05/07/2013 13:05

Overview of the Belgian media landscape

As a result of the transition of Belgium from a unitary to a federal state, the political and the cultural landscape in Belgium is separated along language barriers. This means that there is a separation between the French-language media on the one hand and the Dutch-language or Flemish media on the other hand.  In other words, it is more correct to speak about two separate media landscapes, rather than about one general Belgian media landscape. Although these two media landscapes are separate, they present a number of similarities. The following sections will give a detailed overview of the Belgian media landscape.


Two separate media landscapes


Since the 1970s, Belgium gradually evolved step by step from a unitary state to a complex federal state, where political power is divided between the federal (i.e., Belgian) level, the language-based Communities (i.e., the Flemish Community, the French Community and the German-speaking Community) and the territory-based regions (i.e., the Flemish Region, the Walloon Region and the Brussels-Capital Region). In the field of media, the main competences belong to the Communities – although the detailed picture is actually a more complex one.


As concerns radio and television, Belgium’s French- and Dutch-language public broadcasters are separated entities (split from formerly one public broadcaster), with different personnel, audiences, public remits, regulations and controlling bodies. RTBF.be, the French-language public broadcaster, is only broadcasting French-language programs, whereas on the other side of the linguistic border, VRT, the Flemish public broadcaster, is only broadcasting Dutch-language programs. The same linguistic separation is true for non-public broadcasters.


As concerns newspapers, a small number of media groups control the newspaper market in French-speaking Belgium (i.e., Rossel, IPM and Corelio) and in Flanders (i.e., Corelio, De Persgroep and Concentra). In June 2013, Corelio and Concentra announced their intention to bring their newspaper and digital operations together in a new entity that will be called 'Het Mediahuis'. This joint-venture, if approved by the competition authorities, will bring the Flemish newspaper industry into a duopoly situation.[1] There is no Flemish newspaper with significant sales figures in French-speaking Belgium, and almost no French language newspaper with significant sales figures in Flanders.[2] Cross-ownership of newspapers across language borders is mostly limited to specialised press, such as papers focussing on business and the economy,[3] and free newspapers.[4] The only media group with an important market share for general newspapers in the other language is the Flemish media group Corelio (which publishes the French-language Editions de L’Avenir papers). However, Corelio announced on 6 September 2009 that it will sell its Avenir newspapers to the Walloon cable company Tecteo. 


As concerns magazines, there seem to be more crossings between Belgium’s two major language groups. Although the most popular magazine titles in each language are not available in the other language, other titles are available for both Communities and publishers such as Roularta and Sanoma are very active on both language markets.


Belgian media tend to focus on differences between the Communities, rather than on similarities between them. This is especially the case with political reporting, where journalists often translate the same facts in opposing interpretations and opinions, and where the two Communities are regularly presented as opposite to each other.[5] Also, a study shows that French-language politicians get very limited airtime on Flemish television news bulletins,[6] and the same seems to be true for Dutch-speaking politicians on French-language television news bulletins.[7] It should be noted in this regard that the split of Belgium’s media landscape is closely related to the way its political system is organised. Belgium’s political parties are split upon a linguistic basis, and voters can - generally speaking - only vote for candidates and parties who stand for election in their own region (e.g. a voter based in Wallonia cannot vote for a candidate or a political party from Flanders, and vice versa). Political debate takes place within two distinct media fields, and elections take place on the basis of two distinct electorates.


As such, the separation of Belgium’s media landscape and of its electorates challenges the country’s democratic system at a federal level, because it impedes the development of a shared public sphere where politicians, journalists, and other members of the two Communities can debate their different opinions and views.[8]  On the other hand, this problem is not unique to Belgium alone (e.g. one can wonder whether a democratic Europe is possible without a single European media landscape) and was relevant in earlier times as well, when Belgians did not overwhelmingly read each other’s newspapers neither.[9]


Be that as it may, some initiatives have been taken recently to move the French- and Dutch-language media closer together. Most of these initiatives took root after 13 December 2006, when RTBF.be interrupted its normal broadcasting for a sudden announcement by the anchorman of its regular news bulletins that Flemish politicians were voting for the independence of Flanders. Although this announcement and the news bulletin that followed were fake, surveys showed that 89% of viewers had up to some point believed that the events reported were real. In the following days and weeks, a lively debate developed on the journalistic appropriateness of this program and on the impact that journalists have on public opinion and politics. Following this incident, the media have been paying more attention to events in the other Community.[10] Most newspapers now regularly publish articles of opinion makers from the other Community. However, the attempts taken remain limited in scale and impact and are not always very successful. For example, before the June 2010 elections, the public television broadcasters of the two Communities tried to jointly organise a political debate with politicians from both Communities, but the French-language broadcaster’s board of directors obstructed this initiative, a decision they justified by divergences in the manners public broadcasters deal with far right political parties.


