Broadcasting in Kurdish to be allowed on Turkish private TV stations

Legislation drafted by Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), on the right to broadcast radio and television programs in various traditional languages and dialects that Turkish citizens use on a daily basis, has been sent to the Prime Ministry for final review. The legislation will remove the time restriction on broadcasting programs in Kurdish on private television stations. The only special requirement included in the legislation is the use of Turkish subtitles during news reports. A previous piece of legislation required Turkish subtitles during all programs, but this would burden private stations with additional expense and lead to problems.

RTÜK will set up a new department to monitor private Kurdish-language broadcasting. Like the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), RTÜK will hire 19 employees who know and can translate the Kurmanji dialect of Kurdish and Zaza, a related language. The new personnel are to be trained in Ankara before being transferred to RTÜK’s Diyarbakir, Van and Adana regional directorates. In the past, RTÜK sought assistance from the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) to analyze pirate broadcasting in Kurdish. In line with Parliament’s roadmap for a democratization package aimed at resolving the Kurdish issue, the legislation on allowing private television stations to broadcast in Kurdish will go into effect after the Prime Ministry publishes it in the Official Gazette.

The opportunity created by the government’s democratization package has encouraged private stations to broadcast in other languages and dialects. Seven media organizations have requested permission from RTÜK to broadcast in different languages and dialects on the grounds that the democratization package is not limited solely to Kurdish broadcasts. Among the requested languages are Arabic, Armenian, Circassian and Laz.

RTÜK sent a letter to the seven private media organizations requesting that they provide missing forms or other documents they might not have yet turned in, required for the application procedure. While previous legislation put a time restriction on private radio and television broadcasting, the new legislation to go into effect as part of the democratization package will remove the time limit. The time restriction was imposed despite amendments made with the seventh European Union harmonization package, which granted broadcasting rights to private radio and television stations.

Private television stations will not be completely free with regards to broadcasting in different languages and dialects. In other words, not everyone will be able to broadcast anywhere, any time and in any language. Broadcasts in different languages will be allowed in specific regions, and studies will be conducted to determine the languages and dialects spoken by the viewers and listeners in those regions.

Kurdish broadcasts, which began on a weekly basis in 2004, are not available around the clock. Aside from TRT, there are 14 other television stations that broadcast in Kurdish nonstop that are either illegal or based outside of Turkey. Of these 14 channels, four are directly controlled by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Only TRT Ses, TRT’s Kurdish television station, is available via Turksat satellite service. All other Kurdish television stations are available via the Hotbird satellite service, which provides wider coverage. Kurdish stations that broadcast via satellite are Roj TV, Mesopotamia TV (Me-TV), MMC TV, Newroz TV, northern Iraqi-based Kurdistan TV, Zagros TV, Kurdsat TV, Gali Kurdistan, Peyam, the Iranian-based Sahar TV, Rojhelat TV, Komala TV and the European-based Kurd1 TV.

If Turkey allows local television stations to broadcast in Kurdish, competition is expected to increase in this field. There are expectations that at least three national and four local stations will provide round-the-clock Kurdish broadcasting.