Belgium 2012




Belgium, located in Western Europe, has a population of over 11 million people (De Bens, et al 2010). Its neighbouring countries are France, Luxemburg, Germany and The Netherlands. This creates a cultural and linguistic divide as 60% of the population are Flemish (Belgian Dutch),30% are Wallonian (French speakers) and the German speaking population makes up less than 1% (De Bens, et al 2010). Belgium was originally a Roman province, rich with culture, but by the 16th century it was occupied by the Netherlands (Lonely Planet, 2012). This continued until Belgian gained independence in 1830 (Lonely Planet, 2012). The countires that border Belgium have influenced the culture and languages spoken in Belgium. In more recent times Belgium has been used as an area for many battles in World War l and ll, between France and Germany (Lonely Planet, 2012).

The cultural and linguistic differences that occur within Belgium means that the media caters to the population in three different languages: French, Dutch and German. This has created a large media landscape in all forms of media. Print media operates in all 3 languages through 28 newspapers with a circulation of over 1.5 million readers daily. Television stations also run in the 3 different languages. Belgium has 25 television stations. Less than half of the population own a television with 4.5 million television sets being recorded and approximately three quarters of the population that own a television subscribe to Cable television. Radio, which has 87 different stations, also communicates to over 8 million people from all 3 languages which makes it Belgium's primary source of information. Internet access is also a large form of public media throughout Belgium, 3.5 million people own computers and 2.5 million have access to the Internet (Wynn, 2008).
Brussels - The capital city of Belgium
Brussels - The capital city of Belgium

Ownership of Media

Media ownership in Belgium is largely divided between the three differing linguistic communities that exist within the country.
The Dutch, French and German speaking communities each have their own respective newspapers, television stations and radio broadcasts.The media ownership is highly concentrated, with the key publications and channels being owned by only a few companies. This is not a new trend. In fact, it has been followed by academics for decades. In 1989, Servaes noted that "Belgium is witnessing a growing tendency towards press ownership and concentration, especially among regional and provincial newspapers," (p. 367).

Until recently, the media ownership of Belgium has been dominated by language interests. Foreign ownership of Belgian media firms is very rare. One exception has been the Frenchman Robert Hersant's 40% share in the Walloon firm Rossel since 1989. However, in 2005, the Rossel family bought back this share, so the firm is now exclusively under Belgian ownership. International investments by Belgian media companies are a relatively new phenomenon, but are now a rising trend. For instance, the Flemish newspaper group De Persgroep has extended its interests into the Netherlands, and the Flemish magazine publisher Roularta has invested in several Walloon publications (De Bens, et al 2010).

Walloon Media Ownership

Although media ownership is quite concentrated in both Walloon and Flanders, the ownership structures of media in both regions are unique and separate. In contrast to Flanders, cross media ownership in Walloon is uncommon. With the exception of publishing company Mediabel, and international mass media company RTL group owning stakes in multiple radio and television, Wallonian media owners stay within their specific medium in terms of ownership and production. The two regions also differ in that foreign owned and operated television channels hold a significant percentage of audiences in Wallonia while the majority of the Flanders audiences prefer content from domestically owned and operated television channels. (MAVISE, 2010). Below are a list of the key media companies which provide content to the French speaking community in Belgium.

Rossel & Cie
Rossel & Cie is by far the largest print media proprietor that supplies content to the French speaking community of Belgium. The company owns the widest read newspaper on the French market, ‘Le Soir’ (circulation 91,869) and also publishes a network of regional newspaper titles through its subsidiary company Sudpresse. In addition to its own publications, Rossel & Cie owns a share in the German newspaper Grenz Echo (circulation 12,500) and jointly owns Metro (circulation 121,842) newspaper with Flanders publisher Concentra (Raeymaeckers et al. 2010). It also co-owns publishing company Mediafin which produces the financial newspapers De Tjid (circulation 37,457) and L’echo (circulation 17,749) with Flanders media company De Persgreop. (Van Besien, 2010). Rossel & Cie holds approximately 50% of Wallonian readership through its various titles.
(Raeymaeckers et al. 2010)