Two similar media landscapes


Although the media landscapes of Belgium’s main Communities are separate and distinct, they are similar in the sense that they have a similar history, during most of which they discussed the same news topics in the same Belgian context. Newspapers in both languages used to be linked to specific ideological or political trends in society, but have during recent decades cut these links. Another similarity is that media in both languages address relatively small audiences (around 4 million French-speakers and around 6 million Dutch-speakers). Ownership of both French- and Dutch-language media is strongly concentrated in the hands of just a few media groups. For instance, the French- and the Dutch-language newspapers are dominated by 3 media groups (this will change to 2 for Flanders after the Corelio – Concentra joint-venture; see above); the French- and Dutch-language magazines are dominated by 3 media groups; radio and television services are dominated by 3 media groups for Dutch-language radio and television and 2 groups for French-language radio and television.


The majority of both the French- and Dutch-language media groups are also active in other domains (e.g., traditional magazine and newspaper publishers are also active in television and radio,[11] traditional newspaper publishers are also publishing magazines,[12] traditional television broadcasters are also publishing magazines,[13] television production houses become active in television broadcasting,[14] and all of the media players are active on the internet).[15] Also, media consumers all over the country seem to prefer the same kind of radio and television programmes (i.e., mainly entertainment programmes) and tend to read the same type of newspapers (i.e., mainly popular and regional newspapers).  Finally, Belgium is a very open society, and its media – irrespective of their language – are heavily influenced by the international media market, especially by media from neighbouring countries (although the influence of French media on the media of the Belgian French-Community seems stronger than the influence of Dutch media on the media of the Flemish Community (see below). This implies not only that international media groups are quite strong on the Belgian market,[16] it also means that Belgian media groups – irrespective of their language - are surprisingly active abroad, especially in the neighbouring countries.[17]


The media market


On the one hand, the Belgian media market is characterised by a relatively wide variety of different media available to the public. On the other hand, ownership of these media is concentrated into the hands of just a limited number of media groups - although no single group dominates the entire media market. Also, media players are trying to diversify their revenue streams and become more and more active in other media domains (cross-media concentration, the Internet, etc.). The following sections attempt to give an overview of the Belgian media market.


The print media


As described in detail below, there is a high concentration in ownership of the Belgian newspaper and magazine publishers. Although the consolidation of the written press is well described in literature, its origins and effects are not always that well described. On the one hand, too much consolidation endangers the pluralistic character of the media. On the other hand, consolidation may have positive effects as well, and it should be noted that several titles were saved from bankruptcy by large media groups. It is of course of great importance that newspapers that merge into a larger group can save their editorial independence.[18]


Belgium counts six major French-language newspapers. Of these, two can be considered “quality” newspapers,[19] two others “regional” newspapers,[20] one a “popular” newspaper[21] and another one a specialised “economic” newspaper.[22] A similar picture can be drawn of the Flemish side, where there are seven major newspapers, two of which can be considered “quality” newspapers,[23] two others “regional” newspapers,[24] yet two others “popular” newspapers[25] and one a specialised “economic” newspaper.[26] Belgium has only one major German-language newspaper.[27] Although the concepts “quality”, “regional”, “popular” and “economic” can have different meanings and connotations, they are used in literature (and even in policy practice) to distinguish different types of newspapers (e.g. these terms are used in the Flemish regulator’s report on media concentration in Flanders).


On the one hand, 7 different titles for a public of 6 million Dutch speakers and 6 different newspaper titles for around 4 million French speakers may be considered a relative wide variety of newspapers. However, if one looks at the available titles per category, Belgian consumers can only choose between 1 or 2 titles in their own language. Also, these figures look pale in comparison with the figures of newspapers published in earlier times. At the German-language side, 1 major newspaper is certainly a low figure, but taking into account the limited number of German-speakers in Belgium (around 75,000), this is not a surprising figure. Compared to other countries, Belgium seems to have a relatively low or averaged level of newspaper readership, which partly explains the high level of concentration.[28]


Free newspapers take a special position in the Belgian newspaper market. Although their popularity is a relatively recent phenomenon, Belgium has had experiences with free newspapers since the 19th century.[29] Belgium currently counts one major free newspaper (Metro[30]), which is published in separate issues in French and Dutch. The effect of free newspapers on the circulation figures of the classic paid newspapers is yet unclear. According to the Flemish media regulator, there is no proof of a linear relationship between the increase in circulation of Metro and the sales figures of the paying (Flemish) newspapers, and it remains unclear whether the average reader considers Metro as a complement or a substitute to a paid newspaper.[31]


