On Friday, after getting to know the extent of the efforts required by the new Flemish government by an internal communication to its employees, the VRT’s direction did not hide its shock. “We are very surprised by what we have read about the savings that the VRT is imposed, and to understand that their concern is within the VRT, and that the media sector is great,” writes the managing director of the Flemish radio and television public service, Paul Lembrechts. “According to the budgetary figures, go to 2.4 million in 2020 and each year up to 12 million euro bid for the 2024 games. But there is more: due to the non-indexation of its contribution, and the costs of population aging, runs the total savings to over $ 40 million in 2024,” added the VRT’s managing director.
The major consequence of the new economy would be the cut of job positions. The socialist union CGSP talks about 250 jobs at risk. “It is also an assault on the autonomy of the VRT. Some want to make it become a state media!”, denounced Wies Descheemaeker (CGSP), calling for an immediate meeting with the Flemish Minister-President, Jan Jambon (N-VA).
Meanwhile, Paul Lembrechts met the new Flemish Minister of Media, the CD & V Benjamin Dalle. “Our first priority now is the budget up to 2020, but the decline in saving is soon to be felt. In order to catch it, and the way we function on this level, we have a plan”, he writes.
This means, according to VRT spokesperson Bob Vermeir, that staff and supply will not be cut off next year. The 2016 economy plan is still running, including natural departures. “Temporarily, we can absorb the new economies,” he said. For the future, the VRT leadership calls for a dialogue with the Flemish government.
“After twelve years of savings, we are already an efficient public operator and we want to stay that way in order to strengthen Flanders,” says Bob Vermeir. The sluggishness that prevailed Friday in the corridors of the VRT, the announcement of these figures, goes well beyond the Boulevard Reyers, he observes. It also affects the creative sector, which indirectly benefits from the means of the VRT.
Minister Dalle, meanwhile, has not confirmed the figure of 40 million, which according to him is the result of a calculation internal to VRT. It refers to the upcoming budget arrangements and the preparation of the new management contract and promises a dialogue on how the efforts will be made. “It is clear that an efficiency exercise will also affect VRT, but we will prioritize non-replacements for retirements”.
In the opposition, sp.aa denounced a covert intention of the government, since 2014 already, to reduce VRT to a role of the small operator that would no longer be relevant in the audiovisual landscape, at the expense of listeners, viewers and internet users.