VRT criticised for promoting flagship project of the Flemish government

VRT criticised for promoting flagship project of the Flemish government
The new logo of the VRT NWS media pictured on a camera in Brussels, Friday 30 September 2022. BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND

Flemish public broadcaster VRT has come under fire for promoting a project of the Flemish government. Critics argue that the programme fails on standards of journalistic objectivity and questioned the role of a public broadcaster, De Morgen reports.

Last Tuesday, the Flemish government gathered to present Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon's (N-VA) Flanders Technology and Innovation (FTI) project.

During the 45-minute programme (which also featured guests such as Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the world wide web), ministers explained how their department will help development in Flanders.

With the FTI logo presented in the studio, VRT presenters described the show as a 'launch programme'. Secretary of the Flemish journalists' association, Pol Deltour, found the programme problematic, calling it "an unhealthy mix of a political project with a journalistic format."

Journalistic neutrality?

The supposed neutrality of the journalists seemed to be at odds with the aims of the programme, which was controlled by the government. "You can ask yourself whether this program belongs on the VRT Max site or rather on that of the Flemish government?," said Deltour.

The programme was made for the Flemish government by production company Sylvester; VRT itself didn't have control and wasn't paid to air it.

Yet VRT maintains that its part in the show raises no ethical questions and insists that the show was informative. VRT spokesperson Jan Sulmont explained that the FTI project that was discussed is "good for the Flemish economy." He added that the show "is a debate with politicians from different parties, experts, and ordinary Flemish people."

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Jambon wants to make FTI his political legacy. Flanders in the past organised technology fairs every two years, which resulted in research centres such as the Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre and the Vlaams Institute for Biotechnology.

Van Raemdonck, Jambon's spokesperson, stated that the show aims to make people in Flanders proud of Flemish achievements, which he sees as being competitive on the international stage: "Flanders plays Champions League in many areas, but we don't give it enough credit."

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