Image of Le Soir Newspaper - the most widely read newspaper in Wallonia
Image of Le Soir Newspaper - the most widely read newspaper in Wallonia

SA d'Information et de Production Media, more commonly known as IPM, is the second largest publisher in the Wallonian print industry. Though significantly smaller than its main competitor Rossel & Cie, the family owned company still manages to hold a 28% market share of readers with its two conservative newspapers “La Libre Belgique” (circulation 45,191) and “La Derniere Heure” (circulation 80,867). (Raeymaeckers et al., 2010)

Owned by Flemish media company Corelio, Mediabel makes up the third and final key player in the Wallonian print industry. It's publications include a range of regional newspapers which hold a combined daily readership of 20.8% (Raeymackers et al. 2010). Mediabel is one of the few Wallonian media companies involved in cross media (EGTA Association of Telelvision and Radio Sales Houses, 2010) ownership and holds a 51% stake in the 'Radio Nostalgie' radio station which plays popular music from past decades.

RTL Belgium
With 45 television channels in 11 countries, the RTL group is Europe's largest mass media company. Its Belgian branch, RTL Belgium also constitutes as the main private television operator in Wallonia. The company owns and operates three channels: RTL/TVI, it's main channel, Club RTL, a youth channel and Plug RTL, an entertainment and lifestyle channel (De Bens, et al, 2010) within Wallonia. With all three channels combined, RTL Belgium holds an audience share of 23.6%. (Van Besien, 2010)

Radio Télévision Belge Francophone ( is the public service broadcaster of French speaking Belgium. It holds an 14.6% share in Wallonian viewership through its main television channel La Une alone (MAVISE, 2010). It's other channels La Deux and La Trois bring in approximately 3% of audiences (Kevin, 2004). is the main rival of RTL Belgium.
French Public Broadcaster France Télévisions holds 13.1% of Wallonian viewership
French Public Broadcaster France Télévisions holds 13.1% of Wallonian viewership

France Télévisions and TFI
In contrast to the Flander's media landscape, foreign television channels hold a significant percentage of the viewership in Wallonia. The public broadcaster in France, France Télévisions, holds 13.1% of viewership through its channels France 2 and France 3 while private French broadcasting company the TFI Group holds 13.2% of the audience through it's TF1 channel. (Van Besien, 2010)

Regie Media Belge (RMB)
Fully owned and operated by Belgian public service broadcaster, the RMB operates a range of generalist and niche radio stations which garner an audience share of 34.5%. It's channels include Vivacité and La Première, the two main general stations it runs, as well as rock music station Classic, pop music station Pure FM and classical music station Musiq'3.
(EGTA Association of Television and Radio Sales Houses, 2010)

Radio H
Bel RTL - Dominant private radio station in Wallonia
Bel RTL - Dominant private radio station in Wallonia

Radio H owns the dominant private radio station in Wallonia, Bel RTL aswell as music station Radio Contact. Named after the largest shareholder of the company, the RTL group, Bel RTL gathers an audience share of approximately 17% while Radio Contact brings in 16.5% of listeners from the French speaking community of Belgium.
(EGTA Association of Television and Radio Sales Houses, 2010)

NRJ Group
The NRJ group owns several radio stations that bring in a combined audience share of 14.5%. Along with publishing company Mediabel, the NRJ Group is a co-owner of Radio Nostalgie, which focuses on popular music from past decades. Its second station, NRJ, is targeted towards youth and focuses on playing 'hit music' and top 40 charts.
(EGTA Association of Television and Radio Sales Houses, 2010

Flemish Media Ownership

About 60% of the Belgian population speaks Dutch, and there are several media firms that cater to this language group. The media ownership of Flanders,like in Walloon, is highly concentrated, and only a few key media firms control the media of the region. However, dissimilar to Walloon, there is a high level of cross media ownership, and many of the prominent companies see themselves as "multimedia companies" rather than just limited to one medium. The major media firms of Flanders are Corelio Media, De Persgroep, Concentra, Roularta, and Think Media (De Bens et al 2010).

