VRT reveals ambitious action plan to respond to Flemish people’s expectations

16 December 2021 - The Flemish broadcaster VRT is initiating an extensive action plan that will further prepare the public servicer for the future and answer the expectations of the Flemish people.

Robbie Depuydt
  • Nearly 8 out of 10 Flemish people are satisfied with their public broadcaster VRT. 

  • The VRT is reliable, high-quality and informative. Creativity and entertainment need more attention.  

  • The VRT’s digital ambitions are widely supported, so the public broadcaster will continue to invest in innovation, further development of its online platform VRT NU and combatting disinformation.  

  • Youths, those with less schooling and people of foreign origin have less affinity with the VRT. We, as the public broadcaster, will work on this.  

  • The VRT is now launching a plan with six action points based on the results of the 'Your VRT' study. 

 The Flemish broadcaster VRT is initiating an extensive action plan that will further prepare the public servicer for the future and answer the expectations of the Flemish people: a strong digital offering, reliable and critical journalism, and creative and entertaining programs for everyone. The action plan was created following 'Your VRT', the large-scale research project that was launched earlier this year to find out what Flemish people actually think of their public broadcaster.  

In general, the 'Your VRT' study yielded good grades for the VRT: nearly 8 out of 10 Flemish people (77%) are satisfied with their public broadcaster. The study did expose a few working points, however: the VRT doesn’t resonate enough with youths, people with less schooling or people of foreign origin. The action plan must change this. 

“This study underscores that Flemish people are longing for a VRT with ambition. It brings the challenges the VRT is facing into focus. We’re going to get to work with these very valuable results,” says CEO Frederik Delaplace. “We are proud that Flemish people continue to associate us with reliable, high-quality information. Yes, there are also expectations that we cannot fully meet today. That is why we are linking an extensive action plan to the results of ‘Your VRT’: We will continue to invest in innovation, creativity, a digital offering and strong, independent journalism that combats fake news.”

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The VRT launches action plan

Today, the VRT is initiating an extensive action plan. That was also the idea behind 'Your VRT', the large-scale study the VRT launched early this year to look into Flemish people’s opinions and expectations. Based on the results of that study, the VRT has now prepared a six-part plan – continuing to digitize, offering creative and entertaining programs specifically designed for the public broadcaster and seeking more relevance among certain target groups.  

  1. The public broadcaster will continue to invest in independent journalism and the fight against disinformation and fake news, as we have already been doing with customized news: for example, with NWS NWS NWS on Instagram and Karrewiet on TikTok. 

  2. The VRT will invest more in innovation, creativity and entertainment. We are looking at a new sitcom and a late-night show. Certainly in times of Covid, there is a need for programs that, in line with the public broadcaster’s DNA, leave room for humor, creativity and entertainment.  

  3. The VRT will continue to communicate transparently and openly about what the VRT is and does. That way, we want to show where we make the difference, and give every Flemish person and Brussels resident the chance to help build the VRT of the future.  

  4. The VRT will invest even more in a customized (digital) offering. Flemish people support this plan, according to the study. Specifically, since December 9th, VRT NU can be viewed in a new first-screen app. In the long run, the audio offering will also be available via VRT NU.  

  5. We are investing in personalization with respect for privacy, while staying true to the VRT’s DNA. We will continue to work on developing a taste-broadening algorithm. These algorithms, which we make ourselves, ensure that you also watch or listen to different things, instead of limiting Flemish people to just one dataset.  

  6. There will also be more diverse voices and opinions featured, since according to 'Your VRT', 88% of Flemish people find it important for the VRT to devote attention to different opinions. More diversity on the screen is a big priority here, as well. The VRT will continue to carefully monitor the neutrality of its reporting.  

Karen Donders, Director of the Public Mission, Talent and Development at the VRT:
"This plan is ambitious and the right thing to do. We take our public mission to inform, inspire and connect seriously. We also want to invest in innovation. Among other things, we are launching the VRT Academy, where we will give six young talents the chance to grow. Furthermore, we are working on a new sitcom and late-night show. We’re launching a first-screen app for VRT NU and expanding our podcast offering. Plus, we’ll make sure that diverse opinions are sufficiently represented.  Now that we have a better idea of what Flemish people expect from their public broadcaster, thanks to the study, we’re going to do all we can to meet those expectations."

Sofie Silbermann

What did we research?

The 'Your VRT' study consists of two parts: quantitative market research carried out by the VRT Research Department, in collaboration with the independent research agency Indiville (this online survey was completed by a representative random selection of 2,620 Flemish people between 12 and 75 years of age), and an extensive questionnaire (nearly 10,000 Flemish people filled in a questionnaire on the VRT website or did so in the caravan that toured Flanders last summer). The survey and the questionnaire looked into people’s satisfaction and familiarity with the VRT, as well as the VRT’s importance and image. At the same time, the respondents were asked about the importance of the missions the VRT carries out and their satisfaction with how these are done.  

