The Dutch creator of reality TV shows including The Voice and Big Brother has been accused of victim blaming by female employees at his company after claims of widespread sexual abuse of contestants on the original Dutch version of The Voice .
In a full-page ad in the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad, a group of employees at production company Talpa Media lambasted its founder, John De Mol, for suggesting that women as well as men have lessons to be learned from a scandal that gripped the country this week and prompted broadcaster RTL to pull Friday’s episode of The Voice of Holland.
Following a barrage of allegations of abuse against men on the show, De Mol, 66, said in an interview: “Don’t wait. Don’t be scared. You have to open your mouth. This n is that then we can help you… Women apparently have some kind of shame, I don’t know what it is, but I would like to explore this further.
In response, an ad appeared in the Friday newspaper which read, “Dear John, it’s not the women. Greetings, women in your company.
In an accompanying statement, the group of employees expressed their “astonishment and shame” at De Mol’s comments. This “says a lot about a culture change that is needed within the company, but also in the world of media and society,” the statement continued. “And certainly in the biggest corporations where these kinds of thinking errors are still made by men in power.
“The behavior of women is not the problem. And not the solution either. This statement is of course also addressed to all other victims of sexually transgressive behavior in the workplace (not just Talpa), to encourage them.
Talpa Media is run by De Mol but has been owned by ITV since 2015.
The Voice of the Netherlands was suspended ahead of Thursday’s airing of a documentary on YouTube channel Boos, which translates to “angry”, and is run by public broadcaster BNNVARA. In the documentary, dozens of anonymous women claimed that prominent men on The Voice harassed, abused and sexually assaulted them.
A spokesperson for ITV Studios said the company was “shocked and appalled” by the allegations, but declined to comment on De Mol’s interview. She said: “Our top priority is to provide a safe and supportive environment for everyone who participates in or works on our shows and there is zero tolerance at ITV Studios for the type of behavior highlighted on the show.
“After ITV Studios was made aware of this behavior by Boos last week, we acted quickly to launch an external investigation to fully understand what happened.”
Rapper Ali Bouali, 40, a trainer on the show who goes by the name Ali B, was accused by a former contestant of raping her when she appeared on the show as an 18-year-old prospect.
In a statement, he replied: “There are now two anonymous reports that are presented with great fury as news. It is unjustified. I can’t publicly defend myself against that. Nevertheless, it is clear to me that the prosecution will in both cases have to decide to revoke [the allegations]. I am not guilty of what I am accused of in the claims.
Before the allegations aired, Jeroen Rietbergen, 50, the show’s bandleader, resigned after admitting to having ‘sexual contact’ with women on the show and sending sexual messages on an application. Rietbergen, until recently the partner of De Mol’s sister, TV presenter Linda de Mol, said he was unaware of any wrongdoing at the time of the alleged incidents.
Six other women have filed a complaint against singer Marco Borsato, including three candidates on The Voice and three on The Voice Kids. Borasto denies any wrongdoing.
De Mol, who first made his fortune developing the reality TV series Big Brother, expressed disappointment that his company’s HR procedures failed to protect candidates.
ITV bought Talpa Media seven years ago for £355million, with further payments dependent on future performance, up to a total potential cost of £920,000.
The company has created 75 shows in over 180 countries. The Voice format, in which singers are selected through public auditions and then professionally coached before competing for a recording contract, has been broadcast in 50 countries.
Anouk Teeuwe, a singer who represented the Netherlands in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2013, said she quit her coaching job on the programme.
“The news is so sad and a big disappointment,” she said. “I know enough. I’ve decided I don’t want to go back to The Voice. It’s a corrupt mess. I don’t want to work in a place where men have, for years, abused their position and where d others chose to remain silent about the misconduct and look the other way.
“You just can’t do that. You have structural problems when you do this. I don’t want to be a part of such behavior, it’s just not me. So, I will not return to The Voice of Holland.