De Persgroep
With a newspaper market share of 40%, De Persgroep is the largest publisher of newspapers in Flanders. It has such popular titles as Het Laatste Nieuws (circulation 280, 798,and over 1 million readers), De Morgen (circulation 53
Two of De Persgroep's most Prominent papers.
944), and De Tijd (circulation 37457). It also publishes a wide array of magazines, particularly television weeklies.
However, De Persgroep is not limited to the print industry. Since 1989, De Persgroep has held a 50% share in Vlaamse Mediamaatschappij, the most successful television program maker in Flanders, which also operates two highly successful radio stations. It also has shares in other prominent Flanders television networks VTM and 2BE. The radio interests of De Persgroep also extend to the Nederlands, where they operate the popular music program Q Music, (De Persgroep, 2012). It publishes several magazines, mainly television weeklies and lifestyle magazines such as TV Familie and Dag Allemaall.
De Persgroep also operates the largest news online site in Belgium.

Corelio Media
Corelio Media is a major player in the Flemish print media industry, but it also holds a "stable relationship with many other audiovisual production companies," (Corelio, 2012). With a 38.2% share of the newspaper market, Corelio is the has the second largest market share in the Flemish newspaper industry.
(De Bens et al 2010).
It has also expanded interest into the Walloon media sector, having purchased the French speaking media firm Mediabel, which publishes several regional and local papers in Wallonia. In Flanders, De Standaard (circulation of 87, 216) and Het Nieuwsblad (circulation of 267, 982) are its main outlets, and are both very popular papers. De Standaard is currently the largest quality newspaper in Flanders, and since 1995 has been a leading publisher of online news
Corelio Owns ROBTV, a popular commercial television network in Flanders, (Corelio, 2012).

Concentra, founded 125 years ago, is the third largest player in the Flemish newspaper industry, and controls 21.8% of the market (De Bens et al 2010). Like Corelio Media and De Persgroep, Concentra does not just focus on one media form.
Concentra operates several popular newspapers, such as Gazet von Antwerpen (circulation 104315), Belong von Limberg (circulation 98 568), Total NL (circulation 930 280) and Metro NL (circulation 132 652). However, like De Persgroep and Corelio, Concentra sees itself as a multimedia company: "Today, we own newspapers, books, magazines, radio, TV, and internet," (Concentra, 2012).

Roularta is a magazine publisher, seen one of the largest in Belgium. Roularta chiefly caters to the Flemish population, but is also involved in the Walloon market. It has a monopoly on informative weekly magazines, such as Knack, which is the most read weekly in Belgium.
The logo of the Roularta Media Group.

Continuing the trend of cross media ownership, Roularta, along with De Persgroep, has held a 50% share in Vlaamse Media Maatschappij, a highly inflluential broadcaster in Flanders, which owns VTM, the main commercial broadcaster for Flanders. It also prints a wide array of special interst magazines. Roularta does publish several magazines in Wallonia, including Trends/Tendancies, the only financial economic magazine on the Belgian market, and Le Vif/Le Express, the only news magazine in Walloon (De Bens, et al, 2010). Once again, this firm views itself as a player in all platforms: "Roularta is a dynamic and leading player in the publication and printing of news and niche magazines, newspapers and freesheets, in the audiovisual media landscape, and in electronic publishing," (Roularta, 2012).

Think Media
Think Media is a much smaller magazine publisher, but still very popular on the Flemish market. Founded in 2000, it owns three men's magazines in Flanders: P-Magazine, Che, and Maxim (De Bens, et al, 2010).

German Media Ownership

With only 1% of the Belgium population German speakers and most of them are situated along the German border in the town of Eupen, a regional German media market was created for the German speakers within Belgium. The two major German media companies are Grenz-Echo and Belgischer Rundfunk. Both companies own different media's as part of their ownership combining both traditional and modern media.

