It was a challenge, a risky bet. In front of the indigence of the mass media, their obstinacy, always trying to make us believe that « tomorrow, growth will return », being the active relays of « our » decision-makers, it was a challenge to make a newspaper carrying subversive ideas, without advertisements, close to the people, listening to those that the dominant media leave aside, describing the alternatives and other possible, Belgian but open to the world.
But isn’t the game worth the candle? Seven issues later, we are still here. Certainly, as we could only expect, the traditional relays have feigned — or almost — our non-existence. But let’s not expect those we profile in our columns to suddenly become self-aware. Launching an adventure like Kairos is also and above all launching a lot of small subversive capsules, giving food for thought, creating
the debate, generate discussions, conflicts, make known associations and people who invest themselves. It is to hope that through knowledge and action, the isolation of individuals will give way to more numerous, indispensable collective groupings and struggles. It is therefore through these channels, through you, that the newspaper will continue to make itself known, while meeting one of its main objectives: to create a link!
The dominant media muzzles our thoughts, the only way to make other voices heard is to give us the means to do so!
A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE EVOLUTION OF THE FILES
A year of Kairos is also a year of files. If we see some modest evolutions since we have been dealing with them, we perceive in the different themes a progression of the steamroller: far from going backwards, the productivist logic of always more makes its way. And, more than ever, demonstrates that the fight must continue.
A RTBF MORE FOCUSED ON ITS PUBLIC SERVICE MISSIONS?
The first two Kairos files were about an analysis of the French-speaking public channel, highlighting its excesses, its Bel20-like operation which is progressively corroding the channel and what makes it special: that of being a public service. What has happened since the adoption of the new management contract?
In this issue, we highlight the positive progress of the management contract. The reviews will come in the next edition of your newspaper
RTBF’s management contract regulates its public service missions and its financing for the next five years. It is the result of a negotiation between RTBF and the government of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. A comparison between the new management contract and the previous one shows positive developments, both in substance and form.
For the RTBF boss, the management contract should be limited to setting objectives and leaving RTBF the choice of how to achieve them. The previous management contract was written in this spirit. With expressions such as « according to periods decided by its Board of Directors » and adverbs such as « in particular » when it came to listing its missions and obligations, the RTBF often had a free hand.
This was not insignificant because an imprecise text without quantitative obligations made it more difficult for the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel to monitor the fulfillment of these obligations. The new management contract is in many ways more precise. For example, the notions of « children » and « adolescents » are now defined, which will allow better control of the obligations related to programs that specifically target them.
On the substance, several demands from the education community and the public are embodied in new obligations. As a non-exhaustive list :
A monthly program designed to decipher and analyze the major issues of society will be created.
The management contract requires the return of a real monthly television mediation program to answer viewers’ questions and reactions.
Several initiatives will be undertaken to improve access to programs for sensory impaired audiences.
In terms of advertising, product placement (insertion of the mention of a product, service or their brand in a program) will be prohibited in entertainment programs from July 2013. In addition, the ban on interrupting films with advertising (lifted in January 2010 to partially compensate for the budgetary savings imposed on RTBF by the government) will be in place again from 2015.
The reinforcement of public service missions and the halt to the commercial excesses of recent years contribute positively to preserving the specificity of public broadcasting. But texts cannot govern everything. The state of mind of a medium depends a lot on the state of mind of its managers. Those of RTBF manage it like a private company that would sell any product. Their speeches and thoughts are guided by advertising concepts such as « market share » and « core target ».
Like B‑Post or the SNCB, which have the hybrid legal status of autonomous public companies, vigilance and pressure from users remain essential to ensure that the RTBF is not a public company when it comes to receiving its funding and autonomous when it comes to being unaccountable to the public authorities and, through them, to the citizens who finance it.
THE INVASION OF THE MEGACENTERS: THE BEAST ADVANCES…
Here and there in Belgium, we denounced in issue 3 of Kairos, the implacable logic of the deployment of mega-malls. In Brussels, Verviers, Namur, all the projects were part of an obsolete and dangerous logic: to continue as before but « better »; to make bigger, fatter, fancier… to always produce more to… consume more.
