Language Policy

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 199–216 | Cite as

Civilization versus commerce: on the sociolinguistic effects of the deregulation of the TV market on Flemish public service broadcasting

  • Sarah Van Hoof
Original Paper


In the globalized economy, old metadiscursive regimes have been challenged by new conditions which are often considered to be more favourable to heteroglossic practices. In Flemish Belgium, the liberalization of the TV market is said to have transformed the broadcaster VRT from a public service aiming at educating viewers into a competitive corporation eager to commodify nonstandard language use to attract viewers. The broadcast media, traditionally a stronghold of the standard language, thus appear to have become a key site for the valorization of traditional vernaculars and hybrid linguistic practices drawing on both standard and vernacular speech forms. This paper confronts these impressions with empirical data and investigates the sociolinguistic impact of the deregulation of the Flemish TV market in detail. It does so by analyzing the discourses produced by the VRT’s policy makers and the actual linguistic practices on the VRT during the monopolist and the commercial era. It points out how during the monopolist era the genre of comedy already provided a discursive space where the VRT’s standard language policy could be subverted, and shows how a market discourse may have colonized the VRT’s current language policy, but has left its original standardization ambitions by and large intact. The VRT is shown to nowadays commodify both standard and nonstandard speech forms, but in ways that do not fundamentally challenge the traditional order of high (standard) and low (nonstandard) speech styles. New corporate logics can thus be seen to reproduce rather than drastically alter linguistic hierarchies traditionally attributed to state actors.


Public service television Flanders Commodification Deregulation Language ideology Language regimentation 



I would like to thank Alfonso Del Percio, Jürgen Jaspers and the participants of the panel ‘The commodification of languages and speakers in Late Capitalism’ for their valuable feedback on earlier versions of this material. Thanks are also due to Wim Vandenbussche and two anonymous referees for their helpful comments. Any mistakes are of course my own.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ghent University, Department of Translation, Interpreting and CommunicationGhentBelgium

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