Belgium's VRT trims '07 budget

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BRUSSELS -- Belgian state TV and radio broadcaster VRT has announced plans to slash €18 million ($23.8 million) from its annual budget, or 4% of the total, in the coming year.

Company CEO Piet Van Roe said the cuts will be tough at a time when the broadcaster has to invest in new digital technologies. "The economy measures will be spread evenly over the staff budget, the operational budget and the investments," he said, adding that 200 jobs will be cut.

Television channel Een has been told to cut 7%, while its high-brow counterpart Canvas and children's channel Ketnet each must save 6%. News and information, on the other hand, will get more financial backing. In practice, the cost cuts will likely result in more repeats.

At a staff meeting, VRT CEO Piet Van Roe explained that he was convinced that the company's viewers and listeners would barely notice the measures. He also insisted that VRT will maintain its plans for expansion into digital broadcasting -- adding eight digital channels to its rostrum -- and said the cross cooperation between radio, television and new media will save money in the long term.

VRT broadcasts in Dutch and is subsidized by the Flemish northern half of the federal Belgian state. Earlier this year, VRT and the Flemish government settled a new management agreement for 2007-2011, which will see its annual aid rise from €286 million ($377.4 million) in 2006 to €293 million ($385 million) by 2011.

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