By Augustine Holguine
Today we listened to a lecture by Professor Hedwig at the Hogeschool University Brussels (HUB). The first thing she said after introducing herself is, “There is no such thing
as Belgian media.” What???? Prior to this trip we researched the different aspects of Belgium including their media landscape. As history shows Belgium is separated by the Dutch and French speakers and the country ‘s media scape is also segregated based on the cultural differences and language spoken in the regions. I thought that although there is segregation among the regions, Belgium’s “media” could be defined. I’ m pretty sure I looked slightly confused by her statement, but during her presentation the statistics she provided made her statement more clear.
There is a division of powers in Belgium’s “media”. The federal government regulates the press freedom. (Hmmm that sounds quite familiar). The telecommunications, bilingual radio stations in Brussels, ether police which is Belgium’s FCC are all regulated by the federal government. Additionally, the federal government regulates copywriting, film, and advertising. The Belgian communities regulate the radio, television, and press subsidiaries. In Belgium people still read the newspaper, oh mon Dieu ( oh my God) and approximately 65% of Belgians prefer the newspaper over social media and television as their news source. As Americans many of us prefer to use social media, and the majority of the younger generation probably never read a full newspaper.
According to Hedwig’s research the Flemish speakers watch an average of 166 minutes a week watching television. The French speakers watch 205 minutes, and surprise surprise in the U.S. we watch an average of 270 minutes a week watching television, but to our defense I think that having the television on as background noise attributes to the high number. Social media is popular on a global scale and Facebook is one of the top social sites used in Belgium. Despite Facebook’s popularity 50% of Belgians never read online news sites. Hedwig did say that although the younger population use social sites they still read the newspaper. What I found interesting during her lecture is that the different broadcasting stations have to meet a quota showing a certain percentage of European, Belgian, U.S. fictional content. Imagine if the US had a percentage of the type of content shown on television one can only dream.
As a PoliSci geek I was not surprised that the political ideologies of the Belgian regions influenced the way political stories are told by the media. If a Lewinsky scandal occurred here it would be interesting and I sheepishly admit somewhat entertaining to hear the media’s spin on a scandal. (Olivia Pope would have her hands full with this type of story). Hedwig’s lecture give clarification to her no media statement and truly in a country with cultural/regional segregation Belgian media could not exist. So for the remainder of my study tour I will enjoy spending a few minutes watching the French and Flemish channels. Maybe I should watch Scandal in French off to google I go.