Belgium's French-speaking broadcaster RTBF, Radio télévision belge de la communauté française, responsible for selecting the Belgian entry for Eurovision Song Contest 2007, last night announced that Flanders had unilaterally declared independence. The news report caused commotion in Belgium. It was a joke!
Yesterday it wasn't April 1stbutBelgium's French-speaking broadcaster RTBF, Radio télévision belge de la communauté française, decided to interrupted its regular programming to air a fake news report in which it was claimed that Dutch-speaking Flanders haddeclared independence, effectively dissolving the Belgian state.
The news report caused a commotion in French-speaking Belgium. RTBF's website crashed briefly as alarmed viewers sought more information. Thousands of people in panic, national and international press contacted RTBF and Belgian authorities. At the insistence of Fadila Laanan, Minister for Audiovisual Affairs for the French-speaking community, the words 'this is fiction' appeared on screen half an hour into the broadcast.
"Our intention was to show Belgian viewers the intensity of the issue of the future of Belgium and the real possibility of Belgium no longer being a country in a few months" Yves Thiran, head of news at RTBF, told the BBC. Meanwhile, ministers of both the Flemish and Walloon government have expressed their aversion to what they call a 'revolting joke'.
Because Belgium is a nation where both Dutch and French are spoken, the French-speaking, RTBF and Dutch-speaking ,VRT television stations take turns to choose their Eurovision Song Contestentry each year. In 2006, Flemish VRT decided the Belgian song. In 2007 it will be Walloon broadcaster, RTBF, selecting the Belgian entry.