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Kurdish channel to air in March

Today's Zaman, 17 September 2008, Wednesday

Ibrahim Shahin, director general of the state-owned Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), said a new TV station in Kurdish, Persian and Arabic will start broadcasting in March of next year.

He said the TRT conducted a public survey in Turkey’s East and Southeast to determine the people’s desires with respect to Kurdish television.

“I spent 15 years in the region. Children don’t go to school there. They can’t learn Turkish. Since they don’t have newspapers and magazines in Kurdish, they are not informed. They’ve become prone to joining the terror organization [the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)]. Indeed, citizens in the region do not have any problems with the state. They even want the channel to begin and end with the national anthem,” he told the Anatolia news agency.

In addition, Şahin said the Kurdish station will use the Hot Bird satellite, which is used by Roj TV, a popular regional station that authorities regard as a mouthpiece for the PKK. TRT’s Kurdish station will be available not only in the mainly Kurdish Southeast but also in Iraq, Iran and the European states where Kurds reside.

Observers say the latest move is an attempt to attract viewers away from Denmark-based Roj TV. Kurdish critics say the TRT’s allocation of a station for Kurdish-language broadcasting will prove beneficial for social unity. However, they also noted it should be well designed so as not to allow any room for bureaucratic maneuvering.

Parliament passed a bill at the end of May allowing the TRT to broadcast programs in languages other than Turkish. State broadcaster TRT began airing weekly 30-minute programs in Kurdish and several other minority languages in 2004 as part of Turkey’s bid to join the European Union. But the Turkish political and military establishment has long feared that encouraging minority languages might harm the unity among Turkey’s 72 million people.

Şahin said there is a high demand in Arab countries for Arabic and Persian broadcasts from Turkey. With its Persian station, Turkey will reach to at least 20 million Azerbaijanis living in Iran, Şahin added.

TRT to have children’s station

Şahin also said the TRT is launching a station for children, likely to be called “TRT Çocuk,” starting on Nov. 1. He said the name was chosen from among 12,000 suggestions from children.

Şahin criticized the rating system applied by the AGB, a media research company in Turkey. He claimed that the ratings have been manipulated.

“Our program, called ‘Stadyum,’ which has repeatedly been in first place, has been listed as 10th by the ABG. This is impossible. We cannot accept this,” Şahin said. He added that if TRT leaves the AGB, some 15 other channels may follow suit.

He also said the TRT may choose not to receive advertisements, as it only receives YTL 30 million. “This gives us some bounce. We don’t have an ambition to get a big slice of the advertisement cake. We do not need that.”

Şahin said they will improve TRT’s infrastructure with an allocated YTL 93 million to provide better picture quality and save energy.

‘Our Eurovision song should be in Turkish’

Şahin said TRT had not yet made its selection of an artist who would join the Eurovision song contest, an annual competition held among the member countries of the European Broadcasting Union. He said Turkey’s participating song should be in Turkish and that Turkey should not aim at being a top contender. However, he said if Turkey aims high in the contest, an English song would be preferable. “Even France participated with an English language song. Apparently English has become an international language.”

The competition will be held in Moscow next year.

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