Register now and join PBI 2021
to make a choice for Democracy


Location: Brussels, Belgium
29-30 SEPTEMBER & 1 OCTOBER 2021
Register by: September 1, 2021
Working language: English.

Register now

Programme overview

The PBI Brussels Conference takes place at the Square Brussels Convention Centre. The hours mentioned below can change slightly.

Wednesday, September 29 at 6:30 PM
(on prior registration only)
Welcome cocktail at the Brussels City Hall.
Thursday, September 30 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
(on prior registration only)
PBI Brussels 2021 Conference in the Hall 400 of the Square Brussels Convention Centre.

Session 1: PSM as a cornerstone of Democracy and the Rule of Law
Fake News, populism and disinformation are a threat to our core activities: news and information. How are these core activities embedded in international and human rights. We hear testimonials from Brazil and look into the symbiosis of Donald Trump and Media: populism in (e)motion. What is fake news doing to our minds and can we counter this? Making better choices from the start is essential.

Session 2: Empowering society
An organisation with members in over 100 countries is inclusive and diverse by definition. We cooperate, initiate innovations and are part of a growing creative eco-system. We spread knowledge and empower our users to make informed societal decisions. If news and information are our core activities, the safety of journalists is of primordial concern. The conference will make an international call for the protection of journalists: ‘The Declaration of Brussels’.

Session 3: Coping with economic pressure
Economic uncertainty caused by new and disruptive platforms lures our audiences away. We need to collaborate and diversify to create reliable and sustainable financing for Public Service Media.

Friday, October 1 from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
(on prior registration only)
PBI Brussels 2021 Conference in the Hall 400 of the Square Brussels Convention Centre.

Session 4: Innovation
In order to reach everyone, we use innovative technologies that have value outside our organisations. We reduce early risk investments for innovative technologies and showcase inspiring international collaborations in innovation.

Session 5: Data as key public service asset
To better understand our audiences we collect, process and analyse data. We explain the real dangers and narrowing effects of social media, AI and algorithms. We must strengthen the confidence of our audience through our precautions working with data and privacy. We offer help to broaden the vision of the world of our audiences.

Special: Climate as an innovation driver.

Session 6: Keeping in touch with audiences
How can we lead our audiences that seem to disperse over many new platforms, back to the original? We show ‘masters of new media’. Through diversification, we can better aim our content. With talent, we guide users to our news sites. With influencers, we create interest in our services, programs and products. With games, we reconnect with youth.

Friday, October 1 at 5:00 PM
(on prior registration only)
Social Event: a Visit to the Magritte Museum, followed by a reception to end the event. Limited attendance for a select group of participants of the conference.

VRT and RTBF host PBI Virtual CEO meeting

Read the account of the event here

David Jordan, PBI Secretary-General

Public Broadcasters International (PBI) held its first annual conference in 1991 to enable public broadcasters around the world to exchange the latest information on the common challenges facing our industry. This unique opportunity for executives and professionals of the public broadcasters to gather has continued for three decades. VRT and RTBF will be hosting the PBI in 2021 for the second time, after the historic second conference in 1992. (It was the first PBI in Europe, then.) The landscape of public broadcasting is changing rapidly. You will find the conference full of fresh approaches to decision-making and many of your counterparts from other countries will become your lifelong friends.

Frederik Delaplace, CEO VRT

"We are living in times of polarisation, fragmentation and this happens while the use of media is going through revolutionary changes. In these challenging circumstances public broadcaster should more than ever make the difference with their ability to connect people, to bring them together. Hosting an event that brings public broadcasters from all over the world to Brussels gives VRT and RTBF an exceptional opportunity. At the PBI congress we can share our knowhow and learn form the best practices from our colleagues concerning technology, innovation and the power to bring people together."

Jean-Paul Philippot, CEO RTBF

"Today, the challenges for public service media are as much technological as editorial. Keeping up with fragmented expectations, pushing the limits of creativity and innovation, being visible and recognized in the digital environment: technology has become the necessary bridge between our quality content and our audiences. PBI Brussels 2021 offers a unique opportunity to share views on how best to enhance our distinctiveness in the connected society."