NAMUR: DOUBTS ARISE « ON THE GLASS SIDE
Mega-center drawn up in the plans of a perimeter of urban reorganization, with as a consequence the destruction of a raised square to put there… 20 000 m² and 1000 parking spaces…
Last January, the Leopold Park Preservation Collective submitted a petition with more than 12,000 signatures to the mayor. The mayor asked CityMall to review its copy in order to preserve a maximum of trees, which does not meet the request of the collective that defends the preservation of the park and its revaluation. A favourable wind reported that CityMall’s design office has so far received no request from the management (Patric Huon) for a new sketch.
The PRU (perimeter of urban regrouping) adopted by the previous communal majority (renewed in October 2012 despite the crushing defeat of ECOLO) is still awaiting validation by the Walloon Government because there is a bone: this PRU, a step prior to the introduction of the application for a single permit by CityMall, contradicts the PCA (communal plan of development) As a result, the authorities fear an appeal to the Council of State if the PRU is approved. There is legal uncertainty.
The association Namur 80 (active in urban planning and member of the collective) presented to the PS (again in opposition) a counter-project which totally preserves the Park. Namur 80 did the same with the MR alderman for commerce, ex-colonel Luc Gennart, a newcomer in politics. The latter entrusted them with 1) its fear that the current project will worsen the traffic problems in Namur 2) its dissatisfaction with the method followed by the previous majority to set up the project. Still according to Namur 80, the alderman Gennart gives a lot of consideration to the arguments of Namur 80 and the collective.
The collective will study the feasibility of a popular consultation. This challenge is greater than the 12,000 signatures collected. We need 11000 signatures on paper from Namurians aged 16 years or older with last name, first name, complete address and date of birth. The question(s) to be asked of the public must also be determined. The PS is not very keen on this idea, as it would have too much to lose in the event of failure in the 2014 elections. The PTB wants to launch the action for a popular consultation with the support of the collective. See you at the end of March …
In summary, the CityMall project is bogged down and the majority’s unanimity on this project seems to be cracking. To keep up the pressure and media attention, the collective will organize a picnic at Leopold Park on Saturday, May 18.
For more information, visit www.namurparcleopold.be
BRUSSELS: THE WAR OF THE SHOPPING CENTERS OR THE POLICY OF THE OSTRICH
In the autumn of 2012, we reported in this same newspaper on the consumerist war that has been going on for seven years in the Brussels Region and its immediate periphery, between three mega-projects for shopping centers: the Just Under the Sky project (55.The Just Under the Sky project (55,000 m²), led by Mestdagh/Equilis along the canal, the NEO project (72,000 m²) led by the City of Brussels on the Heysel plateau and the Uplace project (53,000 m²) led by Bart Verhaegen, president of FC Bruges, just across the border of the Brussels Region, in Machelen.
A race against the clock where each region, each promoter, caress the hope to be the first on the finish line. If the socio-economic and environmental absurdity of this competition is not assumed by our leaders, economic analysts are quite formal in considering that the three projects are not tenable. The latest study by Comeos (ex-Fedis) states that if the three projects are completed, their viability would be only about 20%, what a waste!
While concerns and objections are mounting on all sides against the three projects, the two regions are issuing permits in droves, or endorsing them, disregarding respect for the environment, land-use planning constraints and the survival of urban commercial centres. Permits by default, suspended, cancelled or under appeal, the public authorities do not care and rush headlong to create temples of consumption that are supposed to develop a territorial attractiveness that attracts thousands of shoppers every day in search of a new consumer experience. A beautiful mirror to the larks to read the analyses of the professionals of the real estate however usually fond of this kind of project. In November 2012, broker CBRE sounded the alarm in its annual survey, « The Belgian retail market may have reached a peak. The drop in shopping malls and out-of-town stores is particularly steep. (…) In the last 6 months, 35% of retailers have closed one or more outlets. This is the highest figure ever achieved. »
In the meantime, the Just under the Sky project now has all its permits, even if they are riddled with appeals. It is worth noting the great courage of the City of Brussels, which issued a socio-economic permit by default without taking the trouble to respond to the numerous objections of the National Socio-Economic Committee for Distribution. The same goes for the NEO shopping center project, where the City and the Region overrule the barrage of criticism from the Regional Development Commission, and appoint the prize-winners in charge of designing the integration of the behemoth on the Heysel plateau. Let’s be clear: when talking about integration, the City’s main goal is to ensure that the project is profitable in order to finance a convention center. She does not hide it. The criteria for evaluating the best candidate are clear: of the 250 points to be awarded by the jury, 100 concern the profitability of the project. We are reassured!
