How the Belgian media celebrated Christmas with 11 million people

01/08/2021

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Background information

In this first egtabite of the new year, we look back at the recent festive season and spotlight how the Belgian media united on Christmas Eve for a unique live programme, bringing together the country’s entire population.

The live show “Christmas with 11 million” was broadcast on 24 December between 6 and 7 pm on the country’s five largest channels to bring a warm message of hope, light, and connectedness.

Belgium. Uniquely phenomenal.

The program was part of “Belgium. Uniquely phenomenal”, a multi-annual campaign by the federal government to boost the country’s image, both domestically and across national borders in a humorous and modest way.

The promotional campaign started with an informative poster campaign. A website in four languages shows 99 good reasons to love Belgium and (re)discover what the country has to offer in terms of art, gastronomy, tourism, sport, culture, or simply ‘the good life’. The website and the campaign also highlight the Belgian qualities that can attract foreign investors. In addition to this, there is also the Federal Truck, a truck that travels around the country bringing federal information campaigns as close to Belgium’s citizens as possible.

The organisation of the live broadcast itself and coordination between the media groups was in the hands of Alice Events, an independent agency which organises institutional events and TV productions.

A chain of light

RTL-TVI and La Une on the French-speaking side and VTM, Eén and Vier on the Dutch-speaking side, joined forces for the occasion. The positive and heart-warming broadcast featured Belgian artists’ performances at enchanting locations, aerial images of a beautifully illuminated Belgium, short testimonials, a national commemoration moment for all corona victims, and a contribution from the Royal Family. The yearly Christmas speech of His Majesty King Filip was directly linked to the broadcast.

The common thread running through “Christmas with 11 million” was light. Across all ages, social classes, beliefs, and points of view, light is the pre-eminent symbol to express solidarity and hope in this dark period and this eventful year. Many fellow countrymen had already put up signs of light in their windows or their gardens in the weeks preceding Christmas.

The idea was to figuratively make a chain of light from all those points of light on Christmas Eve. The program called for lighting a candle for the people, viewers wanted to thank or remember, or for those who deserved extra attention in their eyes.

Results

The program achieved good viewing figures, especially in Flanders. On the public channel Eén, 774,438 people watched, which represents a market share of 45.1 per cent.

Including deferred figures up until 1 January 2021, 374,745 people viewed the special on VTM. Vier reported 75,000 viewers and RTBF registered 224,537 viewers on the evening itself. RTL-TVI did not disclose any figures as of yet.

“We were delighted by the success of the show and the great collaboration among the various channels. The vast number of viewers is clear proof that TV is the medium par excellence to unite an entire country around a single cause. The heartfelt messages of hope and the feeling of connectedness were much welcomed in these trying times. It was a wonderful initiative which we would be happy to repeat,” says Valérie Van Dyck, producer news & projects News City at DPG Media.