VRT impartiality under scrutiny

The results of a survey into the question whether or not the Flemish public broadcaster is impartial have just been published. Overall the research painted a positive picture of the broadcaster's impartiality, but the VRT that also operates flandersnews.be does not intend to sit on its laurels but has also unveiled an action plan intended to promote impartiality in its output.

The broadcaster's impartiality is regularly questioned. Armed with the results of this external investigation the VRT now believes that it is better placed to offer a response to these questions. Three groups examined VRT impartiality: experts from Antwerp University that also came up with a definition of impartiality, a group of media users quizzed by the market consultants Why5 and a group of some 30 opinion formers in research supervised by the Flemish Free University of Brussels, the VUB.

Luc Van den Brande, the President of the VRT board: "The VRT is generally seen as a broadcaster that is conscious about the way it deals with impartiality. It's important that people see that the VRT consciously deals with the issue of impartiality."

The research did show that vigilance is needed when it comes to guaranteeing diversity in newsrooms. There needs to be a balance between men and women, but also a balance between people from different backgrounds. The VRT needs sufficient journalists with an ethnic background, enough people who come from the city, but also from rural areas. It also emerged from the research that "extreme “opinions should be given a voice too as long as they are placed in the right context.

VRT Head of Information, Luc Rademakers, was keen to stress that action had already been taken. The VRT has developed ten guidelines for impartiality. Online the broadcaster intends to make a clearer distinction between fact and analysis and opinion.