For the French-language newspapers, the most recent figures show that the free newspaper Metro is the most widely spread, followed by the “regional titles” (Sud Press and Editions de l’Avenir), the “quality paper” Le Soir, the “popular title” La Dernière Heure / Les Sports, the “quality paper” La Libre Belgique and the “economic title” L’Echo. At the Flemish side, the most recent figures show that the “popular titles” (Het Laatste Nieuws / De Nieuwe Gazet and Het Nieuwsblad / De Gentenaar) are the best selling Flemish newspapers. These were followed by respectively the free newspapers (Metro), the “regional titles” (Het Belang van Limburg and Gazet van Antwerpen), the “quality papers” (De Standaard and De Morgen) and the “economic paper” De Tijd.[32]  Whereas sales figures for the major French-language papers are in a rather sharp decline, sales figures for the major Dutch-language papers seem to be more stable (but also declining).[33]


Both the market of the French-language newspapers and the market of the Dutch-language newspapers in Belgium are marked by a high concentration. In fact, both markets are dominated by three major media groups: the groups Rossel,[34] IPM[35] and Corelio[36] for the French-language newspapers, and the groups Corelio,[37] De Persgroep[38] and Concentra[39] for the Dutch-market newspapers (as already mentioned, Corelio and Concentra announced in June 2013 that they will bring their newspaper and digital operations together in a joint-venture called 'Het Mediahuis'). This concentration trend has been going on since the 1950s.[40] At the same time, Belgium’s oligopolistic market structure makes it virtually impossible to launch new titles (except for the success of Metro almost all new ventures in the sector have failed since the 1950s).[41] Family ownership is still important for the Belgian media landscape, with most of the major press groups still being under the control of family shareholders.[42]


The newspaper market in Belgium is currently confronted with various challenges, including a move to electronic versions of newspapers on the Internet, the availability of free news online and the success of free newspapers (e.g. the publishers and journalists of French-language newspapers are quite anxious about the recent success of Metro), a decline in sales figures (especially for the French language newspapers), and difficulties in finding alternative ways of funding via advertisements (due to the economic crisis and due to the availability of other advertising platforms, e.g. the websites of other media players).  These challenges partly explain a move towards consolidation and towards cross-media involvement (e.g. expansion in other media sectors and on the Internet).


The periodical press in Belgium is also highly concentrated with a couple of media groups controlling the market in both Communities. The most important of them are Roularta,[43] the Finnish group Sanoma,[44] Editions Ciné Revue,[45] and De Persgroep.[46] Figures for 2011 show that Editions Ciné Télé Revue is the most sold French-language magazine, but has no significant part of the Dutch-language market. Similarly, De Persgroep has 25.48% of the market of Dutch-language magazines, but no significant sales in French-speaking Belgium. Roularta has 24.2% of the French-language magazines (figure for 2008) and 14.88% of the Dutch-language magazines (figure for 2011). Sanoma has 23.9% of the market of French-language magazines (figure for 2008) and 27.58% of the market of Dutch-language magazines.[47]


As shown above, the market for magazines is a very heterogeneous market, with some magazines focusing on news and general information, and others focusing on more specific audiences or themes. According to figures from CIM,[48] the most widely sold magazines in Belgium are television magazines and so called “popular” magazines. These are followed by respectively women’s magazines, news magazines and specialised magazines.


Figures show quite a sharp decline in the number of magazines sold.[49] Like the newspaper market, the market for magazines seems saturated with few new magazines appearing (and even fewer of these surviving).[50]


Radio and television


At both sides of the language border, there is a growing evolution towards digital television and so-called catch-up television services. In Flanders, all analogue terrestrial television services were switched off on 3 November 2008, whereas in the French Community analogue terrestrial broadcast ceased to be on 1 March 2010. The Flemish public broadcaster VRT sold its terrestrial digital broadcasting facilities to Norkring Belgium (which is a joint venture between VRT (51%) and the Norwegian Norkring (49%)).[51] Digital terrestrial switch-over is giving rise to a growing number of television channels (mostly thematic channels), a growing number of non-linear television services such as video-on-demand, and a growing number of distributors of television services on the Belgian market.[52]


Although there are quite a lot of television channels available, there is – once again – a strong concentration in Belgium’s television landscape. At the Flemish side, the main broadcasters are the public broadcaster VRT, the main private broadcaster Vlaamse Media Maatschappij (VMMa),[53] and the second private broadcaster SBS Belgium.[54] Other broadcasters are Media Ad Infinitum, SiA (Belgacom), Telenet, Concentra, Alfacam, Actua TV, Belgian Business Television (Roularta), Life!TV, Icon Europe and the ten local or regional television broadcasters.[55] At the French-language side, apart from the public broadcaster RTBF.be[56] and the main private television broadcaster RTL group, other smaller players are BeTV, BTV, SiA (Belgacom), Liberty TV Europe, MCM, Belgian Business Television (Roularta), PPMG, MTV and the twelve local television broadcasters.[57]


