Bye Bye Belgium

For months, "BBB" was the codename for one of the greatest fake news broadcasts in European history: "Bye Bye, Belgium."

On the evening of December 13, 2006, the broadcasting station of the German-speaking part of Belgium, the RTBF, interrupted a program with a special news bulletin about the sudden secession of the Flemish Parliament to create an independent state. After half an hour, when the word had spread as far as the United States, the RTBF announced that "ceci est un fiction." "Bye Bye, Belgium" is one of the finest examples of a reality constructed via television.

The program stirred the debate about state reformations in light of the upcoming Belgian elections. The broadcast was overloaded with items that gave the impression of immediacy and urgency. “We are already live,” the presenter announced, and within minutes of the start of the news special, his phone rang confirming that "very important things are taking place."

Belgian politicians, along with domestic, European, and international press, reacted to the broadcast with mixed feelings. Although many people were able to appreciate the joke, others found it more difficult to accept. The news broadcast opened up the trustworthiness of a medium like television to discussion.

Could we really speak of television and of radio and the press, as a window to reality?

How to cite this page

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Suzanne Lommers, 'Bye Bye Belgium', Inventing Europe, http://www.inventingeurope.eu/media/bye-bye-belgium

Sources

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  1. Van Eeden, Mitchel. “Media Power: Onderzoek naar het effect van de fake RTBF nieuwsuitzending over de vermeende splitsing van Belgie.” Graduation thesis, Utrecht University, 2009.

About this tour

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Split signals: creating trust at a distance

How have we come to trust the sounds and pictures that come from across borders? The speed of electronic communication seems to put us "live" in the moment, while the realistic reproduction of sounds and images seem to show "what really happened." Especially as we look at the history of cross-border communication in Europe, it becomes clear that such live media have not always been trusted, or trustworthy.

What's like this?

Television news



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