Metro cans French music after complaints
Brussels may be a largely French speaking city but the operator of its metro service has ruled out playing French music at its stations after an experiment drew complaints from Dutch-speaking Belgians. The metro operator decided in 2005 to pipe mostly pop hits at the 69 metro stops, but felt then French or Dutch songs might irritate rival communities in the linguistically divided country.
A new experiment has confirmed its view. “We decided to try playing songs from an international hit list. This meant a number of French songs and practically none in Dutch and this drew complaints from Dutchspeakers,” said metro spokeswoman An Van Hamme. The stations have since resumed a playlist of hits with 70 percent in English, 15 percent in Italian and 15 percent in Spanish. The metro operator said 85 percent of customers said they were satisfied with that mix. Language is a touchy issue in Belgium.
Dutch speakers complain that francophones make little or no effort to learn Dutch and Dutchspeaking communities around Brussels fight what they see as the spread of French from the capital, which is officially bilingual. Rival French- and Dutch-speaking political parties have failed to form a government since last June’s parliamentary election, with the Dutch-speaking community pushing for more powers for its richer region of Flanders. A sizeable minority of Flemish people voted for parties that want the country to split.