Claire Scohier, Inter-Environment Brussels
VERVIERS : POLITICAL, UNION AND MEDIA EXTREMISM…
At the time we met with the Vesdre-Avenir association fighting against the citymall project, a fifth version of a mega-mall over the Vesdre was on the table: a floor area of 15,500 m², 85 stores on three above-ground levels and 1,147 parking spaces on three basement levels. In all, a 250,000 m³ caisson over the river. This affair, which has been going on since 2005, has provoked a tremendous citizen reaction: the population, associations and personalities publicly oppose the project. But promoters, politicians and unions all want their mega-mall. Evolution of a struggle that says a lot about our time.
Since we treated the file « Verviers » in the columns of Kairos, the essential points are :
the withdrawal of the permit, threatened by the Council of State, by Minister Henry, then the reintroduction of the permit by granting several exemptions;
the reintroduction of an appeal to the Council of State against this new permit by local residents;
the communal elections having for result a new majority cdH-MR, and the progressive reversal of jacket of the cdH, previously opposed to the commercial center presented;
the panic of the promoter and his followers regarding the imminent opinion of the Auditor of the State Council (call for a « violent » support of his project on Télévesdre / emission contrechamps);
the intervention of the Hutois association « Les Récollets » which succeeded in thwarting the construction of a building in a park, firmly supported by the mayor Anne-Marie Lizin who wishes to bring her support to the association Vesdre-Avenir, facing this democratic drift.
While Kairos devoted a dossier to the question of unions (November/December 2012), pointing out their past deviation, their current productivist logic and the paths we thought they might take, the FGTB and CGSLB confirmed in Verviers their support for the mega-mall and warned the applicants: not to accept the City Mall is to lose a thousand jobs. Joining significantly the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Namur-Liège-Verviers and the Union of the Middle Classes, the FGTB and the CGSLB demonstrate with brilliance that organizations of defense of the workers and the employers can get along in the defense of a common cause: that of productivism. The leader of the MR Breuwer proposes a legal complaint against the applicants for « non assistance to a city in danger » (Sic). Extraordinary when these applicants are only exercising their rights!
Others will speak about Vesdre-Avenir of » dangerous association » trying to to stop the redeployment of Verviers » and to denounce « devastating action » (Muriel Targnion, PS group leader, L’avenir, 26/02/2013), or of a movement that « risks killing Verviers if it persists in its stubbornness » (Freddy Breuwer, MR leader, La Meuse, 26/02/2013).
Orwellian! In Verviers, democracy, progress, life, « redeployment »… it’s concrete, gigantic, consumption, destruction of the landscape. Those who oppose it are therefore disturbing, especially when they persist with dignity in their fight.
ELECTROMAGNETIC WAVES. FOURTH GENERATION OF RADIATION.
As soon as the dossier ‘Electromagnetic waves, a plague that pays’, published in issue 5 of Kairos, was completed, the ‘4G media affair’ appeared. The Brussels legislation was restricting companies, Brussels was not going to be able to benefit from 4G, etc… Industrial lobbying was unleashed. Suspense: what was the Minister of the Environment going to do?
Evelyne Huytebroeck praises « her » standard limiting cell phone radiation to 3v/m, described as protective of human health, a threshold that is nevertheless enormous in relation to it. Let’s be clear: enacting a standard to reduce a nuisance and then multiplying the antennas that propel it is not a public health choice, but a business choice; more people near more antennas = a worsening of the health problem. Today, the absurdity goes even further. The 4G will be deployed, she says, but we do not touch the standard of 3v/m, ‘it is concreted’ but … for 2G and 3G radiations! In addition, a new ‘pot’ is created for 4G! We exceed the norm, so… In addition to this absurd and ridiculous communication, the Ecolo party has shown once again the superiority of industrial lobbies in public health choices.
Finally, 4G is a detail in the health problem we are facing, to fight it we will have to relearn to live without these wireless devices with harmful radiation. Rhôôôlala but what is this speech? Back to the candle! Middle Ages! Caveman!
The situation is clear, however, it presents us with two options. Either we continue the current headlong rush to add more and more wireless devices, and we continue to count the casualties in a growing health disaster. This first option is extremely well underway. Either we (re)educate people to live without these machines, within a human rhythm, without social disorganization that is profitable for industrialists… and we stop the current sanitary disaster. This second option is not at all committed or on the agenda.