At the French-language side, RTL’s commercial channel RTL-TVI (21.6%) was the most widely watched channel in 2011, followed by the channel TF1 (17%). These two dominant channels are followed by the public broadcaster’s channel La Une (14.6%), then by France 2 (8%) and France 3 (5.4%). It is to be noted that TF1, France 2 and France 3 are all French (i.e., not Belgian) channels.[58] At the Dutch-language side, there is a similar strong concentration, but the public broadcaster has a bigger and ever growing market share than its commercial counterparts. VRT’s Eén was the most widely watched channel in 2011 (33.4%), followed by VMMa’s VTM (20.2%). Other channels lag behind (Canvas/Ketnet: 8.4%; VT4 (now: VIER): 7.0%: 2BE: 5.2%; Vitaya: 4.0%, and VijfTV (now: VIJF): 3.2%;). Channels from the Netherlands accounted for 7.8% of the market share in 2011.[59]


It is worth noting that the main French-language private broadcaster (RTL Belgium) has rejected the competence of the Belgian authorities over its television broadcasting services, arguing that its television activities are executed by its mother company, CLT-UFA, which is subject to the laws of Luxembourg.[60] In order to solve this problem of a broadcaster based and licensed in one European Member State (Luxembourg), but focusing its television programs on the audiences of a different Member State (Belgium), the government of the French Community of Belgium and the government of Luxembourg in June 2009 signed a cooperation agreement whereby some of the regulations applying in Belgium’s French Community (that are more strict than the European Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) Directive and do not exist in Luxembourg) are henceforth also applied to RTL’s channels RTL-TVI, Club RTL and Plug RTL (this concerns mainly French Community rules on the protection of minors, on the coverage of electoral campaigns and on compulsory contributions to financing audiovisual productions). The legal validity of this cooperation agreement remains subject to debate.[61]


As regards distribution, Belgium is one of the most widely cabled countries in the European Union. The development of the cable networks started as early as the 1960s.[62] While the cable operators (mainly Tecteo for the French Community and Telenet for the Flemish Community) are still largely dominating the distribution market of television services, their supremacy is under challenge by other operators, such as for IPTV, satellite and mobile television. Increased competition resulted in consolidation and concentration of the market of television distributors (and in the market of internet access providers).[63] In Flanders, the main television broadcasters (i.e., VRT, VMMa and SBS Belgium) accused the network operators Telenet and Belgacom TV of threatening their revenue streams, by giving too much freedom to viewers of digital television to record television programs. The broadcasters claim that this jeopardises their advertisement income (i.e., because viewers skip commercials) and income from video-on-demand services. It is unclear how this disagreement between broadcasters and operators will be solved and to what extent these actors will have to adapt to new technologies and developments.


Radio signals are still mainly transmitted via analogue means, but there is a transition towards digital radio. Radio programs are mainly accessible via terrestrial broadcasting, cable, satellite and the Internet. The public broadcasters of both Communities have since the 1990s been broadcasting their radio programmes digitally. VRT has sold its terrestrial analogue and digital broadcasting facilities to Norkring Belgium (see above for television). Digital radio broadcasts are available via different platforms, including the Internet, satellite, terrestrial and mobile broadcasting. There is a lot of uncertainty about the type of format[64] that should be used for broadcasting digital radio, and given the investments needed to develop digital broadcasting and the extent of the current cable network that needs to be upgraded, Belgium’s switch towards digital radio is rather slow.[65] RTBF.be is suggesting a public-private cooperation in order to finance digital switchover for radio broadcasting.


In contrast to what happened to analogue television broadcasting, the Belgian authorities do not seem to have an official policy to completely switch off analogue radio broadcasting in the near future. An argument often heard is that digital switch over would put the further existence of smaller radio broadcasters (e.g. local radio stations, specialised radio stations, Community type radio stations, etc.) at risk.


Belgium’s (terrestrial) radio landscape is similar to its television landscape, insofar that there are quite a lot of radio channels available, but that there is also a strong concentration in the market. At the Dutch-language side, the public broadcaster VRT and the commercial broadcaster VMMa dominate the market. At the French-language side, the public broadcaster RTBF.be and the commercial RTL group dominate the market. These main players are followed by the French NRJ group. At both sides of the language borders, a number of independent local, regional and community-focussed radios[66] are operating.[67] It can be noted that it is only since 2008 that the French Community succeeded in formulating a new frequency plan on terrestrial radio broadcasting, making an end to ten years of legal uncertainty for the private radio broadcasters as to whether or not they needed a licence to broadcast in the French Community.


