December 13, 2006

Reports of the death of Belgium are somewhat exaggerated

Regular readers of these pages will know that I have more than a passing interest in the constitutional affairs of this country, with all its remarkable, painstaking, face-saving compromises, its linguistic oddities and its irresistible "what-ifs"...

But today the public television service of the French-speaking community, the RTBF, caused quite a stir by airing a fake news broadcast announcing that Flanders had unilaterally declared its independence, heralding the end of the country as we know it.

The idea was to stimulate debate, and produce an exciting "what-if" style documentary to breathe life into what otherwise can end up as a rather static studio-based discussion with the same politicians saying the same old things. The sort of drama-doc the BBC likes to produce, you know - what if we run out of fuel in the middle of a cold-snap, that kind of thing.

The thing is, in true HG Wells War of the Worlds style, lots of Belgians thought it was for real, and brought the telephone switchboards of the RTBF to its knees with alarmed phone-calls.

And even worse, I missed it. And it's just the sort of programme I'd have loved to have seen. I don't suppose anybody taped it?


Posted by Eurodan at December 13, 2006 10:38 PM

Alas (if unsurprisingly) not. Hats off to the audacious broadcaster; nil points to the over-literal listeners who took the report at face value. Do people always believe what they read?

(Having written which, I had no choice but to go and see whether your own report was true ;) The BBC haven't noticed, and Google hasn't yet spidered anything relevant, but the RTBF website seems to back up your claims even to my scant French...)

Posted by: matt at December 13, 2006 11:38 PM
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