The Flemish parliament has plans to create its own TV channel, including programmes on books, culture, history and even gastronomy.
At present, there exists a separate vlaamsparlement.tv channel, which covers debates in the parliament itself, and which attracts an estimated 40,000 to 90.000 viewers a day. But the programmes for the channel are produced by an outside provider owned by Actua TV. Now the parliament would like to have more control in its own hands, as well as broadening the output.
And the budget will be increased, from €450,000 a year at present to €700,000 in 2024.
“It seems like an ambitious plan, but that doesn’t make it any less feasible,” said Kris Hoflack, director of communications for the parliament, in an internal note revealed to De Standaard.
“It would benefit the image and dynamism of the Flemish Parliament, but also increase the knowledge and self-awareness of Flanders.”
The creation of its own broadcaster would he said, provide “a beacon of credible information about community policies, heritage and the future” in time of fake news.
The plans, of which nothing has so far been said in public, appear to be well-advanced. The parliament is prepared to issue a call for tenders for the contract by the Easter recess. And the plans have been approved by the steering committee of the parliament.
Hoflack, meanwhile, has a compendious list of contacts in the TV and media to call on. A former print journalist, he went on to work for the Flemish public broadcaster VRT, where he was given the job of reforming the news department.
He then left to create a new TV channel for the book publisher Borgerhoff & Lamberigts, which went on to create a range of drama and entertainment programmes, the majority of which were made for the VRT stations Een, Canvas and Ketnet.
His note to members including a shopping list of TV features he thinks are currently being ignored. They include parliamentary events in and out of parliament itself; a book programme; reports on MPs; attention to culture, tourism and gastronomy; the history of Flanders and so on.
In short: a wish-list designed to appeal to supporters of the creation of an official canon of Flemish culture, which is currently in the process of being drawn up by a specially appointed committee.
Reports on MPs and parliamentary events are currently being ignored, probably for good ratings reasons, but the other subjects are already being covered extensively by Hoflack’s old employers at the VRT and VTM – not to mention the gastronomic channel Njam, which offers round-the-clock cookery programmes in Dutch.
There is some opposition to the proposal, however, and to the idea that airtime should be divided up according to the size of the party in parliament.
One opponent is Maurits Vande Reyde (Open VLD).
“This is not a core function of a parliament,” he told De Standaard. People are tightening their belts across the country, while workers are facing the prospect of a limit of 0.4% on pay rises in the next two years.
“We also have to look in-house at cutbacks,” he said.