Media online


According to the 2012 figures of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), 82% of the Belgians were using the Internet. An ESS survey on daily use of the internet per country puts Belgium somewhere in the middle of the European countries surveyed.[68] Figures for 2008 show that internet radio or internet television were only used by 14% of the population in Wallonia, 15% of the population in Flanders and 22% of the population in Brussels. These figures are relatively low, compared to the overall figure of 20% for the entire European Union. Internet sites of newspapers or magazines were used by 13% of the population in Wallonia, 24% of the population in Flanders and 27% of the population in Brussels. Again, these figures are relatively low (especially the figure for Wallonia), compared to the overall figure of 25% for the entire European Union.[69]


Where over the last couple of years, the sales figures of newspapers have been declining or at best stabilising, Internet sites of newspapers have at the same time seen a huge increase in popularity. In general, almost all newspapers and magazines have developed a full online version of their product, which is constantly updated. However, many newspapers and magazines only publish a limited number of their articles for free on their website, and ask their readers to subscribe to the paying online or paper version to gain access to all articles. This strategy of a hybrid paying–free model is especially popular with the specialised papers (such as the economic newspapers), but more and more also with more generalised newspapers. Many newspapers have also developed applications for mobile electronic devices, such as mobile phones and iPads. Most newspapers publish video-content on their websites and some of them even created their own studio to develop further in the direction of video-content. Similarly, almost all television and radio broadcasters have also developed an online version of their channels, where they offer not only information about their programs and a limited number of programs for downloading, but also a type of information that can be classified as “written press” activities. All of this means of course that the borderline between different types of media services (such as between the written press and television) is fading.


The evolution of media players entering into the internet world, together with the newspapers’ struggle to survive and to make their websites profitable through advertisement, has caused the main French-language newspaper publishers (i.e., Rossel, IPM and Corelio-subsidiary Editions de l’Avenir) to contest RTBF.be’s offering “written press” activities on its websites. These publishers started legal proceedings against RTBF.be, claiming that the public broadcaster is infringing on its public remit and is guilty of unfair competition by offering certain activities on its Internet sites.[70] They claim in particular that RTBF.be should not be allowed to offer services of the written press (as opposed to audiovisual services) on its internet sites, especially not if RTBF.be is using taxpayers’ money to offer such services. However, in a decision of 30 December 2011, the Commercial Court of Charleroi decided that RTBF's online activities were not to be considered as exceeding its broadly-defined public service remit. The Court also confirmed that RTBF could legally use part of its public funding for its online activities, and include advertising in its online activities.


Social media online


Social media online (such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) do not seem to have conquered a prominent place in the Belgian media landscape. Although most media players are active on social media such as Facebook through e.g. fan clubs for and links to newspapers, and although journalists often have a Facebook or Twitter account, they do not overwhelmingly use these new media for their reporting. Private media blogs exist, but most of these blogs are initiatives of established journalists.[71] Citizens also provide news items through social media, but such information is not always trustworthy.[72]


As concerns content production methods for media online, it seems that the Internet sites of most traditional media players are provided with content by professional journalists and traditional press agencies. User-generated content for online versions of traditional media services are mostly limited to readers’ sections and comments on forums.


All in all, social media are developing in Belgium (and in theory, they have the capacity to divert advertisement income away from traditional media players), but for the moment their influence seems rather limited.


News agencies


Belga News Agency is the most important news agency for Belgium. Other news agencies are the big international news agencies and specialised Belgian news agencies. Given Belga’s position as the only major Belgian news agency, its organisation (i.e., its main shareholders are in fact the same media groups that are its main clients) and its influence on the Belgian press (i.e., in terms of structural pluralism and content-wise) is sometimes seen as controversial.[73] There is a lack of scientific data on the extent to which Belgian media rely on information from Belga. All in all, it can be said that there is a very strong concentration in the market of press agencies in Belgium.


Journalists’ background and education


Belgium counts a wide variety of different types of journalists, depending on the type of media they work for, the kind of work they do, the type of contract they have with a media group, etc. Some but not all journalists have the legally protected status of “professional journalist” under the act of 30 December 1963. This act regulates the recognition and protection of the title of professional journalist for those journalists who meet the conditions laid down in the act,[74] and who have applied for the recognition of their status of professional journalist. The act also grants certain benefits to recognised professional journalists, such as the deliverance of certain professional identification documents (e.g. press passes, admission tickets, etc.). However, the act of 30 December 1963 does not monopolise the title of journalist, and in principle everybody is free to call himself or herself a “journalist”. No special education or examination is needed to obtain the titles of “journalist” or “professional journalist”, and journalists have a wide variety of different educational and professional backgrounds.


