It is still working! 68 years after the original radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” by Orson Welles. Listen to the original here: RTBF, a Belgian public television station repeated the exercise. This time without aliens invading planet earth but with the political destruction of Belgium. In the version of (french-speaking) RTBF, Flanders, the dutch speaking region declared unilaterally its independence. According to newspaper reports 89% of the viewers believed the hoax which is of course the result of two years of preparation. Even international media (BBC, The Independent, Spiegel) reported about this rather special TV event.
Obviously, Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt was not amused and was quoted with this statement:
In the current context, it’s irresponsible for a public television channel to announce the end of Belgium as a reality presented by genuine journalists.
But the truth is that Belgium has a huge unresolved problem regarding its federal structure and the two biggest language communities. Vlaams Belang, a nationalist/conservative/xenophob party (Slogan in the last election campaign: “Secure, Flemish, Liveable”) has been very successful in the last years promoting Flemish independence and managed to double its seats in local municipalities from 439 to 800 in the 2006 elections being now one of the biggest parties in Belgium.
But thanks to the ‘cordon sanitaire’ of the other parties a public discourse about this issue is still a taboo. Maybe the brave journalists really get a public debate started that helps to reunite the French and the Dutch communities….well, wishful thinking I suppose.