Belgium Government and Media
Government Type: Parliamentary Democracy /Constitutional Monarchy
Head of State: King Philippe (since 21 July 2013)
Head of Government: Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (October 2020) (Vivaldi coalition: the liberals (Open Vld and MR), the socialists (sp. a and PS), the greens (Groen and Ecolo), and the Christian democrats of CD&V.)
Political Party: Open Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten
Political Position: Center-Right (Prime Minister’s Party)
World Press Freedom Rank: Belgium 12/180 (2020)
According to Reporters Without Borders “Press freedom and the situation of journalists are worsening in Belgium, which has fallen again in the World Press Freedom Index.” According to the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF), Belgium has a medium risk score for “its continued criminalization of defamation (art. 150, De gecoördineerde Grondwet, 1994; art. 443-452 Strafwetboek, 1867), and it may be argued that damages awarded against journalists in civil court are by occasion disproportionately high.”
Government Influence on Media: Belgium is a complex federal state that is divided linguistically, with seven overlapping governments, and six parliaments, therefore media regulation is also complex which creates a variety of problems for pluralism. Belgium has three official languages (Dutch, French, and German ), and based on the spoken languages there are three communities: The Flemish Community, the French Community, and the German-speaking Community. Each Community has its own media law and a separate media regulator. For example, The Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA) is responsible for the licensing of private broadcasting stations and allocation of frequencies to different operators and its members are appointed by the Government of the French community, whereas the Flemish Regulator for the Media (VRM) monitors media concentration and issues, suspends and revokes broadcasting licenses with its members are appointed by the Flemish government. However, these regional media laws lack “specific thresholds or procedures for (cross) media mergers.” This affects transparency regarding the current state of media pluralism. According to the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF) 2020 report which examines countries in four areas: basic protection, market plurality, political independence and social inclusiveness, Belgium in the area of Market Plurality which assesses the transparency of media ownership, scores medium risk (62% – medium risk). Another indicator is news media concentration in which Belgium scores a high risk (85%). The report draws attention to an increasing risk over the years and warns that “only a handful of companies now own all media outlets on the Flemish and French markets.” The report continues “The market and audience concentration shares of the Top 4 in any media format nears a 100%, resulting in very high concentration indexes for the Flemish and French-speaking markets.” Finally, according to the Reuters Insititute, “Recent mergers and acquisitions have raised concerns about media concentration and pluralism in the news.”
The Government subsidizes public broadcasting organizations and the Print media benefit from indirect public subsidies such as zero percent VAT. Belgium also has a tradition of leaving print media unregulated. Generally speaking, the Belgian media policy is extremely complicated.
In conclusion, although Belgium remains one of the freest in the world when it comes to freedom of the press and of expression, media pluralism is under threat due to the lack of regulation and growing consolidation of media.
|Top 5 Belgium Media Sources by Web Rank|