It is worth noting that a study from the Artevelde Hogeschool showed that no less than 10% of the Flemish journalists fight with a burn-out. Compared to an overall figure of 4% in general for the entire population, this seems a high figure. On top of this, 21% of the Flemish journalists have an increased risk of burn-out. Apparently, the main reasons behind these alarming figures are related to the increased commercialisation and digitisation (with increasingly short deadlines) of the profession of journalist.[75] A study conducted among French-speaking journalists shows that almost half of them is unhappy about their working conditions and almost 80% sees a negative evolution over the last years.[76]


Author: Bart Van Besien


Finnian & Columba



Attorney - Lawyer - Brussels - Belgium - European Union (E.U.)

Specialised in media law and intellectual property law (copyright, trademarks, patents, domain names, etc.).

[1] Corelio will have a 62% share in the joint-venture, and Concentra 38%. The publishers join forces only for their newspaper activities and digital operations (such as classified ads), not for their other activities (e.g. not for the television broadcasters, production houses and magazines owned by Corelio and Concentra).

[2] La Libre Belgique is the only newspaper that sells relatively well in the other language Community. More than 13% of the paper’s readers live in Flanders. See De Bens and Raeymaeckers, De pers in België: het verhaal van de Belgische dagbladpers gisteren, vandaag en morgen, Leuven/Tielt: LannooCampus (2010), p. 464.  

[3] The group Mediafin, which publishes L’Echo and De Tijd, is a joint-venture between the French-language publisher Rossel and the Dutch-language publisher De Persgroep.

[4] Mass Transit Media, which publishes Metro, is a joint-venture between the French-language publisher Rossel and the Dutch-language publisher Concentra.

[5] D. Sinardet, ‘Direct democracy as a tool to shape a united public opinion in a multilingual society? Some reflections based on the Belgian case’, in D. Sinardet and M. Hooghe (eds.), Is Democracy viable without a unified public opinion? The Swiss experience and the Belgian case (2009), Re-Bel e-book 3, available at https://www.rethinkingbelgium.eu/rebel-initiative-ebooks/ebook-3-democracy-without-unified-public-opinion, at p. 35.

[6] J. De Smedt, M. Hooghe and S. Walgrave, ‘Franstalige politici in het Vlaamse televisienieuws: quantité négligeable?’, ENA – Nieuwsmonitor 1/09/2010, available at: www.nieuwsarchief.be.

[7] M. Lits, ‘Media in Belgium: two separate public opinions’, in D. Sinardet and M. Hooghe (eds.), Is Democracy viable without a unified public opinion? The Swiss experience and the Belgian case (2009), Re-Bel e-book 3, available at https://www.rethinkingbelgium.eu/rebel-initiative-ebooks/ebook-3-democracy-without-unified-public-opinion, at p. 45.

[8] Ibid, p. 45 and Sinardet, ‘Direct democracy as a tool to shape a united public opinion in a multilingual society?’, p. 39.

[9] M. Beyen, ‘The duality of public opinions as a democratic asset’ – Confessions of an historian”, in D. Sinardet and M. Hooghe (eds.), Is Democracy viable without a unified public opinion? The Swiss experience and the Belgian case (2009), Re-Bel e-book 3, available at https://www.rethinkingbelgium.eu/rebel-initiative-ebooks/ebook-3-democracy-without-unified-public-opinion, at p. 22;

[10] E.g. the initiative of Le Soir and De Standaard, where each journal sent journalists to the other Community for a certain time, with the purpose of getting to know each other better.

[11] E.g. Audiopresse, the association of Belgium’s French-language and German-language newspapers, participates for 34% in the television and radio broadcaster RTL Belgium; magazine publisher Roularta owns the television channels Canal Z and Kanaal Z and owns 50% of the shares of Vlaamse Mediamaatschappij (VMMa). Newspaper publisher De Persgroep owns the remaining 50% of VMMa. Newspaper publisher Concentra broadcasts the digital television channel Acht and participates in Radio Nostalgie. Newspaper publisher Corelio participates in Radio Nostalgie and in the television production houses Woestijnvis and Caviar.

[12] E.g. newspaper publisher De Persgroep also publishes the magazines Dag Allemaal, Joepie, etc.

[13] E.g. television broadcaster Media Ad Infinitum also publishes the magazine Vitaya (together with Sanoma).

[14] Production house Woestijnvis is indirectly (via holding 'De Vijver Media') one of the driving forces behind television channels VIER and VIJF (ex-SBS channels sold by the German ProSiebenSat1 group to the consortium of Woestijnvis, Corelio and Sanoma). 

[15] However, cross media involvement seems to be more prominent among the Dutch-language media than among the French-language media.

