Turkey: State television begins Kurdish test broadcasts

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sun Dec 28 14:17:07 UTC 2008

State television begins Kurdish test broadcasts
Sat, 27/12/2008 - 14:21 — Admin Hurriyet: ISTANBUL - The head of theDiyarbakır Chamber of Trade and Industry, Mehmet Kaya, agrees thatTRT's new channel is important, as such mediums can allow the languageand culture of a people to develop. He says the TRT's belated effortson Kurdish TV are welcome, but argues that it need to be supported byscientific measures to promote Kurdish  Test broadcasts from theKurdish television channel of Turkish Radio and TelevisionCorporation, or TRT, have received mixed responses in the region, withsome cautiously welcoming it while others seeing it as a voice of thestate.
The Kurdish TV, called TRT 6, will feature music shows, movies andnews programs with Kurdish dubbing. The official start date forbroadcasts is Jan. 1 and will use the Kırmançı dialect of Kurdish. Thenumber of personnel as of Friday stood at six. TRT has signed a dealwith Rojin, a popular Kurdish singer, to host shows on TRT 6, it wasreported. Earlier it was reported that Kurdish singer Şivan Perver wasapproached to have a concert on the opening day of the channel.Perver, who has been overseas for the past 33 years because of thecharges filed against him for using the word "Kurdistan." A deal wasstruck for him to host two shows but it was eventually revealed thatit was impossible for Perver to return to Turkey for now.
Test broadcast
The 24-hour test broadcasts that started Thursday were watched by alimited audience in the Southeast, reported the Doğan news agency,noting that many did not know it was on. A former parliamentarian formthe disbanded Democracy Party, or DEP, Sedat Yurttaş, described theTRT's Kurdish channel as an important initiative. "This shows thepolicies pursued by the state have been mistaken until now," he said.Yurttaş said the step itself was important despite concerns over weakcontent, but noted that the channel should not become a part of thestate's communication apparatus to broadcast its stance. He said anofficial from the TRT meeting with Şivan Perver was an important stepin itself, adding, "It is important for state officials to meet withKurdish artists who were described as separatist or traitor."
However, he said the channel could only be a step, which must includesetting up Kurdish language departments in universities. The head ofthe Diyarbakır Chamber of Trade and Industry, Mehmet Kaya, agreed withYurttaş, noting that TRT's new channel was important, as such mediumscould allow the language and culture of a people to develop. He saidthe TRT's belated efforts on Kurdish TV were welcome, but argued thatit needed to be supported by more scientific measures to develop thelanguage. He said that private channels still had to abide byregulations that limited the weekly Kurdish broadcasts to a maximum offour hours. "There are close to 10 television channels in Kurdish thatbroadcast from Iran and Iraq," he said, noting that the TRT was upagainst stiff competition. Former Diyarbakır Bar Association headSezgin Tanrıkulu said significant improvement in Kurdish rights weremade in the last decade, but noted that despite being a positivedevelopment, if the TRT 6 became the mou!
 thpiece of the state, it wouldnot be watched in the Southeast.
Former mayor of Diyarbakır's Sur region, Abdullah Demirbaş, wastotally against the idea of TRT launching a Kurdish televisionchannel, arguing that it was part of the state's policy of pressuringKurds. Demirbaş, who won in Sur in the 2004 local elections, wasdismissed form office by court order for his policy of using Kurdishin addition to Turkish in the municipal services.
"I was fired because I used Kurdish. Şivan Perver, who was branded aterrorist for 30 years, has suddenly become very interesting for some,who are meeting with him to deceive Kurds," he said. He said TRT 6could not be seen as a positive development. "I believe many watch thechannel that respects their values. Like Roj TV," he said.Denmark-based Kurdish channel Roj-TV is seen by Turkey as a mouthpiecefor the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. Its repeateddemands for its closure have been rejected by the Danish government,which has argued it would run counter to freedom of speech.
The local Human Rights Association, or İHD, leader, Muharrem Erbey,told the Doğan news agency that the TRT 6 was a step in the rightdirection but hardly enough to resolve the country's Kurdish problem."In prisons, inmates cannot talk to their families in Kurdish.Greetings in Kurdish or Kurdish posters and invitations still end upcreating trouble for people, and all of them contradict what the TRTis trying to do," he said. Diyarbakır Gün TV's Diren Keser, said theyhad expected other private channels to start broadcasting in Kurdishor other local languages and dialects before the TRT.
"The law about broadcasts in local dialects and languages has been inplace since 2004. According to the law, TV channels can broadcast inKurdish for a maximum of 45 minutes a day and a total of four hours aweek. There is also the problem of censorship. Şivan Perver is wellknown in the region. However, we don't broadcast some of their songswith lyrics that might cause trouble. I don't know how the TRT wouldhave broadcast Perver under the current circumstances," he said.
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