24-hours after a fake television broadcast reported that the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium had declared independence, there is anger and confusion in both halves of the country. One girl said she wasn’t in favour of a national split and the broadcast was frivolous. “I don’t know anything about it”, another said. “In any case, they’re idiots.” “I think Belgium is losing its sense of humour,” was another opinion. Normal broadcasts were interrupted by a grave newsreader who told viewers that Flanders, the Flemish-speaking region of northern Belgium, had declared its independence, forcing the King to flee abroad.
The mock report included a correspondent standing outside parliament saying that politicians had voted overwhelmingly for Flanders’ independence. Inside the parliament the day after a real debate was in progress to discuss the effect of the broadcast with Prime Minister Guy Verhoefstadt attempting to defuse the furore. I would just like to give some advice, he said, and that is to all those who participated in the broadcast – think twice about doing it again. The head of television station responsible for the hoax broadcast RTBF said he just wanted to stir up debate. It looks as if he succeeded.