The Netherlands Public Broadcasting system arose from the former practice – known as "pillarisation" – in which the country's various religious and social groups all organised their own institutions, with financial help from the government. These institutions included broadcasting. Although the system of pillarisation largely collapsed in the 1970s, the broadcasting associations themselves have remained active. Most have several tens of thousands of members, and they are allocated broadcasting time on the public channels in proportion to the size of their memberships. In addition, a number of other broadcasting foundations, established by the government, also receive air time.
The system is financed from three sources:
grant-in-aid payments from the government, raised from general taxation;
the income from on-air advertising, regulated by the Stichting Ether Reclame (STER), a public body;
(a small proportion of the total) the dues paid by members of the broadcasting associations.
The broadcasting associations share three national television channels (NPO 1, NPO 2, NPO 3) and seven radio channels (NPO Radio 1, NPO Radio 2, NPO 3FM, NPO Radio 4, NPO Radio 5, NPO Radio 6, and FunX). Each of these television channels have their own profile: thus NPO 1 is oriented towards news, sport, and family programming, NPO 2 towards culture, arts, politics, and religion, while NPO 3 concentrates on youth and progressive programming.
There are also several provincial television channels, which are organised by the provinces.
Smaller Protestant communities have their own paper, like the Nederlands Dagblad and the Reformatorisch Dagblad. The business community has the Het Financieele Dagblad. A recent phenomenon are the widely read free newspapers Spits and the Metro. There are also several local and regional newspapers. The Algemeen Dagblad, the third largest paper, recently merged with several local papers to form a hybrid national-local paper.