The Belgium Media Industry in the Context of Multilingualism Language, Community and Cultural Identity
by Yihan Huang, Ke Yan and Tongying Wei
“If you turn on the TV at 7:00 in the evening, you will receive evening news in Dutch. Half an hour later, at 7:30 p.m., there is another evening news program broadcast in French. What’s more – the two versions are almost different, as if you are living in two countries. This is how Belgium works.”
Quoting the presentation given by Alexander Homann, the director of the Representation of the German-speaking Community in Brussels, it seems astonishing (to some extent unimaginable) for us to conceive a country like this. Straddling the boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe, Belgium is deemed as the real ethnic melting pot and the crossroads of Europe. Actually, there are three rather than two official languages in Belgium: Dutch, French and German. As the data shows, the Flemish make up about 58 percent of the population and speak a form of Dutch, while 41 percent are French-speakers. Approximately, only a small amount of people mainly distributed in the Walloon Region, which accounted comprise about 1 percent of the population, speak German.
Then here come the questions. How does Belgium avoid ethnic and regional conflicts to achieve relative harmony among all the groups? What is the media industry like under such a multilingual environment? How does the German-speaking community represent their culture and values as well as avoid being assimilated into the majority groups? What kind of institutions help proceed this process and what kind of role do these institutions, such as minority language media, play in the whole Belgian society?