Grenz-Echo one of the major German speaking media in Belgium it focuses on both traditional and future media technologies to create their company (Grenz Echo, 2012). The company owns a daily newspaper Grenz-Echo, new internet media and online portals, magazines and book publishing (Grenz Echo, 2012). By 1997 the company had online content, then has
external image grenz_echo_logo.GIFexpanded into 3 different sites all running under the Grenz-Echo logo including their regular regional site, mobile site for the increase in technology developments and a real-estate website (Grenz Echo, 2012). Grenz-Echo also publishes it sole newspaper through Grenz-Echo Printing which circulation each day only serves around 12,500 Belgians (Grenz Echo, 2012). Grenz-Echo Printing is a prestigious part of the company due to their innovative technologies of cold-set printing which is an Eco-friendly and innovative alternative to traditional printing (Grenz Echo, 2012). Also part of the Grenz-Echo company is Grenz Echo Publishing the leading German book publisher in Belgium and Euregno Meise-Rhine (Grenz Echo, 2012).

Belgischer Rundfunk Logo
Belgischer Rundfunk Logo

Belgischer Rundfunk
The German language media was first started in 1945 after World War Two by NIR/INR, 1960 the company became BRT/RTB. The company then separated the German and French sections with the German section becoming Belgischer Rundfunk (BRT) (BRF, 2012). BRT has its headquarters within Eupen along the German border in regional Belgium (BRF, 2012). The company focuses its attention of television and radio media with 3 radio stations and 1 cable television all spoken in German language catering to the regional German community (BRF, 2012).

Public Broadcasting

Belgium does not have one single public broadcasting association like many other European countries (BBC, 2011), but rather it is divided into the national languages of Belgium, with each body having their own regulations and running their own TV and Radio channels. To understand the public broadcasting system in Belgium, we first need to understand its history. In 1970, the three main communities that make up the Belgian population (Walloon, Flemish, and German), were granted autonomy when there was a revision of the Constitution that established the three economic regions (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels.) Private radio stations began airing in 1923. The National Institute for Radio (NIR), began to get funding from the government in 1930 was and was the first public broadcasting radio station in Belgium. Like many other public broadcasters of the time, it was required to have an allocated time slot for government organisations, which in turn limited the views that could be discussed on air. The three main political parties dominated air time and it was this way until 1987 when news legislations allowed private broadcasting.

Television was introduced to Belgium in 1953 and like Belgian radio at the time, it was initially dominated by public monopoly (Wynn, 20008). This also changed in the mid 80's when commercial television began to rival the government owned stations.There are now three main public television broadcasters in Belgium, the VRT for the Dutch community, the for the French Community (both the and the VRT's headquarters are located in Brussels) and the BFR for the German speaking population (whose headquarters is located in Eupen).

French Public Broadcasting

Radio Télévision Belge Francophone ( are the public broadcasters that serve the French Community in Belgium. According to the site, programs are the 'most accessible and most widely distributed' in the French Community of Belgium. operates four television channels ( Arte Belgique, Le Deux, Le Une and Le Trois), along with six radio stations ( La Premiere, Vivaciete, Musiq 3, Classic 21, Pure FM and RTBF 1.) was formed after the 14 July, 1977 decree that established separate language communities, that meant the RTB became the RTBF. In 2010 it was again renamed as the due to the evolving importance of new media which shows how important the Internet is in this new media landscape. Once the RTBF was formed, it originally began producing radio programs and then television.'s logo.'s logo.

Because the is a public broadcasting station, it is owned by the Walloonian (French Community of Belgium) and so it is governed by a management contract. This contract is governed by a board whose members are selected by the French community and review the contract every five years which sets out the rights and duties of the company. The board consists of thirteen members plus two government commissioners, who oversee the compliance of the company to government regulations (, 2012).

Dutch Public Broadcasting

The Vlaamse Radio- en Televisieomroeporganisatie (VRT) is the Flemish Radio and Television Network Organisation for the Dutch speaking population of Belgium and is their main public broadcasters. It is mainly broadcast in Flanders which is located in the northern part of Belgium.

