Steunpunt Media seminar ‘The State of the News Media in Flanders’ hosted by SMIT

On Friday October 16th, SMIT hosted the Steunpunt Media seminar ‘The State of the News Media in Flanders’. Industry and policy representatives joined in to learn about the results of two studies on news use that VUB research groups SMIT and CEMESO undertook. A panel of 4 experts, moderated by public radio host Jan Hautekiet, animated the debate about the findings. The seminar concluded with prof. dr. Stefaan Walgrave (University of Antwerp), promotor of the consortium, giving a round up of the state of news media in Flanders based on all the studies that where undertook in the 4 year term of Steunpunt Media. The Flemish Minister of Media, Sven Gatz, did the pleasure of sharing his thoughts in a closing remark. 

The seminar started with researcher Alexander Deweppe presenting a study on media literacy amongst youngsters. The research stresses the importance that parents play in getting children accustomed to media, especially as strategic and critical skills seemed very low amongst the one participating in the research. 

Next of was SMIT senior researcher prof. dr. Ike Picone presenting some core numbers on media and news use  coming from the Participation Survey, a large-scale (N=3954) survey representative for Flanders. Key findings where the increasingly complex media-repertoire especially young Flemmings are showing. As in similar international studies, television and even radio remain important information sources, although new channels and platforms position themselves along them. Most remarkable was probably that about 80% of Flemish citizens between 15 and 35 years old turned to Facebook at least monthly to get the news. 

Drawing on the combined insights of the many studies executed within Steupunt Media over the last four years, Prof. dr. Stefaan Walgrave concluded that we could not speak of a tangible dumbing down or tabloidisation of audiovisual and print journalism in Flanders. On the other side, he pointed out that Flemish journalists were more pessimistic about the news industry and the conditions in which they have to work.

After each presentation, the panel made for an lively discussion about the different insight provided by the researchers. Patrick Lacroix, director of Vlaamse Nieuwsmedia, was sure to stress the important role of legacy media in meeting journalistic quality standards, while Wouter Verschelden, publisher of Flemish pure player Newsmonkey was keen on emphasising that new audience practices require new forms of offering news. Andy Demeulenaere, coordinator of reaffirmed the importance of parents in fostering a critical but positive attitude towards media amongst youngsters. Chris Vleugels, advisor at Kinderrechtencommissariaat pointed out how policymakers and media companies are already joining forces at the European level to protect children in strongly mediated environments.

In his closing remarks, Minister of Media Sven Gatz, shared his vision on the future of policy-oriented media research in Flanders. Data collections like the Electronic News Archive and the Participation Survey are valuable tools he seeks to perpetuate in his future policy. 

Steunpunt Media is a consortium composed of the departments of Communication Sciences at Flanders’ four largest universities. The consortium is funded through the Flemish government’s ‘Steunpunt Beleidsrelevant Onderzoek’ programma, which will be terminated by the end of the year. The seminars’  presentations, as well as the research reports and policy briefs summarising the research studies, are all available on the website: De Standaard published an article covering the event.

Created by Juan Vasquez on 19/10/2015