« Greeks tune in to Turkish soap opera, despite critics views » – SES Türkiye

Article by Andy Dabilis and Erisa Dautaj for SES Türkiye in Athens and Istanbul

« Greek nationalists view the series as being a Turkish invasion of sorts, while others see opportunities for beneficial cultural exchange.

Greeks have been enthralled by Turkish TV series « The Magnificent Century » in recent months. The series is comprised of historical recreations of 16th-century Sultan Suleiman’s life and slick soap opera-like tales of intrigue and family drama, prompting alarmed nationalists to issue warnings that fans should stop watching.

Greek viewers said they love the vicarious thrill of seeing how rich Turks live, and the shows make Istanbul seem an irresistible place to visit, while others relate to the problems of ordinary Turks.[…]

The series has become so popular that nationalist Thessaloniki Bishop Anthimos and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party have both condemned the show and urged Greeks not to watch.[…]

The Turkish shows’ prevalence is also a matter of economics as Greek television stations find it less expensive to buy them than to produce their own.[…]

Other Turkish shows such as « Ezel, » « Ask ve Ceza » and « Ask-I Memnu » show panoramic shots of Istanbul, alluring to potential visitors.[…] »

Source : SES Turkiye

« Turkish media expands global presence » – SES Türkiye

By Menekse Tokyay for SES Türkiye in Istanbul — 29/05/12

While Turkish soap operas have received much fanfare outside the country, much less noticed is the news media’s expansion to regions of strategic interest.

Turkish media has embarked on an ambitious agenda of projecting its reach in multiple languages throughout the Balkans and in regions where Turkey has strategic interests, as the country asserts itself on the international stage.

Through its media, Turkey is reinforcing a positive image, tapping into what Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has described as Turkey’s « strategic depth. »

Until recently the state-run Anatolia News Agency (AA) published in Turkish and English, but expanded in March to publish in Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian through a new bureau in Sarajevo.

An Arabic service that will be based in Egypt’s capital, Cairo, was launched this month. In co-operation with media in Arab countries, Turkish and Middle Eastern news will be provided to Turkish and Arab audiences.

An Azeri and Russian service will also begin within months, and by 2020, AA’s 100th anniversary, it plans to publish in 11 languages, including Kurdish, Chinese, French, Spanish and German.

Kemal Kaptaner, director of the corporate communications unit at AA, said the bureau in Sarajevo, for example, gives priority to news about the bilateral relations between Turkey and regional countries in order to emphasise the proximity between people in cultural and social terms.

« Before our services were launched, Turkey was newsworthy only when there was a terrorist attack. But now, thanks to AA’s services, people of the region can be much more aware about social, cultural and economic developments in Turkey, » he told SES Türkiye .

Turkey’s parliament passed a bill in March 2008 allowing the state-owned TRT to broadcast programmes in languages other than Turkish. The law paved the way for broadcasts in Turkey’s « near abroad, » where it has played a more prominent economic and political role. Broadcasts now cover the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caucuses, the Balkans and Turkish communities in Europe. TRT Arabic, for example, can reach an audience of 350 million people.

The decision to establish TRT-SES in Kurdish also attracted much attention. It was viewed as a positive step to expand Kurdish cultural and linguistic rights in Turkey and also reach Kurdish-speaking communities outside Turkey’s borders in the Middle East and Europe.

Voice of Turkey, a radio channel under the auspices of TRT, broadcasts in 35 languages and is the world’s fourth largest radio station in terms of the number of foreign languages broadcast.

Telling of its role in foreign policy, Voice of Turkey’s first broadcast was an Arabic transmission of former Prime Minister Ismet Inonu’s speech on the Hatay issue in 1937, before the ethnically mixed province was annexed by Turkey from Syria in 1939.

This expansion of media parallels the pro-active foreign policy role Turkey has played in its region over the past decade.

According to Mucahit Kucukyilmaz of the Ankara-based SETA Foundation, up until the early 2000s Turkish media didn’t grasp the scope of the country’s expanding foreign policy, leaving Turkey behind its Western peers.

« For example, we had been informed of the news from the Middle East through a translated language. So, whatever the Western news agencies viewpoint was, we adopted the same, » Kucukyilmaz told SES Türkiye .

The same point was raised by Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc in a series of Twitter posts May 15th when AA Arabic was launched.

« We have all been witness to grave manipulations that astonished us in the Middle Eastern geography, particularly during the Gulf War. Prestigious news agencies that we all know were the leaders of operations with their broadcasts. Not only in the Middle East; we witnessed the same thing in Bosnia. The media remained insensitive for a long time to the seriousness of events, » Arinc wrote.

In the past, Turkish media had difficulty keeping pace with global trends and regional events, something AA is working to overcome.

« There were a handful of journalists who knew Arabic, Russian, Persian and even Kurdish. Nobody really cared to open representation offices or hire journalists, even in our neighbouring regions, » Kucukyilmaz said.

But over the past decade TRT and AA assumed the lead in orienting the future of Turkish media by investing in multi-lingual staff, making field studies, and developing technical and intellectual capacity.

Hakan Copur, a media expert from the Turkish Presidency, says that inward-looking and unassertive countries need no multilingual journalism or broadcasting.

« However, for a country like Turkey, whose zone of influence goes beyond its national boundaries, such a trend is not a luxury but rather a necessity, » Copur told SES Türkiye .

He said elements of soft power are just as important as hard power in global politics. « Especially public diplomacy needs such tools to merge public communication and diplomacy, » he said. « In this regard, multilingual broadcasts will form a foundation for Turkey to utilise its soft power not only in the region, but in global politics as well. »

Plamen Ralchev, an assistant professor at the University of National and World Economy in Sofia, focusing on strategic communications, international public relations and public diplomacy, said that a keen understanding of local languages will bring Turkey closer to the foreign audience.

« The majority of Bulgarians have no clue about this language, so if TRT International launches a Bulgarian-language broadcast it will definitely improve communication channels delivering messages to a Bulgarian audience, » he said.

Paraphrasing the Turkish Airlines slogan « Globally Yours, » he says that with TRT and AA, Turkish media has become « globally public. »

« What is more significant is making Turkey’s voice heard internationally, Turkey’s views expressed and spread around, Turkey’s commitment to a global posture comprehended. Definitely, Turkey has a story to tell … and to sell, too, » Ralchev said. »

Source : SES Türkiye

« Turkey, Greece bridge cultural gap with romance » – SES Türkiye

By Menekse Tokyay and HK Tzanis for SES Türkiye in Istanbul and Athens — 21/05/12

« Romance and « clandestine relationships » between ordinary Greeks and Turks is again the vehicle for another big-budget Turkish romantic comedy. The theme is far from uncommon in real life.

« Iki Yaka Bir Ismail » (Two Shores, One Ismail), the new Turkish romance series — shot on location on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos (Mytilene) and in Aivali, across from the island in Turkey — was released earlier this month.

Playing on the theme of mixed marriage — this time between a Turkish fisherman and Greek island divorcee — it follows the wildly popular Turkish series « Yabanci Dama » (Foreign Groom), which debuted in 2004.

« For me, [mixed marriage] is no longer a taboo — I know of many Greeks now married to Turkish women, and quite a few Turkish men married to Greek wives. They live here in Mytilene, several in Aivali, in Larissa [in central Greece], everywhere, » according to actress Eleni Filini, one of the protagonists in the new series and a former beauty queen in the 1980s.

Take the real life couple of Aslihan Ozkara and Nikos Dimos, who met at a party a few years ago in Istanbul. In August 2008, the couple married in a surprise wedding held in the same Bosporus metropolis.

Ozkara told SES Türkiye the fact that she and her husband hailed from different ethnic backgrounds meant nothing, as they are very similar as individuals.

Contrary to expectations, the marriage was well-received by their respective families.

« Probably because our families had lived abroad for a long time and were used to such mixed marriages, so it wasn’t perceived as something unusual, » she explained, adding that her husband’s family is also the product of a mixed marriage.

« So we, in a sense, continued a tradition. Nikos’ father was Greek and his mother Turkish. So, we didn’t see any weird reaction, » Ozkara said.

She added, however, that their marriage helped overcome certain latent and deeply rooted prejudices in their immediate social circles. « Through our marriage we tried to establish a bridge between these two cultures; to know each other and to understand each other in better ways, » she said.

Another successful « love story » from both sides of the Aegean is the Tsitselikis-Ozgunes family.

Meric Ozgunes and Constantinos Tsitselikis met at a Greek-Turkish civic dialogue workshop and currently live in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki.

« Our respective nationalities definitely did not lead us to have a negative perception [of each other]. We were already involved in Turkish-Greek issues and open to dialogue; and a lot more than our nationalities united us. We were, in any case, against nationalism and cherished multi-culturalism, » Ozgunes told SES Türkiye.

The couple was married during an official wedding ceremony in 2005, conducted in both Turkish and Greek, in Thessaloniki. As the parents of young children, they have neither baptised the children in the Orthodox Christian faith or ceremoniously circumcised them, as per the Muslim ritual.

« We will leave this decision to their will, » Ozgunes explained.

Asked about reactions towards the marriage, Tsitselikis said both families were very respectful of their decision, with the only queries coming from acquaintances or neighbours, who asked about the ubiquitous issue of religion.

« We had to face questions regarding what religion our children would have, if we were to have any, » he said.

Tsitselikis and Ozgunes said they believe the impact of such marriages can only be measured on their immediate social and professional circles.

« It definitely allowed some people around us, such as relatives and neighbours, to come into contact with the ‘other’, to put flesh and bone to a ‘Turk’ or a ‘Greek’, and therefore, it helped break certain stereotypes, » Ozgunes explained.

Ayse Gunduz Hosgor, an expert on mixed marriages from the Ankara-based Middle East Technical University, underlined that mixed marriages are a contributing factor to integration for at least one of the two partners.

« When we discuss mixed marriages amongst different ethnicities, the level of education and professional sophistication are determinants in laying the groundwork for potential partners [of different cultures] to meet each other, » Hosgor told SES Türkiye.

Nevertheless, she also pointed to the importance of religion when assessing the sustainability of such marriages.

Beyond the interest generated by real life mixed marriages, « Iki Yaka Bir Ismail » is already generating a tourism boon on Lesvos via a cascade of reservations by Turkish tourists, according to travel agency owner Aris Lazaris, who helped co-ordinate the series’ shooting on the large island, which the locals call Mytilene, after the name of the capital city.

« We went from hell in the off-season, due to the repercussions of the economic crisis and cancellations of reservations by foreign tour operators, to our phones ringing off the hooks, » the Mytilene entrepreneur said. »

Source : SES Türkiye

« The soft power of Turkish television » – SES Türkiye

Songul Oden (right) and Ayca Varlier play in the Turkish soap opera "Noor", which has been a huge hit in the Middle East. (Reuters). Source : SES Türkiye"

By Cigdem Bugdayci for Southeast European Times in Istanbul – 23/07/11

The success of television series outside Turkey signals a re-branding of the country’s image.

The popularity of Turkish television series, from the Balkans to the Middle East, has brought Turkey to an international audience, and is subtly transforming the image of the country abroad.

Since 2001, 65 Turkish television series have been sold abroad, bringing in over 50m dollars to the booming Turkish television industry. Turkish actors and celebrities are now well-known figures in some countries and scenes of Istanbul have drawn tens of thousands of tourists.

According to Izzet Pinto from the film distribution company Global Agency, Turkish series are quite a novelty for a public very much used to watching only American or Latin American TV productions.

« The TV series are a big commercial opportunity for Turkey, » Pinto tells SETimes.

However, more than the millions of dollars in sales, the emergence of Turkey as a popular brand is equally significant. In the Balkans and Middle East, regions traditionally wary of Turkish influence, the soft message of television holds the power the country to re-market itself.

According to a recent Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation report entitled « The Perception of Turkey in the Middle East 2010 », 78% of the respondents said they have watched a Turkish TV series. The report states that the series have become an important part of Turkey’s soft power by creating a lasting influence on Turkey’s image in the region.

Although unplanned, the spread of Turkish television falls neatly into the soft-power strategy of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as outlined in his seminal 2001 book « Strategic Depth ».

Davutoglu advocates a pro-active and multi-dimensional foreign policy that sees Turkey’s shared history and culture with former Ottoman lands as a strategic advantage — forming one prong of Turkey’s soft-power strategy.

However, the appeal of Turkish television, mixing emotionally rich images with a sense of well-kept traditionalism, has also received criticism from some conservatives in Turkey who feel the basis of family is being threatened through images of sultry kisses, adultery stories, murder and crime.

According to AKP deputy from Istanbul Halide Incekara, Turkish TV series don’t represent the Turkish family and morals. « The TV series hurt the image of Turkey abroad as they are so full of corrupt storylines and unacceptable behaviors, » she tells SETimes.

On the other hand, Orhan Tekelioglu, a communications professor from Istanbul Bahcesehir University, told SETimes that it is not possible to make any claims on the popularity of TV series without additional research. However, he points out there is actually a strong tendency for the « protection of the family » in the series, which has its roots in the Turkish modernization process.

Tekelioglu also interprets the news about the international spread and success of TV series in the Turkish press in a different manner, telling SETimes, « The sales from the TV series are greeted with ‘hails of victory’ as if coming from ‘an army campaign’ — this must be what they call neo-Ottomanism. »

Source : SES Türkiye