VRT scores well in terms of satisfaction

The results show that the VRT scores well when it comes to satisfaction. 77% of the respondents say they are fairly satisfied to very satisfied with the VRT in general (a score of 7 or higher out of 10). 13% are moderately satisfied (a score of 5-6). 9% are explicitly dissatisfied and give the VRT a failing score (of 1-4 out of 10). 

At the same time, the VRT enjoys wide support. Nearly 8 out of 10 Flemish people think it is important for Flanders to have its own public broadcaster. Support is somewhat broader amongst slightly older people and those with higher degrees.  

The VRT must try to resonate more with specific target groups

The study also showed that 1 out of 3 Flemish people don’t know the name of the Flemish public broadcaster. This is especially true among 12- to 25-year-olds, Flemish people of foreign origin and those with less schooling.  

You can’t love what you don’t know. So, it’s no wonder that Flemish people who don’t know that there is a Flemish public broadcaster are also less satisfied with it.  Over half of them do not see the importance of a public broadcaster. In this study, when questions were posed about familiarity with the VRT, there was deliberately no mention of the names of our brands, such as MNM or Eén, which are generally much better known.  

Nearly 9 out of 10 Flemish people think that the VRT should help people recognize fake news

The 'Your VRT' study also showed that Flemish people expect a lot from their public broadcaster when it comes to digitization and the fight against fake news. 87% of respondents believe that the VRT should help people recognize fake news. 86% feel that the VRT should be a role model when it comes to protection of privacy. And 77% believe that you should be able to easily watch, listen to or surf to the VRT anytime, anywhere. The study shows that these expectations are shared across a broad swathe of the Flemish population.  

Strong identity: quality, reliable, informative and relevant to Flemish people

Flemish people associate the VRT primarily with the words: 'informative', 'reliable', 'quality', 'engaged' and 'relevant to Flemish people' – very important values for a public broadcaster, of course, though they also profess a limited emotional identity. 

The VRT scores less well on the values of 'entertaining', 'is there for me', 'creative' and 'innovative'. We notice this primarily among young people.  

Karen Donders, Director of the Public Mission, Talent and Organization: "In this study, we see that Flemish people really are satisfied with their public broadcaster. In any case, many people feel it is important to have a strong public broadcaster. We can be proud of that. And we will continue to invest in winning the hearts of youths, Flemish people of foreign origin, those with less schooling and people from vulnerable socioeconomic groups. It goes without saying that we will go all out in these areas in the years to come, so that the VRT becomes ‘Your VRT’ to everyone.”

Tour of Flanders confirms results

Last summer, ambassadors like Siska Schoeters  and Danira Boukhriss toured all of Flanders and Brussels in the now-familiar 'Your VRT' caravan. Flemish people could share their opinion on camera, into the microphone, but also online via the website VRT.be, where they could fill in a survey. Ultimately, nearly 10,000 people did so. An analysis of this survey tells us that the results of the quantitative research (by the VRT Research Department and independent research agency Indiville) was largely confirmed. 

These are just a few of the many reactions that the VRT received: 

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Here are some of the comments we got: 

“Given that we don’t have a television, we’re absolutely fans of VRT NU. On our camping vacations, too, this is a big plus for us. Now we can choose what we want to watch and when. Keep supporting VRT NU, VRT staffers.”

“Invest even more in programs about social problems, like ‘Zorgen voor mama’ (about mothers combating poverty) and ‘De kemping’ (about young people getting their life on track). You learn a lot, and people can see how people end up in poverty, for example, or why they can’t get a job. I notice that there are a lot of privileges in our society, and this kind of program reduces prejudice.”

"Stop letting every long summer mean a new series of reruns of (the classic sitcom) FC De Kampioenen.”

After the summer tour, the 'Your VRT' team went to five extra destinations, especially to find out about young people’s opinions. To do this, we organized dialogue sessions with students and pupils at the Howest community college in Kortrijk, Onze-lieve-vrouwcollege high school in Bevegem, youth organization Jeugdhuis de Kouter in Bocholt, Thomas More community college in Mechelen and the academy Academie Haspengouw in Sint-Truiden.

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The combination of a representative random survey (by the VRT Research Department and Indiville) and a qualitative study (by the tour of Flanders) provides lots of food for thought. Media users hold up a mirror to the VRT. 

CEO Frederik Delaplace"We heard and read a lot of different opinions and interesting visions. It’s educational to look beyond the numbers in a survey and listen directly to people who make use of our offering. There was someone who is a fan of our consumer programme ‘De Inspecteur’ on Radio 2 and wondered why the VRT doesn’t turn it into a TV show. Well, that’s an exciting idea. Thank you, listener, for that thought."

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