"The VRT is the Flemish public broadcasting company of everyone and for everyone.The public broadcasting company provides audiovisual programmes and services to a wide audience onall platforms, independent of commercial or political influence.
It focuses on quality, durability, and community sense." (VRT, 2012)

VRT began as the NIR (Belgisch Nationaal Instituut voor Radio-omroep) which began in 1930 and introduced radio (and eventually television in 1953) to the Flemish population of Belgium. This continued to 1960 when the NIR became the BRT (Belgische Radio- en Televi
VRT Logo.
VRT Logo.

sieomroep). Translated to English this read: Belgian Radio-Television. It stayed this name until 1991 when the government decided it was no longer appropriate to have that name since nearly half of the Belgian community spoke French and the BRT was primarily a Dutch programming public broadcaster. The name was once again changed to BTRN (Belgische Radio- en Televisieomroep Nederlandstalige Uitzendingen) in 1991 and eventually to VRT in 1998.

The VRT has a large variety of publicly broadcast television and radio shows. It's main television channel is Een (formerly VRT1) which started in 1953. It also provides a childrens chanel called Ketnet and another channel, Canvas (which is also offered in HD). The radio stations include Radio 1, Radio 2, Klara, Studio Brussel, Sporza and MNM.

German Public Broadcasting

The BRF logo.
The BRF logo.
BRF (Belgischer Rundfunk) is the public broadcasting provider for the German speaking population of Belgium. Located in Eupen, with branches in Brussels and Sankt Vith, BRF have one television channel (BRF TV) and three radio channels (BRF1, BRF2, BRF-DLF). Interestingly, the NIR began a German pubic broadcast service the same year that the second world war ended - 1945. It remained part of the NIR which evolved into the RTB (eventually to become the RTBF) and in 1977 broke away to form a separate German language radio channel.

Regulation of Media


Article's 19 and 25 of the Constitution of Belgium 1831 enshrine the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press while safeguarding the freedom of information to Belgium's citizens. Article 19 of the Belgian constitution generally establishes the safeguards which enable this inviolable right to freedom of expression as well as the punishments for offences committed during the use of such freedoms. (De Bens, et al, 2010)
Freedom of the press and the prohibition of censorship is specifically established in Article 25 of the constitution. A principle of "stepped liability" is also established in Article 25 whereby only one person can be prosecuted from crimes committed while using these freedoms of the media. (Van Bieson, 2010)

Journalistic Freedom
Belgium's media legislation reflects the understanding that journalists play the role of society's "watch dogs,"
(Valcke, 2010). As it is their responsibility to reflect and critisise the state, journalists appear to experience a much broader freedom of expression in comparison to the majority to citizens. However, the right to enjoy such freedom of expression is also a responsibility, as journalists work is carefully scrutinised and expected to be honest and objective. The Belgium Journalistic code of ethics 1982 was comprised by the Belgian Association of Newspaper Publishers, General Association of Journalistic Professionals and the Federation of Belgian Magazine Editors. The code is a part of Belgium's legislation and states that newspapers and journalists should resist pressure of any kind; enshrining the ideals of journalistic independence. (Valcke, 2010)
Belgium's state coat of arms

The role of a "professional journalist" is a status recognised by Belgium law since 1963, one which allows great advantage over the general public and other journalists to specific places and people. (Raeymaecker. K, 2010) Conditions of this role include being over the age of 21, never being convicted of a criminal charge, being employed at an editorial stature of a media group and having experience in a journalistic role for atleast two years.
(De Bens, et al, 2010)

Radio and Television
The only legal obligation related to print media is that all newspapers, books and other print media must have an accountable author. (Van Bieson, 2010) In comparison most legislative acts surround "cultural affairs" which include organisation of radio and television, established in a 1980 law. Authority over the affairs of radio and television reside within the various language communities. The government lays basic foundations for specific rules and conditions for sources of audiovisual media however the language communities then decide specific conditions of structure and programming content. (De Bens, et al, 2010)

One example of media regulation within a specific community is that of a private regulator known as the "PSB" within the French community. (Van Bieson, 2010) "Et Mediadecreet" is the community's legislative form of rules applicable to broadcast media, mainly outlining concerns for the PSB. (De Bens, et al, 2010) After conversing with the government every 5 years about financing and yearly goals the PSB is practically independent from political interference.