[16] E.g. the German Bertelsmann group is very prominent on the French-language television and radio market (it indirectly holds the majority of the shares of RTL, the main television and radio broadcaster in French-language Belgium). Another German group, ProSiebenSat.1, used to be quite strong on the Flemish television market, but in 2011 sold its Flemish SBS channels to a consortium of Woestijnvis (via Waterman & Waterman, which is owned by Wouter Vandenhaute and Erik Watté), Corelio and Sanoma. The Finnish Sanoma group has a strong presence on the magazine markets of both the Flemish and the French Communities, but mainly not information-focused magazines.

[17] E.g. De Persgroep owns the Dutch newspapers Het Parool, Trouw, Algemeen Dagblad and Volkskrant. Roularta has a strong presence in France, where it owns the titles L'Express, L'Expansion, Point de Vue, etc. Rossel is also active in France, with the regional newspapers La Voix du Nord, Nord Éclair, Nord Littoral and Lille Plus.

[18] E.g. De Morgen and Gazet van Antwerpen maintained their independent editorial staff. De Tijd and L’Echo also received guarantees for their editorial independence. See De Bens and Raeymaeckers, De pers in België: het verhaal van de Belgische dagbladpers gisteren, vandaag en morgen, Leuven/Tielt: LannooCampus (2010), pp. 76-77).

[19] Le Soir and La Libre Belgique.

[20] The titles of Sud Press and Editions de l’Avenir.

[21] La Derniere Heure / Les Sports.

[22] L’Echo.

[23] De Standaard and De Morgen.

[24] Gazet van Antwerpen and Het Belang van Limburg.

[25] Het Laatste Nieuws / De Nieuwe Gazet and Het Nieuwsblad / De Gentenaar.

[26] De Tijd.

[27] Grenz-Echo.

[28] D. Ward, A Mapping study of media concentration and ownership in ten European countries (2004), available at: https://www.cvdm.nl/dsresource?objectid=421&type=org, at p. 25. According to De Bens and Raeymakers, newspaper readership in Belgium amounts to 173 readers per 1,000 inhabitants, which is close to the average European figure. See De Bens and Raeymaeckers, De pers in België, p. 149.

[29] Le Soir started as a free advertising newspaper in 1887, but later on evolved to a paying newspaper.

[30] Metro is published by Mass Transit Media (MTM), a joint-venture between Concentra and Rossel.

[31] Vlaamse Regulator voor de Media (VRM), “Mediaconcentratie in Vlaanderen Rapport 2009”, available at: https://www.google.com/search?ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=navclient&gfns=1&q=%E2%80%9CMediaconcentratie+in+Vlaanderen%2C+Rapport+2009, at p. 63.

[32] See the latest figures of CIM, available at https://www.cim.be.

[33] Minus 5.07% for the French-language newspapers and minus 2.12% for Dutch-language newspapers for the first quarter of 2013, compared with the second quarter of 2012. See Centre for Information on the Media, available at:


[34] Le Soir, the newspapers of Sudpresse and the German-language Grenz-Echo all belong to Rossel. Rossel also participates for 50% in Metro, L’Echo and De Tijd.

[35] La Libre Belgique and La Dernière Heure belong to the group IPM.

[36] The titles of “Editions de l’Avenir” currently belong to Corelio (but will most probably be sold to the Walloon cable company Tecteo in the near future).

[37] Corelio also publishes the newspapers De Standaard, Het Nieuwsblad and De Gentenaar.

[38] De Persgroep owns Het Laatste Nieuws, De Nieuwe Gazet and De Morgen and participates for 50% in L’Echo and De Tijd.

[39] Concentra publishes Het Belang van Limburg and owns 90% of the shares of De Vlijt, the publisher of Gazet van Antwerpen. Concentra also participates for 50% in Metro.

[40] See De Bens and Raeymaeckers, De pers in België, p. 74.

[41] M. Kelly, G. Mazzoleni and D. McQuail (eds), The Media in Europe - The Euromedia Handbook (2004), at p. 18.

[42] I.e., the family Rossel-Hurbain for Rossel, the family Le Hodey for IPM, the family Van Thillo for De Persgroup and the family Theelen for Concentra.

[43] Roularta is the publisher of Belgium’s most important newsweeklies Knack (in Dutch) and Le Vif/L’Express (in French), the economic magazines Trends-Tendances and Bizz (both of which are published separately in French and in Dutch), and a number of television, lifestyle, regional and specialised magazines.

[44] Sanoma focuses on women’s magazines (e.g. Flair and Libelle), lifestyle magazines (e.g. Feeling), popular magazines (e.g. Story) and television magazines (e.g. TéléMoustique and TeveBlad).

[45] Editions Ciné Revue publishes the television magazine Ciné Télé Revue, which is the most widely sold magazine in French-speaking Belgium, but is not available in the Dutch-language.

