In Belgium, the Communities are competent for the technical aspects and the contents of the audiovisual media services. However, in the bilingual Brussels-Capital Region, some activities of the media sector cannot be exclusively linked to one of the two Communities (the Flemish Community and the French Community): in that case, the Federal State is competent for these activities.
In this context, BIPT, as a federal institution, acts as the regulator in the sector of audiovisual media services on the territory of the bilingual Brussels-Capital Region.
Market players and role of BIPT
An audiovisual medial service consists in the provision of programmes by electronic communications networks. The aim is to inform, entertain and educate the public or to ensure a commercial audiovisual communication. This mainly refers to television shows, commercial communications and on-demand audiovisual contents.
The activities in the media sector are mainly performed by three categories of actors: providers, distributors and operators. Very often, a market player combines several of these roles.
Providers – Edition, editorial responsibility and contents organisation
Providers of media services bear the editorial responsibility of choosing and organising the content. That is the case for example with television broadcasting companies. The content they provide is subject to strict conditions (for example, the protection of minors, sponsorship, product placement, etc.). Therefore, providers of media services are subject to obligations such as the declaration of activities, the respect of the rules regarding content, etc.
BIPT is competent for the regulation of these providers if they are established in the Brussels-Capital Region and if the provided contents are not exclusively in Dutch or in French.
Distributors – Distribution to the public
Distributors provide the public with one or several audiovisual media services through various technical means. They are subject to certain obligations, such as a prior declaration of their activities or the “must carry” (compulsory distribution of certain services).
If the distributed content is not exclusively in Dutch or in French and if their subscribers are, entirely or partially, in the bilingual Brussels-Capital Region, the activities of distributors are regulated by BIPT.
Operators – Electronic communications services and network
The provided and distributed contents are routed by one (or several) operator(s) via a network and electronic communications services.
If the network in question covers all or part of the territory of the bilingual Brussels-Capital Region and if the activities of the responsible operator are not exclusively linked to the French Community or Flemish Community, it is regulated by BIPT. Like providers and distributors, operators have to fulfil a series of obligations.
As operators of analogue radio networks, the VRT and the RTBF are exclusively linked to their respective communities and, therefore, do not fall within the scope of BIPT.