Other Relevant Legislation
The Holocaust Denial Act of 23 March 1995 makes it a crime "to deny, grossly minimize, attempt to justify, or approve of the genocide committed by the Nazis during WWII". (Lechtholz-Zey, 2010) This legislation is relevant because this anti-discrimination act limits one's right to freedom of expression because such an act of public expression could result in a gaol term of up to a year, or a fine of 125 euro. This limits certain opinions and information being available to the general public through media sources, also infringing the prohibition of censorship in Article 25 of the Belgian constitution.

Regulatory Bodies

The media regulation of Belgium is monitored and enforced by the Walloon and Flemish communities through different organisations in both working towards regulating the industry. The Flemish media regulation centre named Vlaamse Regulator voor de Media (VRM) which regulates under two chambers the first dealing with general matters and the second dealing with matters of minors and issues around independence (De Bens, et al 2010). The Walloon communities' regulating system, called Conseil Superieur de l'Audiovisuel (CSA) has responsibilities similar to the Flemish regulation centre. However the CSA has three different counsels regulating different sectors including; the advertising counsel, control counsel and license counsel (De Bens, et al 2010).

Federal level regulation is done by the BIPT; the Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications, after given more powers recently the BIPT monitors competition in the media industry and consumer interests (De Bens, et al 2010). The BIPT was mainly controlled by politics but recently in September 2009, 3 new representatives were appointed from the telecommunications sector (De Bens, et al 2010).

Regulatory systems can also be seen through the accountability systems and self regulation that are set up throughout Belgium to regulate the media by their own standards. The Flanders region is called Raad voor de Journalistiek and in conjunction with Flemish journalist's association, media companies and publishers (De Bens, et al 2010). The RvdJ it bases it regulation on the international standards and specific Belgian code of conduct; Code van journalistieke beginselen (De Bens, et al 2010). When a complaint is made the Ombudsman deals with the complain between the aggrieved parties if a peaceful solution can not be made then RvdJ handles complaints (De Bens, et al 2010).

As stated before, Belgian law has recognised the status of "professional journalist" since 1963 as someone who is over 21, has been working as a journalist for 2 years, and is employed in the editorial department of a medium. These professional journalists are protected by the AVBB, which is the Belgian journalist's union. Journalists gain many benefits from being in this union, such as the protection of their rights and standards, discounted travel, a free press pass, and access to restricted areas. There are also divisions of this Union in Both Flanders and Wallonia.


In conclusion, Belgian media is very diverse, mainly due to the language divide in the country. While Wallonia's media ownership is spread out, with several companies owning the media and very little cross media ownership, Flanders is starkly different. Flemish commercial media is controlled by only a few companies, and these companies own significant publications and outlets in all of the mediums. Even the public broadcasting is split up among the language communities. The restriction on the ownership of media is far more lenient than in many countries, with companies able to have extensive cross media ownership, and seemingly own as many publications, channels and outlets as they wish.

Freedom of the press is enshrined in the constitution of the nation, which allows Belgian journalists to work with little inhibitions. According to Reporters Without Borders, Belgium is ranked 20 in the world for press freedom (2010). However, there are limits: As discussed there is an act that prevents anyone from minimising the gravity of the genocide committed by the Nazis in World War 2. While it is unlikely that anyone would want to do this, it is certainly a limit on the freedom of expression.

Professional journalists are recognised by the law, which is a fairly rare phenomenon. This means that journalism in Belgium is a distinguished profession that has many benefits and protections. However, there is a great expectation of them to act ethically and under the parameters of the fourth estate, as the code of journalistic ethics are part of Belgian law.

Overall, it can be definitely said that the media of Belgium is plentiful, diverse, and owned by few, yet regulated in a lenient matter due to the freedom of the press within the nation's constitution.


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