TV works

Belgian Radio and Television (BRT)

The Belgian Radio and Television (BRT) public broadcasting network has been broadcasting radio and television programmes for the Dutch-speaking population of Belgium since 1960. The history of the BRT goes back to 1930, when the NIR (Nationaal Belgisch Instituut voor Radio-omroep, National Belgian Institute for Radio Broadcasting Service), following the example of the British public broadcasting model, gained a monopoly on radio transmission. In October 1953, after years of experimentation, the NIR started broadcasting television programmes as well. The broadcasting law of 1960 led to the division of the NIR into two autonomous networks, the BRT (Dutch-speaking) and the French-speaking RTB (Radio-Télévision Belge). In 1991, the BRT was given a new charter, as well as a new purpose and name (BRTN, in which the ‘N’ stood for Nederlandstalig or Dutch-language programmes). The public mission of the network was hardly changed, however. Modelling itself on the ‘Reithian ethos’ practiced by the BBC, the BRTN focused on information, education and entertainment. Within the scope of the cultural emancipation project, with its affirmation of the Flemish language, culture and history, the BRTN placed great emphasis on cultural programmes during this period. In the 1970s, and especially during the 1980s, the network’s cultural programming came under increasing pressure, yet it continued to broadcast cultural programmes that were extremely individual and exceptional. Such programmes as the culturally informative Kunst-Zaken (Art Affairs) and Jef Cornelis’ Container were central to the cultural debate both inside and outside the public network. In 1997, the BRTN underwent a sweeping reorganization, after which the network was again given a new structure, mission and name (VRT, Vlaamse Radio en Televisie, Flemish Radio and Television). In terms of audience access and viewer ratings, the reorganization of the Flemish public broadcasting service was a success, with the VRT becoming the market leader, but this was at the expense of the educational and cultural programmes. [Daniël Biltereyst]