ANKARA, Nov 18 (AFP) - 17h32 - Turkey's broadcasting watchdog RTUK on Tuesday gave the green light for radio and television stations to air programmes in the Kurdish language, a key reform required by the European Union which Ankara is seeking to join.
RTUK president Fatih Karaca was quoted by the Anatolia news agency as saying that his agency had drawn up a regulation -- likely to come into force this week -- outlining rules governing broadcasts in languages other than Turkish.
However, the regulation, applicable to both private and state organisations, limits such broadcasts by television channels to four hours a week and makes it obligatory to run Turkish subtitles, Karaca said.
Radio stations can air such programmes for five hours a week but will have to run the same programme in Turkish immediately after, he added.
The regulation allows only nationwide media organizations to air programmes in languages other than Turkish, Karaca said.
Local radio and television stations could be permitted to broadcast in other languages after a planned survey of potential viewers and the languages they use, he added.
Turkey's parliament allowed state television to air in the language of the Kurdish minority in August last year, but planned broadcasts never took off.
In June this year, lawmakers approved Kurdish-language broadcasts by private television and radio stations as part of a package of EU-inspired reforms.
Expanding cultural rights for the Kurdish minority is one of the key democracy reforms demanded by the European Union, which is closely watching whether Turkey properly implements the change before deciding on whether to open accession talks.
EU leaders will assess Turkey's progress on introducing democratic and human rights reforms in December 2004 before deciding when it may open accession negotiations with the predominantly Muslim country.