The media landscape and the way we consume media have changed dramatically over the past 10 to 15 years. How are the media responding to this? And how can our national media companies compete with the international players? All this and more was covered in a fascinating debate that aired on Kanaal Z TV in early May. We've curated some highlights for you.
Society is becoming increasingly digital, and this has profound implications for media consumption. Social media is more important than ever, direct viewing is declining, and our media companies have to compete with international competition to an ever increasing degree. Although media companies benefit from government backing, the key to success lies in how well companies can work together, both within the media sector and across sectors.
During the Kanaal Z debate on the media, Benjamin Dalle, Flemish Minister of Media, appealed in a video message to our media companies to increase their collaboration: “They can develop sizeable and meaningful projects, especially in the area of innovative technology, if they work together.” Dalle also sees interesting crossovers between media and the gaming world, for example: “That's where our media companies are very strong, and I think this puts them one step ahead of the competition.”
The Flemish government has invested more than €30 million to help enable the digital transformation, Dalle continues: “with the main objective being to make ourselves more competitive vis-à-vis other countries and preferably take the lead ourselves. Not just now, but also in five and ten years time.” Eighteen projects were supported under the "Flemish Resilience’ recovery plan, at a cost of more than €12 million. Collaborative projects can benefit from this support, in particular.
One of the projects sponsored is "Re:plus", a collaboration between Textgain, Mediahuis, Tree company, Wieni and the Free University of Brussels (VUB). They are working on an AI-driven tool that helps media users share their opinions through online debate, discover other people's opinions and form their own views, "all in a healthy and civilised way," says Guy De Pauw, CEO at Textgain. In another project, "First Aid for Doubt", Textgain is working together with VRT, Roularta, VUB and KU Leuven.
Both projects involve a consortium including the academic and media communities to leverage everyone's expertise and achieve better results faster. There are no specific applications as yet. “However, these kinds of projects are being closely monitored by other countries, where they have made nowhere near as much progress," says Kristin Van Damme, a researcher at imec and Ugent, knowingly.
The message that collaboration pays off is already evident in the media sector. This can definitely help speed up results if it solves problems that everyone shares, says Stijn Lehaen, general director of technology and infrastructure at VRT: “We are working with Roularta and others on a tool that handles content in different ways so that it automatically extracts both an audio file and a short and long text for the same story, for example. Although this will still need to be completed manually, it can also save a lot of time this way.”
Stijn also points to Podgrond, the joint podcast platform for Flanders: “We want to make sure that our Flemish podcasts, which are exceptionally good, are not enjoyed exclusively on international platforms, because then only the latter will benefit. We are currently considering he feasibility of our own platform, shared by the main Flemish media.”
In any case, competing with international media and content companies is a real ambition, concludes Jonathan Van de Velde, Program and Communications Director at Medianet Flanders: “A large number of Flemish companies enjoy enormous international attention, both in the field of media content and media technology. With the right alliances, we can gain considerable significance internationally.”
Want to read more about the fascinating debate that aired on Kanaal Z in early May? Download our pdf, which also covers the impact of deepfake, ChatGPT and Tiktok, among other things. You can find the broadcast (in Dutch with English subtitles) from Kanaal Z here as well: