Interview with Sefer Turan
|Saturday, April 24,2010 07:36|
|By Ay?e Karabat|
International broadcasting networks like BBC and CNN, Chinese and Russian state TV channels have recently started to broadcast in Arabic. Now Turkey has joined them with At Turkiyya. What is Turkey's aim?
Sefer Turan: The Turkish and Arab worlds have a common geography, culture and history. The roots of their relations are very deep. However, for a long time relations between the two societies have been perpetuated via intermediaries, by translators. This situation caused many misunderstandings and moments of "lost in translation".
With At Turkiyya we aim to correct this as much as possible. We want to talk directly about our geography, education, art, culture: everything. We want to remove the intermediaries from our communication. We want to explain Turkey to the Arab world properly. But at the same time, we want this to be a two-way process; we will make programmes in Arab countries, translate them and air them on other TRT channels broadcasting in Turkish so we can explain the Arab world to our Turkish-speaking viewers properly and directly.
What is the difference between At Turkiyya and other international Arabic broadcasters? Why should Arab audiences watch At Turkiyya instead of the other Arabic channels available?
Turan: At the moment there are approximately 750 channels broadcasting in Arabic. Many have high production quality. "Why should the audience choose us?" is also a very important question, and one that we always keep in mind while making our programmes. We are a family channel. We will give space to all kinds of programmes. Although it’s a difficult target, we think there is a vacuum that can be filled, and we aim to fill this vacuum.
In addition, as a result of its active foreign policy, Turkey has become a country that people are increasingly curious about. This curiosity not only relates to its politics, but goes beyond that; its culture, tradition, art and geography are also starting to generate interest. We are trying to respond to this curiosity. Although we have just started broadcasting, we have many viewers from all over the Arab world. We’re very pleased about the response so far.
Explaining Turkey to the Arab world: At Turkiyya's brand logo | Why were you chosen as the coordinator of At Turkiyya, are you very familiar with the Arab world?
Turan: Well, I don't want to answer this question personally, but anyone else may do so, including my colleagues and the main opposition party, which demanded a parliamentary inquiry into my appointment. However, if you look at my CV, you will notice that I started journalism at Cairo Radio and Television in 1985 as a translator and speaker. Since then I have been earning a living from journalism; during the past 12 years I also have been to many Arab countries as a journalist.
Who do you employ?
Turan: In Turkey the number of people who know Arabic and are also familiar with journalism and TV is very limited. That’s why our basic staff are from Arab countries. We have employees from every Arab country: Egypt, Sudan, Syria, Palestine, Algeria and Jordan. We wanted to do it this way, because our main language is classical Arabic; however, we want to use local Arabic dialects from time to time.
Is At Turkiyya a product of Turkey's 'eastern opening' policy? Is there an aim of using At Turkiyya as a tool to influence Arab public opinion more effectively?
"Not a propaganda channel": Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan presents Turkey's new Arabic TV channel to a selected audience | Turan: Of course, when we talk about the aim of explaining Turkey's potential, we also mean talking about its economic and achievements. Turkey is now home to many brands, and we plan to reflect them on the screen within the framework of journalism and broadcasting guidelines. We will tell Arab investors, "Please invest in Turkey." The economic angle is important to us, so we will have daily economy programs. We don't have them for the time being, but in the future we will also run advertisements.
Arab public opinion is suspicious of Arabic broadcasts made outside the Arab world, for example Al Hurra in the US. How will be your broadcasting policy help avoid similar suspicions?
Turan: We will not be a propaganda channel. Our viewers will see themselves in our programmes. For example, our morning show is from Istanbul, Cairo and Beirut. We will make entertainment programmes in which Turkish and Arab artists will share the same stage. We will have shows on Arab literature. For example, we have a programme called "Turkish Café". We invite Arab writers and talk to them about literature, culture and art.
While we introduce Turkey, we will never ever use the language of propaganda; that would not be the correct approach. We want to show our country's industry, politics, culture and art, and leave the decision to the audience. Our viewers will not find anything that will disturb them or arouse suspicion. And our viewers love us, because they think of us as being one of them.
You also broadcast news. When you take into consideration the fact that democracy is not well developed in many Arab countries, do you think news may create problems?
Turan: I don't think we will have any serious problems. We don't have an attitude of taking or representing sides. We will just present the story and leave the decision to the audience.