On 1 October, one week before the local elections in Belgium, an organization called 0110 is organizing pop concerts in Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Charleroi. Officially the concerts are pro-tolerance, but in reality they are directed against the anti-immigration and Flemish-secessionist Vlaams Belang (VB, Flemish Interest) party.
Last year Tom Barman, the concerts' organizer and the lead singer of the Belgian pop group dEUS, announced in an interview in the Flemish weekly Knack that he was going to organize concerts against the VB, prior to the local elections on 8 October this year. This resulted in an initiative called 0110. Barman managed to enroll quite a few mainstream artists for these concerts, that are being subsidized by the Belgian National Lottery. The VB criticized the participation of the artists, pointing out that since the party represents about a quarter of the electorate, the artists risk losing fans. The party also threatened to boycott them. Some of the artists were personally criticized. Artists, however, are private persons. If they want to make a political statement on a stage, they should be allowed to do so.
It is a different matter, however, for an organization like the National Lottery. Since it owns the state monopoly on lotteries in Belgium and is managed by the Belgian government, it should abstain from involvement in concerts directed against political parties. The Lottery pretends concerts are a cultural event, though that is obviously not the main goal of 0110 as expressed by the organizer Tom Barman. The social-democrat State Secretary Bruno Tuybens (sp.a), responsible for the National Lottery, said it is "a positive thing that the National Lottery supports an initiative like 0110 that is pro-tolerance and anti-racist, even if the concerts are only one week before the elections." Election observers from the OSCE would certainly object to similar practices in countries where they monitor elections.
In the weeks prior to the concerts (and to the elections) free publicity spots will be broadcasted on most national and regional television and radio channels, including the government-owned Eén and Canvas channels. Private broadcasters are free to do whatever they want, but Eén and Canvas are chains of Flemish public television VRT, using tax-payers' money to promote concerts against a political party representing a quarter of the population. One can argue that citizens who vote VB and do not agree with the National Lottery's policy, can stop buying lottery tickets, but these citizens are not allowed to deduct from their taxes the subsidies spent on the VRT. Hence, this would not look good in an OSCE report either.
Finally, there are also private companies supporting 0110, such as the Belgian branch of the (French) bookstore Fnac, the insurance company P&V, the mobile virtual network operator Ello Mobile. These companies are known to support left-wing causes and being a customer of them does not really fit with voting for the VB. The same cannot be said about another 1010 sponsor: MSN(Microsoft Network). Apparently Microsoft Belgium thinks it is a good idea to sponsor an organization that is opposing about a quarter of its customers. Maybe they think VB voters do not use computers, or use Linux. In the latter case the VB, which is Belgium's single largest party and is predicted to win the elections, should defend the interests of its voters and start advocating open source software.