure a healthy distance between politics and the press. I therefore strive for a healthy media sector, strong, secure and free. But the content – that’s not what I want to talk about. “

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