[46] Newspaper publisher De Persgroep focuses on popular magazines (e.g. Dag Allemaal), lifestyle magazines (e.g. Genieten), youth magazines (e.g. Joepie) and television magazines (e.g. TV-Familie).

[48] See Centre for Information on the Media, https://www.cim.be/fr/media/presse/authentification/r%C3%A9sultats/r%C3%A9sultats-public.  CIM’s main activities concern research about and verification of circulation figures of the Belgian media. As such, CIM has a considerable influence on the flow of advertisement budgets towards media players.

[49] 173 million magazines sold in 2008, compared to close to 200 million magazines sold in 1999. Ibid.

[50] Kelly, Mazzoleni and McQuail, The Media in Europe - The Euromedia Handbook, p, 20.

[51] Norkring belongs to the Norwegian Telenor group.

[52] For more information for advertisement income for digital television, see K. Berte, “Reclame in een digital medialandschap”, unpublished PhD thesis, Ghent University (2009-2010).

[53] VMMa is owned for 50% by De Persgroep and for 50% by Roularta.

[54] SBS Belgium used to ber owned by the German media group ProSiebenSat.1 Media, Europe’s second biggest media group (behind RTL Group), but was sold in 2011 to a consortium of Woestijnvis (via Waterman & Waterman, which is owned by Wouter Vandenhaute and Erik Watté), Corelio and Sanoma.

[55] See for a detailed study Vlaamse Regulator voor de Media (VRM), “Mediaconcentratie in Vlaanderen Rapport 2009”.

[56] In January 2010, RTBF changed its name from RTBF to RTBF.be, to stress its focus on new technologies and in particular the Internet.

[57] For the detailed overview see Le Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel, “L'offre de médias et le pluralisme en Communauté française”, available at: https://www.csa.be/pluralisme.

[60] RTL Group owns 66% of the shares of RTL Belgium. The other 34% of RTL Belgium’s shares are owned by Audiopresse, the association of Belgium’s French-language and German-language newspapers. RTL Group is a Luxembourg group controlled by the German Bertelsmann-group. With its 45 television channels and 32 radio channels in 11 European countries, RTL Group is one of the major audiovisual groups of Europe.

[61] See also CJEU, Case C-517/09 of 22 December 2010, OJ C 63, 26/2/2011, p. 9-10.

[62] See European Institute for the Media, “Final report of the study on the information of the citizen in the EU: obligations for the media and the Institutions concerning the citizen’s right to be fully and objectively informed”, 31/08/2004, at p. 33.

[63] MAVISE, “TV market in Belgium”, available at https://mavise.obs.coe.int/country?id=4.

[64] E.g. DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting), DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcasting), DVB (Digital Video Broadcasting), DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale), etc.

[65] Communauté française de Belgique Service général de l’Audiovisuel et des Multimédias, “Annuaire de l’Audiovisuel 2009”, at p. 479.

[66] E.g. radios for the Turkish community in Belgium, etc.

[67] See for more details Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel, “L'offre de médias et le pluralisme en Communauté française” and VRM, “Mediaconcentratie in Vlaanderen Rapport 2009”, p. 18-25.

[68] European Social Survey, “Exploring public attitudes, informing public policy - Selected findings from the first three rounds”, 5, available at: https://www.europeansocialsurvey.org.

[69] “Mediaconcentratie in Vlaanderen Rapport 2009”, p. 69.

[70] See also Communication 2009/C 257/01 of the European Commission on the application of State aid rules to public service broadcasting, OJ C257, 27/10/2009.

[71] Some examples of social media are www.apache.be; www.dewereldmorgen.be; www.politics.be; www.mediakritiek.be, etc.

[72] One of the most noteworthy ‘accidents’ with civic journalism was the case were the press agency Belga wrongly reported that Belgium’s queen Fabiola had passed away. Belga picked this “news item” up from its website Ihavenews.be, where citizens can report news items. For unknown reasons, the message was not checked by Belga, and other media players published Belga’s “news item” as breaking news.

[73] See T. Cochez, “Belga, waar de klant koning én aandeelhouder is”, available at: https://www.apache.be/2010/01/belga-waar-de-klant-koning-en-aandeelhouder-is.

[74] E.g. in order to be recognized as a professional journalist, one should – as a primary professional activity and against remuneration - contribute to the redaction of the daily or periodic press, of radio- or television news bulletins, film journals or press agencies; one should have exercised this activity during the last two years at the minimum; etc.

[75] See Arteveldehogeschool, “Journalist”, available at: https://www.arteveldehs.be/emc.asp?pageId=1848.

[76]  See Association Générale des Journalistes Professionnels de Belgique, “Dossier Enquête sur le moral des journalistes”, 96 La lettre de l’AJP, September 2008.





Bart Van Besien

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