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Thursday, 29 April 2010

Map of Belgium redrawn by French TV

Hands up those of you who can pinpoint Belgium on a map of Europe...without cheating.

All right there might be excuses for those far away who aren't too au fait with the geography of the "Old Continent".

And maybe Brits should be let off to as many there view the country as "small, boring and flat", with the only reference made to it a negative one as Brussels, the capital and "home" to the European Union often portrayed and perceived as attempting to take over all aspects of daily life.

But how about neighbours France? The French should be able to understand the place after all they share a common language with a certain number of folk living there.

But earlier this week one prime time news broadcast got things very wrong.

Belgium is in the news at the moment after the fall of yet another government. An election has been called for June.

It's a country of almost 11 million with a Dutch-speaking majority and a French-speaking minority separated into Flanders and Wallonia respectively.

There's also another, much smaller, German-speaking minority.

The differences between the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking communities have often been at the heart of the political divide in Belgium, and it was in attempting to shed some light on the ins and out during Monday's prime time news that France's main private TV station TF1, treated its viewers - and those able to watch across the border - to a rather distorted map of its smaller neighbour.

In what was surely a faux pas of monumentally embarrassing proportions, the channel showed a map of Belgium with the regions clearly marked.

Except where Flanders should have been there was the name of Wallonia and vice versa of course.


A solution to the problem of the bilingual capital Brussels perhaps as far as French-speakers would be concerned.

The city is actually surrounded by Dutch-speaking suburbs (you really do need to know your geography to understand completely) but TF1's map appeared to resolve that issue neatly by plonking it in Wallonia (are you following?).

It was of course all a mistake, and one anchor Harry Roselmack put right the following evening.

"Turning to Belgium, and first of all apologies to our viewers there who tune in every evening," he began.

"Last night we showed a map of Belgium in which Wallonia was where Flanders should have been and vice versa," he continued.

"It was a serious mistake, which we've corrected this evening," he motioned to his left, before once again launching into another report on the problems the country is facing with the split between the two communities, a general election planned in June and Belgium due to take over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union at the beginning of July.

So there you have it. A geography lesson, French style, if you will.

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