“A choice for Democracy”


The 2021 PBI Conference, hosted by the Belgian public broadcasters VRT and RTBF, will highlight the distinctiveness of PSM (public service media) in the re-shaped media landscape, and foster its unique ability to create inclusive, local content as well as its fundamental importance for democracy.

2020 with Covid-19 gave PSM a boost both in audience numbers and reliability and quality of news and information. VRT and RTBF organizations want to build on the topics that were discussed during the online CEO-meeting of 24th November 2020: PSM as a cornerstone of Democracy and the Rule of Law, Empowering society, Coping with economic pressure. These pillars of the conference will be viewed from different fields and perspectives of our evolving society, such as Innovation, Data as key public service asset and of course, Keeping in touch with audiences.

The challenge will be to strike the right balance between the contribution of high-level officials (for instance from EU institutions) and more disruptive, challenging insights (from young people, artists, independent producers).


These topics should help trigger open debates on PSM-common challenges:
PSM as a cornerstone of Democracy and the Rule of Law
Empowering society
Coping with economic pressure
Data as key public service asset
Keeping in touch with audiences

The common understanding of these challenges can pave the way for new synergies within PBI in the fields of content, distribution and innovation (e.g. Sandbox), enhancing PSM capacity to be a pillar of democracy and “make the choice for democracy”.

Acting individually may no longer be the right way to deliver added value. PBI2021 could issue a challenge to its attendees: significantly increase the number of co-operations involving three or more PBI-members.

About PBI

What is Public Broadcasters International (PBI)?

Since 1990, public service broadcasting executives from around the world have met annually to share experiences and ideas about how best to deal with challenges that are unique to public service broadcasting.

Public Broadcasters International (PBI) was created on the initiative of TV Ontario and NHK, and was soon joined by many others including PBS, CBC, BBC, KBS, SVT, DR, NRK, SABC, RTÉ and France Télévisions.

Since then, more than 80 public service broadcasters – representing all continents – have become members. The annual PBI conference usually takes place in autumn and is hosted by a member broadcaster representing the different continents in rotating order. Public service broadcasters from America, Africa, Asia and Europe have subsequently hosted conferences.

Membership not only supports public service broadcasting worldwide but also entitles the member to attend the PBI Conference and guarantees access to information gathered by PBI (e.g. broadcaster profiles). It is open to broadcasters offering programming and news for all audiences and which are required, by law or charter, to serve the general public interest. PBI is a not-for-profit organisation. Membership fees help to fund each annual conference, and vary in size depending on the size of the broadcaster. Associate membership is also available.

Who takes part?

Senior executives from most of the important public service media groups and union representatives (ABU, EBU, PMA, SABA) meet during the three-day conference. The event facilitates high-level and wide-ranging debate and the development of a global network of public service broadcasting leaders.

Previous PBI conferences were hosted by public service broadcasters in the following cities

  • 2019 Helsinki (Finland) YLE
  • 2018 Seoul (South Korea) KBS
  • 2017 Sinaia (Romania) Radio Romania
  • 2016 Montreal (Canada) CBC/Radio-Canada
  • 2015 Munich (Germany) ARD/BR
  • 2014 Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) EBC
  • 2013 Washington (US) PBS
  • 2012 London (UK) BBC
  • 2011 Singapore MediaCorp
  • 2010 Sintra (Portugal) RTP
  • 2009 Kyoto (Japan) NHK
  • 2008 Arles (France) France Télévisions
  • 2007 Seoul (South Korea) KBS
  • 2006 Maputo (Mozambique) RM, TVM
  • 2005 Oslo (Norway) NRK
  • 2004 Macao (China) TDM
  • 2003 Krakow (Poland) Polish TV
  • 2002 Hong Kong (China) RTHK
  • 2001 Toronto (Canada) TVOntario, CBC
  • 2000 Cape Town (South Africa) SABC
  • 1999 Belfast (UK) BBC
  • 1998 Biarritz (France) France Télévisions
  • 1997 Washington DC (USA) PBS
  • 1996 Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) RTM
  • 1995 Prague (Czech Republic) CTV
  • 1994 Stockholm (Sweden) SVT
  • 1992 Brussels (Belgium) BRTN
  • 1991 Toronto (Canada) TV Ontario in association with NHK