Integration via Satellite TV
The topic of integration is ever-present on German television. But Many German Turks are not tuning in to these channels. Many of them receive their television via Turkish-language satellite from Turkey. Now, however, Düzgün TV, a private television station in North Rhine-Westphalia, wants to change this. By Petra Tabeling
In March this year Düzgün TV received their broadcasting licence from the local state broadcasting authority in Düsseldorf. Since then, the company has been broadcasting via "Turksat" the main European Turkish-language satellite.
Despite its being just one of the many channels available, Düzgün TV is aiming to carve out its own niche, by highlighting the theme of integration for Turkish immigrants in Germany.
Need for discussion about integration
"We are talking about a parallel society here in Germany and there is still a great need for discussion," says Cagdas Düzgün, son of the station's owner. "Most Turks here in Germany don't even read the local papers, they only watch Turkish-language programmes from Turkey. But they are the ones we want to reach and this is where, for us, integration begins," says the 24-year-old whose father, Hidir Düzgün, started up the TV company and is also the owner of the biggest chain of kebab shops in North Rhine-Westphalia.
The company sees its own role as that of Germany's "first integration channel", broadcasting a mix of information, news, language programmes, music and discussion to a German-Turkish audience.
In the programme "Kulturmix" (cultural mix), for example, Düzgün TV reporters take up surveys or controversial questionnaires on immigration, which then become the focus for studio discussion between German and Turkish experts.
There's a programme on German-Turkish clubs and associations too, while another devotes itself exclusively to women's issues. Advice programmes offer practical information on problems such as how to cope with insurance matters or the filling in of official forms, which, because of the language barrier, are often not understood.
"There is just so much material out there that we want to deal with. We're really only scratching the surface at the moment," concedes Düzgün junior.
His father, Hidir Düzgün, is away on business again. He spends much of his time travelling between Germany and Turkey, looking for sponsors in a country he left years ago for political reasons. Germany then meant a new beginning for the former teacher of Kurdish descent.
Nowadays he returns as a "businessman with a mission" and as head of a TV channel whose remit would have been inconceivable in the Turkey he knew formerly. It's not altogether different even now, given that, alongside integration problems in Germany, Düzgün TV features discussions on minorities, human rights, the Kurdish conflict and last, but not least, Alevism.
Although Alevism in Turkey tends to be seen as a branch of Islam, the Alevis prefer to see themselves as a community of shared values rather a purely religious community. Alevism is seen as particularly liberal, outward-looking and humanistic, less prone to overly literal interpretations of the Koran, something that in the past has attracted the hostility of the Sunni majority in Turkey.
There are, at the present time, about one million Alevis living in Germany; in Turkey the figure is close to 20 million. The persistent discrimination against the Alevis in Turkey has brought a number of warnings from the EU with regard to Turkey's accession.
For Düzgün TV, also engaged in broadcasting to an Alevi minority across Europe, this makes their programming also something of an acid test of freedom of opinion. Cagdas Düzgün puts it diplomatically: "What we want is to support Turkey conscientiously in its efforts to create a democratic system."
The TV channel will continue its operations in the autumn. However work is already going on apace, with new formats being planned and recorded. The editorial team, a 24-strong multicultural team of camera people, editors, sound technicians and journalists, is using the time to improve their skills with digital editing programmes.
Although Düzgün TV now has offices in Ankara and Istanbul, most of the recording work still takes place in a single large studio close to Dortmund. The cameras are kept in one corner, while in the other are the various backdrops ready to be rolled down for music programmes.
Music is very important to Düzgün TV, with prohibitions in Turkey having given traditional music a crucial role in the preservation of Alevi culture.
Identity and dialogue
Düzgün TV, however, does not see itself as representing any single minority such as the Alevis. "Our programmes are for everyone, no matter which minority or religion they belong to," affirms Meltem Soeylemez, management assistant and herself a programme maker. "We see ourselves as engaged in the promotion of interfaith dialogue, not only with Islam, Sunnis or Alevis; Christians and Buddhists are part of this too."
Standards are being set high. So far Düzgün TV's broadcasting has been restricted to only six hours daily, but their aim is to provide a full 24-hour programme. The younger Düzgün is optimistic: "Other channels need three times the number of staff to do what we do, but we get it done just the same."
No statistics on viewer numbers are available yet; it is still too early for that. Statistics that could attract potential advertisers are always an important source of income for private channels. The marketing department have to work hard on this aspect, because "for German companies the idea of placing adverts on Turkish-language television is still something of an unknown quantity."
Düzgün TV has great ambitions, and there is certainly still plenty to be said on integration, immigration and human rights. But how will the audience in Europe and Turkey react? The question is an intriguing one.
© Qantara.de 2006
Translated from the German by Ron Walker