By MIKE CORDER
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The former producer of Dutch talent show “The Voice of Holland” apologized Thursday after allegations of sexually inappropriate conduct linked to the ratings blockbuster were aired. Police and prosecutors called reports of the alleged abuse “disturbing” and urged victims to come forward with their experiences.
The online investigative show “BOOS” — the Dutch word for “angry” — reported that it had received multiple claims ranging from an allegation of rape to sexually-tinted WhatsApp messages by two panelists on “The Voice of Holland” and its pianist and band leader.
Dutch media mogul John de Mol responded to the allegations in an interview during the “BOOS” show Thursday. He said that in years as “The Voice of Holland’s” producer he had received only one complaint — against the show’s pianist and band leader Jeroen Rietbergen, in 2019. He said he angrily confronted Rietbergen and warned him to halt improper conduct, but did not launch an investigation.
Rietbergen was the partner of De Mol’s sister, the Dutch television star Linda de Mol, until she broke their relationship last weekend after he apologized for his behavior.
Asked by “BOOS” presenter Tim Hofman if he would say sorry, De Mol replied: “Yes, of course. Absolutely.”
Ahead of the “BOOS” broadcast, police and prosecutors issued a statement saying they have followed the reporting about allegations of “all kinds of inappropriate behavior, which could include criminal offences. These are disturbing messages.”
“We would like to call on people who think they have been the victim of a criminal offense to report to the police and if necessary also file a report,” said the statement, which also appealed for potential witnesses.
Even before the explosive episode of “BOOS” went live on YouTube, it had shaken the Dutch entertainment world.
“The Voice of Holland” in which panelist “coaches” mentor aspiring singers, has been a ratings hit for years in the Netherlands and spawned local versions in dozens of other countries around the world. The allegations raised in the Netherlands relate only to the Dutch show.
Dutch broadcaster RTL Nederland took “The Voice of Holland” off the air after being contacted by “BOOS” for comment. The show’s current producer, ITV Studios, launched an investigation.
Rietbergen quit and apologized for his conduct and two women made formal complaints to law enforcement authorities about inappropriate behavior against one of the show’s panelists and talent coaches, Dutch rapper Ali Bouali.
Bouali, known by his stage name Ali B, denies wrongdoing, his lawyer told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “BOOS” interviewed a woman, whose identity was not released, before and after she reported an alleged rape by Ali B to authorities.
Dutch media reported widely in December that a complaint of inappropriate behavior was filed against another former panelist and coach, the popular singer Marco Borsato. He also denies wrongdoing.
A lawyer representing a former contestant also confirmed Thursday that he and his client are preparing to make a complaint to police. He did not reveal details of the allegations.
Police and prosecutors issued a statement Thursday urging people “who think they may be a victim of a crime” and potential witnesses to report it to police.
The show’s producer ITV Studios has already launched an investigation and said in a statement that its “highest priority is to provide a safe and supportive environment for everyone who participates in — or works on — our shows, and ITV Studios has a zero-tolerance policy towards the type of behavior it is said to have taken place.”
Another panelist, singer Anouk, also quit. She said in an Instagram video when the story broke last weekend that she didn’t want to work “in a place where for years a number of men have abused their position and deliberately chose to keep it quiet and look the other way.”
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