26/06/2013 12:34

The essential 'who is who' of media policy in Belgium

Parliaments involved in media policy.

The main legislatures in the field of the media policy are the Community Parliaments, i.e. the Flemish Parliament and the Parliament of the French Community. The majority of media-related legislation concerns audiovisual media, rather than the written press or the Internet. These rules on audiovisual media are passed by the Community Parliaments. The Federal Belgian Parliament is responsible for indirect state subsidies, copyright legislation and telecommunications policy (including satellite reception and terrestrial networks).


Executive state branches and media policy

The executive state powers for media policy rest with the Community Governments, i.e., on the Flemish side, the staff members of the personal cabinet of the responsible Minister and the ‘Flemish Ministry for Culture, Youth, Sports and Media’; and, on the French-language side, the personal cabinet of the responsible Minister and the ‘General Service for Audiovisual and Multimedia’ of the ‘Ministry of the French Community’. As mentioned above, some specific aspects of media policy rest with the federal government, for which mainly the ‘Federal Public Service Economy’ branch of the federal government is responsible.


Regulators for the Belgian media sector

The main regulatory bodies responsible for monitoring compliance with audiovisual regulations are the ‘Vlaamse Regulator voor de Media’ (VRM) for the Flemish Community and the ‘Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel’ (CSA) for the French Community. They are to a large degree independent of the Community Governments. Although appointed by the governments, exercising a mandate in the VRM and the CSA is incompatible with exercising certain political functions. The Belgian Institute for Postal and Telecommunication Services (BIPT), at the federal level, is the regulator for telecommunications and postal services. As a result of the convergence of the telecommunications and audiovisual markets, the VRM and the CSA work together with the BIPT in a Conference of Regulators for the sector of Electronic Communications (CRC). The responsibilities of the regulators are mainly to monitor compliance with audiovisual media regulations, especially related to the rules on advertising, the protection of minors, the protection of consumers and the impartiality of information. The VRM and the CSA are especially responsible for making decisions in cases of conflicts and claims related to compliance with audiovisual media regulations. The CSA and the VRM also play a major role in monitoring the competition in the Belgian media market, for instance by publishing information on the ownership and the degree of concentration of the media. As far as the written press is concerned, they are only responsible for reporting on the degree of concentration in the market (incidentally), not for monitoring compliance with the regulations. Finally, they manage the process of granting licences for terrestrial audiovisual broadcasting. One should note that it is the governments that design the allocation schemes and open the calls for applicants. Before taking measures with a potential significant impact on the market, the VRM and the CSA usually organise sector and public consultation rounds to collect information from stakeholders. The Belgian Council of State, the highest administrative tribunal, is responsible for reviewing decisions of the media regulators.


Media industry organisations

The main media industry organisations are the organisations of newspaper publishers ('Vlaamse Nieuwsmedia' and JFB), the periodic press (THE PPRESS and UPP) and the advertising sector (UBA).


Journalists' professional organisations

The main representative organisations for journalists are AGJPB/AVBB (consisting of a Flemish wing, VVJ, and a French-German wing, AJP, who work independently from each other) and AJPP/VJPP. The terms of professional and ethical rights and duties of journalists are largely left to self-regulation.


Self-regulatory organisations (journalism ethics)

The main self-regulatory organisations for the journalistic profession are the Dutch-language 'Raad Voor De Journalistiek' (Council for Journalism) (RVDJ) and the French-language 'Conseil de Déontologie Journalistique' (Council for Journalistic Deontology) (CDJ). Their main tasks are to formulate rules for journalism ethics and ensure their effective application. These organisations have a mixed character in the sense that they are common to all types of media outlets and that their members consist of both journalists and publishers (and to a limited degree, civil society). The policy of the RVDJ and the CDJ is to first try and settle disputes through mediation between the parties. If mediation is unsuccessful, they deliver a non-binding decision on the subject, but cannot compel parties to observe these decisions. Their power lies more in their pragmatism, in the publicity provided by their decisions and opinions and in their widely accepted moral authority. The RVDJ and the CDJ are co-financed by the publishers’ and the journalists’ associations. However, in reality, the Community governments sponsor the journalists’ associations for their contribution to the RVDJ and the CDJ.


Please contact me for any question, comment or suggestion you may have.


Author: Bart Van Besien

Finnian & Columba


bart@finnian.beAttorney - Lawyer - Brussels - Belgium - European Union (E.U.)

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




Bart Van Besien

Finnian & Columba
K. De Deckerstraat 20A
2800 Mechelen, Belgium

+32 486 626 355
+32 15 29 42 57