By Jerrice Cuvilly
Our cohort spent the morning with Hedwig Desmaele, a journalism professor at Hogeschool Universiteit Brussels (HUB). Hedwig provided our group with a media overview of Belgium. According to our lecturer, there is no such thing as Belgian media because of the complex political and cultural structure of the country. I immediately thought back to my research and preparation for this trip and listened as she explained how Belgian national news was not dictated for the entire country, but rather each region has its own unique media preferences, publications, and channels.
Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. The Dutch and French speaking communities are quite large, while the German population is the smallest, representing a minority segment of the population.
Communities are connected primarily by language and culture, whereas regions prioritize economic affairs. The Belgian communities are the Flemish, French, and German. The three regions are the Flemish region to the north (where Dutch is the most commonly spoken language), the Walloon region to the south (where French is the most commonly spoken language) and the Brussels capital region. Media is typically community based with radio, television, and press subsidiaries accounting for the primary forms of media found in each community. The federal level maintains control of press freedom, copyright, news releases from the federal government, and advertising and film.
In comparison to the U.S., Belgium’s media landscape appears to be segregated by the communities/regions. Members of each respective community may argue this separation keeps the cultural identity of the communities more in tact, while others may feel this divide is more harmful than helpful to the country. I think as Belgium’s millennial population grows up, the regional segregation will eventually dissipate because technology and the news of the country as a whole will become more readily accessible via the internet and mobile devices.
Until there becomes are unified media presence in Belgium, I learned when communicating here it is important to consider the separations of communities and regions. As a communicator, assuming one message would be delivered to all of Belgium is not a best practice, since information sharing between the communities does not appear transparent or fluid in process. For the most effective communication, each region requires its own message communicated across its communities’ preferred platforms (newspapers for the Flemish and television news for the Walloons). I wonder how quickly and efficiently urgent news impacting the entire country can be delivered, given the seemingly divided media network. Again, hopefully technology has decreased the information divide in Brussels.
Later in the day we stumbled upon an area with several Italian restaurants, where we had lunch. Could this be Brussels’ Little Italy? I think so! At our restaurant for lunch the waiter spoke Italian, a little English, no French, and no Dutch. However, we all made it work well enough to get our food and settle the tab before meeting back up with the group.
Our next stop in the day was to the Royal Palace Museum and Coudenberg, which is the former palace of Brussels. The Royal Palace Museum focused on the history of Belgium’s royalty and displayed artifacts and memorabilia through out the history of Belgium’s royalty. Coudenberg is the original royal castle, which was burned down in the the 1700′s. The palace ruins are currently underground as they were flattened to construct the new royal district of Belgium. The visit to this site was rather fascinating as we saw the original palace’s infrastructure and rooms underground. There were several excavations of the site and the displays underground showcased the items found during the excavation process.
Another lovely day in Brussels. The weather was much warmer and everyone seems to be enjoying the SIE and capturing their own experiences.