Belgian television investigative programme exposes social injustice with humour


A Belgian television programme won third prize last September at the Eurovision Creative Forum in Berlin. The forum is an annual event organised by the European Broadcasting Union to award “the most contemporary and innovative programme formats across all genres in public service broadcasting (PBS).”

The Belgian programme Basta! was aired on the public television channel Één for only two months - from January to February 2011 - and was an immediate success. Mixing humorous segments and news items, it used a light tone to inform the audience about public fraud in Belgium.

The title Basta!, which means Enough! in Italian, hints at the goal of the programme: to express discontent against the scams that citizens are exposed to on a daily basis.

The second episode of the programme dealt for example with a television game show which promised monetary prizes that no one ever seemed to win.

Another scam revealed by Basta! exposed financial institutions which borrow millions of euros of taxpayers’ money and fail to ever pay them back.

The programme producers placed the perpetrators in a awkward position by not only publicly broadcasting the information about the frauds, but also by conducting the investigations themselves and finding proof of the scams.

Prank on a Belgian call centre

The edge of investigative journalism

The level and depth of the investigations are some of the elements which set Basta! apart in the Belgian broadcasting landscape and made it a high-quality programme. It took the producers several months to prove that a specific television game show was cheating viewers, but when they finally managed to do it, there was no room for denial as the scam had been exposed on air. The case provoked such a scandal that all remaining broadcasts of the game show were suspended.

The game show proposed a prize that seemed extremely easy to win. Viewers were merely asked to make a phone call and solve a simple mathematical calculation. Basta!‘s investigative team repeatedly phoned the game show and tried to win the prize. It even hired a group of mathematicians to solve the calculation, which turned out to be far from simple.

Then a member of the team was sent undercover to investigate on the show from inside. He auditioned and successfully became the host of the game show for six months. In the meantime, the rest of the team worked with the group of mathematicians to find out why no one had ever won the prize. 

Basta! wins fake lottery

Basta!‘s success can be attributed to its entertaining aspect. The programme deals with serious subjects but treats them with humour thanks to a group of professional actors from the Neveneffecten cabaret quartet

It can be compared to a modern day version of the Robin Hood myth, where the weak are defended from the villains.

Basta! shows that effective investigative journalism and entertainment can go hand in hand and that social injustice can be fought with humour.