Photo of the week: VRT protests against budget cuts

Summary

Flanders’ public broadcaster brought 1,200 people into the streets to protest against a total €40 million less in its budget over the next five years

‘Strangled’ by cuts

Staff of VRT are being “strangled” by the government’s budget cuts, according to protesters yesterday, who marched from the public broadcaster’s building in Schaarbeek to the offices of the Flemish minister-president on Martelaarsplein.

About 600 people started out from the VRT building in the afternoon and were joined in Martelaarsplein by about 600 more sympathisers. Many were from the cultural sector, which has also been protesting budget cuts announced by minister-president Jan Jambon, also responsible for culture.

Other groups present were Hart boven Hard, 11.11.11 and eco-organisation Velt. Many people had yellow masks painted on their faces, a symbol of the recent slate of cuts announced by the new government of Flanders.

The government announced in October that VRT must cut €12 million from its budget over the next five years. But “because of the subsidies no longer being indexed and the extra costs now involved in seniority benefits and pension funds, the total loss to us is more than €40 million,” explained the public broadcaster in a statement.

‘VRT stands for quality’

The news is in line with similar revelations in the culture and care sectors, which also led to numerous protests over the last several weeks.

“The cuts began in 2007,” said VRT spokesperson Bob Vermeir. “Over the last 12 years, we have let 600 people go. Year after year, we have undergone massive changes. Now we have reached our limit. We hope that the government and the parliament will be able to see that.”

Along with regional, national and international news, VRT produces talk shows, game shows, original series and conducts in-depth investigations, most notably with the programme Pano. “We’re proud of the VRT, and we want to stay proud of it,” said Marleen Merckx, an actor on the nightly serial Thuis. “VRT stands for quality. But if we constantly receive less, we won’t be able to deliver that level of quality.”

Media minister Benjamin Dalle met with representatives from VRT following the protest.

Photo ©Dirk Waem