Media Users of Turkish Origin in Germany

Right or Left Leg?

Almost three million people of Turkish origin live in Germany. Despite the fact that a recent integration study suggests that they are not as well integrated as other migrant groups, Germany doesn't really have a parallel Turkish society. By Andreas Wirwalski

Satellite dishes (photo: dpa)
"Exported media": around 70 percent of people of Turkish origin in Germany aged 14 and above consume Turkish media

​​"Turks are poorly integrated in Germany." This was one of the headlines in the Tagesschau television news on the ARD channel in early 2009. A study conducted by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, which conducts independent research, had shown that the second-largest migrant group in Germany is "significantly less well integrated (…) than other migrant groups".

The demography experts stated that the reason for this was a "low level or indeed complete lack of education", even among second-generation migrants. A mere 14 percent leave school with the Abitur (German higher education entrance qualification), despite the fact that half of them were born in Germany.

"The parallel media society does not exist"

One would assume that such a negative attitude to integration among Germany's inhabitants of Turkish descent would also be reflected in their media use, but this does not appear to be the case. "The much-cited parallel media society does not exist", claims Erk Simon, a media researcher who works for broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR). To support his opinion he referred to a study presented in June 2007 entitled "Migrants and Media 2007" which was prepared by the media commission of the two German public service broadcasters ARD and ZDF.

Stefan Raab (photo: dpa)
Transcultural buffoon: Stefan Raab is popular among young Germans and Turks

​​On the other hand, use of Turkish media in Germany varies, according to Simon: "It depends on the degree of linguistic integration, on the length of time spent in Germany and on what exactly is on offer and on the availability of native-language media."

Media researcher Simon gave Goethe.de an interesting example of TV viewing behaviour at the 2009 Munich Media Days: "Young Turks sit down with their parents and grandparents to watch Turkish programmes in the early and main part of the evening, before retiring to enjoy German broadcasts among themselves such as the popular (and dubbed) US crime series 'CSI' or the Cologne comedian Stefan Raab."

Necati Haldun Dutar, a Frankfurt-based "ethno-marketing" specialist, puts it in firmer terms: "Around 70 percent of people of Turkish origin in Germany aged 14 and above consume Turkish media, though their interest declines as they get older." In Dutar's opinion, the "exported" Turkish media – among them the eight Turkish-language daily newspapers that are available in Germany and the wide range of television and radio programmes accessible via cable and satellite – therefore make integration more difficult.

One important factor when it comes to improving understanding and integration are journalists who are at home in both cultures or societies. In her study entitled Turkish Media in Germany, which she presented in 2007, Islamic studies expert Patricia Foertsch states that there are roughly 130 Turkish media employees working for German or Turkish media in Germany. "They are believed by Turks to have capabilities which it is assumed – perhaps erroneously – a German journalist would not have." This recruitment policy also makes German media more attractive, concludes Foertsch.

The Internet as family-friendly communication factor

Another factor that helps bring about the integration wished for by politicians, at least among younger persons of Turkish origin, is the Internet. As examples, Foertsch cites vaybee.de and turkdunya.de, bilingual online portals which operate in German and Turkish and, alongside better-known social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace, are used particularly by third-generation German Turks.

photo: dpa
Real-life integration role models in the media: an average of 1.5 million people tuned in to the third season of the early evening ARD series "Turkish for Beginners"

​​Interestingly, the Islamic studies expert also believes the Internet is a communication factor for older people within the family setting: "When younger members of the family chat in the evenings with their relatives in Turkey via the Internet, other family members sit down with them."

Finally, there are the real-life integration role models in the media – for German and Turkish viewers in equal measure. For example, there is now even a Turkish TV detective – Mehmet Kurtulus plays Hamburg investigator Cenk Batu – in the ARD crime series Tatort. What is more, an average of 1.5 million people tuned in to the third season of the early evening ARD series "Turkish for Beginners", which has already screened 52 episodes – equivalent to a market share of over 11 percent in the 14- to 29-year-old demographic.

Diversity of comedians

Even more impressive, however, are the at times caustic comments by well-known comedians – who appear to be perfectly integrated into German society – such as Kaya Yanar (Frankfurt/Main), Bülent Ceylan (Mannheim), Fatih Çevikkollu (Cologne), Django Asül (Lower Bavaria) and Serdar Somuncu (Ruhr region). "What a completely stupid question", was the answer given by Cologne-born Çevikkollu in an Internet interview to the question of which ethnic group he feels he belongs to. "I mean, I couldn't tell you which leg I'd prefer to chop off either, the left or the right."

Andreas Wirwalski

© Goethe Institute 2010

Translated from the German by Chris Cave

Andreas Wirwalski works as a freelance journalist and author in Munich.

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