By Johnell Woody
THE INTERNATIONAL PRESS CENTER (IPC)
Visiting the IPC (International Press Center) has been the highlight of our trip to date. Claude Cuvelia and Walter Vanstukken graciously greeted us with hot coffee, water, and, of course, Belgian chocolates. (I have decided that these are the best morning starters, forget the bacon and eggs and go with chocolate!)
Claude Cuvelia heads the IPC and is seated on the Federal Communications Commission. He gave a brief power point presentation explaining the history of the building, the purpose and function of the IPC, and its cooperative relationship with VideoHouse. Walter Vanstukken, Project Manager IPC and VideoHouse, shared in the Q&A and graciously accept Claude’s request to guide us through the facility in the absence of one of the IPC staff. Although I am certain our original guide would have been thorough and thoroughly delightful, I am more certain we were blessed to have Walter guide us through this high tech communications high press center.
Although owned by the federal government, the IPC operates independently with its own sources of revenue, separate budget, management and board of directors and without government interference. The IPC is a designed to be a self-sustaining support to international journalists, offering immediate access to breaking news, government press releases and public dispatches to all. This is accomplished by fulfilling its four purposes:
- Conference center – government press conferences, commercial video conferences
- Press services
- Office rental
- Distribute and manage federal government communications
The IPC is housed in the Residence Palace, a 1920’s edifice with a romantic history. Residence Palace is now owned by the federal government, and IPC is an astonishing collaboration of government and private sector gifts, talents, and knowledge. It is difficult to say what is most impressive about IPC. Some of the features and services are:
- State of the art press conference room, each seat equipped with microphone, translation device, power
- Translation booths designed to meet the translators union demands
- Optional additional space to extend capacity from 150 to 250
- Hard wire connections to surrounding government agencies
- Studio, “live” shot spot, editing lab, work spaces for press agent
- Open to any professional journalist 24/7 – free of charge
- A delightful restaurant/café/cater
- Redundant network
- Modular studio lighting and sound units for easy relocation
- Offering all government officials an electronic media distribution center
Both Walter and Claude, and please forgive the lack of formality, both of these gentlemen have a persona that makes me think we had been friends and colleagues forever, are proud and passionate about the purpose and mission of the IPC. The IPC purpose and VideoHouse knowledge and expertise are a perfect combination of gifts and talents. I learned more about the issues of translating conferences for a multilingual meeting, capturing, editing, and offering new media to news organizations worldwide in a practical sense than I ever have before. Walter has been there as a political news agent and understands the needs of news agencies and the needs of professional journalists. Many of us asked questions about controlling free services. Walter’s continual response was trust as a better regulator than regulations.
The IPC is self-supporting operating at about 50-55% capacity. Reaching full capacity will take time as the center is a relative new player among established Brussels resident press agents, noting that many foreign press agents have been recalled.
It is clear that Claude and Walter understand the importance of immediacy in disseminating news clips, the importance of trust in, of, and for colleagues, and the need for compassion. The IPC encompasses the best of technology, journalism, interpersonal communication, and organizational communication. I believe it would be a great place to work with knowledgeable people with high expectations and extreme dedication.
After enjoying a few minutes of rooftop views of the city, we returned to the café conference room for more questions and answers. In all the three hours flew by all too soon. After good-byes, we met with the bus for transfer to the Parlamentarium.
The Parlamentarium is an amazing example of self-guided, technology aided, multi-linguistic documentary of European history, the backstory of the European Union, its formation, and its future. We were each given a hand unit to activate keys at each exhibit that either spoke in our chosen language or provided the printed script on the unit.
In one of the last chambers, were easy chairs and sofas in front of large monitor. The “testimonies” of individuals across Europe spoke of themselves, their professions or purpose, and how the EU has benefited those efforts. Also in this chamber were a series of globes that gave statistics of EU involvement around the world. It struck me that much of the efforts of the EU focus on Africa. The African continent is rich in undeveloped raw materials, while Europe is lacking. Through the building of economic and humanitarian efforts, the EU is building relationships. I can’t help but wonder just how altruistic these efforts really are.
Technology of the today, brought the past in easy reach, and presented a glance at what the future may hold.
Day three of lectures and tours is the best day so far. Am eager for what tomorrow may bring!