VRT “an inconsequential factor” for British politicians

The British Prime Minister Theresa May doesn’t want to make time to give an interview to VRT television news. Our colleague Ivan Ollevier who follows the UK for VRT News can understand why.

Recently foreign correspondent Steven De Foer complained in an article in the daily ‘De Standaard’ that increasingly British politicians refuse to give interviews to foreign (read European) journalists.

However, British contempt for is not a recent phenomenon and it can’t be blamed on Brexit. Moreover it is not just limited to members of the UK government.

I remember a conversation about 10 years ago in Whitehall, the area of London that houses the various ministries. I directed a question at the spokesperson of someone who at that time was a prominent Labour Minister.

“Do you have a moment for Belgian television?”

“What???” The spokesperson, a very tall man, looked disparagingly at me for a few seconds.

“And who would you be?”

“Ivan Ollevier, from Belgian television. Can I ask the Minister a couple of questions?”

“Who? Belgian television???” For a second I thought that he would burst out laughing, but he was able to control himself.
“Forget it.”

Before I could say anything back he had turned and run up the stairs. At the top he shouted down.

“And you know why? You’re no vote television.”

An inconsequential factor

The UK is becoming more inward-looking. The handful of British politicians with whom I had reasonable relations now ignore my calls.

Or they agree to an interview only to cancel afterwards, preferably just a few minutes before they were due to be interviewed. “The BBC wants to speak to me is the (understandable excuse). Or they just don’t turn up."

For British politicians, the VRT is an inconsequential factor. The VRT is a small broadcaster from a small country and they have never heard of us in the UK.