English-language TV expands in Belgium


The aim of the English language website and the TV programme is to try to help international people to discover and enjoy all the best things Flanders has to offer.

In addition Fans of Flanders will attempt to ‘explain’ Flanders. Each day the website will offer new videos. The website and the TV programme will also give expats an opportunity to have their say. It will offer a daily blog online written by an expat.  Readers can also comment and have their say, share and respond to opinion polls. 

Before launching the project VRT made a strenuous effort to find out what kind of content international people in Flanders and Brussels would like to see. VRT’s Els Van de Sijpe led this operation:

“We thought it was very important to talk to people and find out what expectations expats had of the VRT. We spoke with people who know the international community well. Lengthy conversations were also held with a group of some 50 international people of very diverse heritages to see what they were interested in. We also tested several formats. It was clear people responded well to any attempt to give them a head start in learning Dutch. Chris Dusauchoit will present a weekly video explaining one or other Flemish expression or word. It was also very clear that people were attracted to an internet format. All the content will be available on the internet first, but can also be seen on the TV programme.”

For its news content Fans of Flanders will rely on the VRT’s existing English news website flandersnews.be.

Flandersnews was set up nearly eight years ago with a small team of journalists able to draw on the resources and expertise of the big VRT News Room. It will provide the website with news content that meets the high journalistic standards of the VRT News Room. On TV Fans of Flanders will also include a news round-up made by its journalists.

To produce Fans of Flanders the VRT is working together with Borgerhoff & Lamberigts TV and Boondoggle, the online communications agency.

Videos will predominate on the website. There will be two new videos on the website each and every day of the week. The content will cover all the fields that international people may be interested in: daily life in Flanders, but also the quirks of the Flemish. Fans of Flanders will be full of suggestions on how you can spend your leisure time, attempt to explain how Flemish society works and bridge the gap with people who may come from very different backgrounds. 

The President of the VRT, Luc Van den Brande, is one of the people who have made this project possible. He says: “Planning for the future I discovered a gap. We already do a lot of European and international news, but if we want to say who we are and what we stand for, then we also had to increase our output for the many foreigners in Flanders, this splendid community that lives here among us.”

“First we thought we would concentrate on expats, but then we decided to widen the scope. It’s an enormous group, people who are sent here by their companies, European civil servants and even students. Let them form part of our society and they will become the best ambassadors.”

“We want to provide insight about Flanders and explain who the Flemings are, but it’s also important that the Flemish know who these international people are. I hope it will open the eyes of the Flemish too.”

Mr Van den Brande, a former Flemish Prime Minister, also hopes that the project will send out a clear signal that Flanders is an open society that doesn’t erect any barriers: “Flemings may seem a bit stiff to start off with, but people should also know that openness towards others is part of our history. We sent people out to the four corners of the world. It’s in our genes. Four centuries ago there were over 50 nationalities in Antwerp. We’ve been occupied many times too. We are the result of this international community.”