The Voice of Turkey is the world’s fourth biggest radio station in terms of the number of foreign languages in which it broadcasts. It airs content in Turkish as well as in 34 other languages with plans to start a Mongolian service soon.
With such a large coverage, Turkey’s official radio station is placed on the list above the BBC, which broadcasts in 33 languages, and comes after the US, China and Russia. Now in its 75th year, the Voice of Turkey is considering expanding its coverage to Mongolia.
“We have received requests from Japan, South Korea, Mongolia, Gagauz Turks and Bashkortostan [a republic in Russia] to start broadcasting in their languages,” Süleyman Köksoy, director of the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) Foreign Service, told Sunday’s Zaman in an exclusive interview.
If the plan gets the go-ahead from the governing board, Mongolian will be the 36th language broadcast by the Voice of Turkey. The Voice of Turkey utilizes new technology such as web-broadcasting and a satellite feed as well as the traditional shortwave transmission.
The latest additions among the languages broadcast are Armenian (over the web since 2009) and Afghan languages such as Dari Persian, Pashto and Afghan Uzbek.
“The broadcast in Armenian has met with considerable interest in Armenia; we generally get positive messages,” Köksoy said. Stories of the lives of Armenian artists who lived in Anatolia and Ottoman bureaucrats of Armenian origin are being broadcast during the one-hour transmission.
This relatively new addition has led the Armenians living in İstanbul today to request radio broadcasts in Armenian from TRT inside Turkey. Noting that broadcasting in Armenian is a step towards friendship, Köksoy commented, “It is proof we don’t have any negative feelings towards Armenians.”
With the active foreign policy initiatives the government has undertaken in recent years, the messages the Voice of Turkey gets have also increased significantly. The radio station has been receiving enthusiastic messages especially from Arab countries in recent years. It seems there are people in Egypt and Syria, for example, who would like to see Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as their prime minister. “‘Why don’t you help us? We ask our prime minister to do such-and-such…’ they write in their letters,” he said. The radio receives a great deal of attention in Turkey’s neighborhood, that is, the area formerly ruled by the Ottoman Empire. “Those countries take Turkey as a model, and have high expectations from Turkey. Turkey is forced by the circumstances into this foreign policy initiative and is broadcasting accordingly,” Köksoy noted.
But the country where the broadcast gets the warmest welcome is Pakistan, where there is even a club bringing together those who listen to the Voice of Turkey. Another thing of note is the attention the station gets in Latin America, where the Voice of Turkey started to broadcast in Spanish in 2008. “We receive friendly messages from countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Cuba and Argentina,” said Köksoy.
The radio station also helps those who want to learn Turkish. In order to meet requests from listeners around the world trying to learn Turkish, a 10-minute period is allocated to Turkish during broadcasts. The Turkish sessions are stored as podcasts on the web at “www.trt-world.com” for later reference. A Turkish learning pack is also available on the website in most of the languages the Voice of Turkey broadcasts in.
Currently, the radio station is preparing a Turkish learning pack on video, which could be made use of both on television and on the web. As part of efforts to keep abreast of the times, the news programs and interviews from the Voice of Turkey will be available as downloadable video podcasts on the Internet soon.
Turkey started its cross-border radio broadcasting in 1938 on shortwave. But broadcasting on the web, which started in 2008, is the area getting most of the attention nowadays, although there are still places such as Russia, China and Latin America among others where the transmission is still on shortwave.
The Voice of Turkey was very popular from the ‘60s to the end of the ‘80s among Turkish workers in Europe. The radio station not only served as a platform to give a voice to their problems, but also as a means of communication. Turkish workers who couldn’t get any news from their families in Turkey used to communicate with Turkey through the radio. And arabesque music, which was not allowed in TRT programs in those days, being considered of low taste, was never subject to a ban on the Voice of Turkey as it was the kind of music Turkish workers in Europe wanted to listen to.
The Voice of Turkey broadcasts in Turkish 24 hours a day, but the daily duration of broadcast in foreign languages varies from half an hour to an hour and a half, Persian being the only foreign language to enjoy the maximum time. The content of the broadcast is composed mainly of news items and summaries from the press. And should there be any time remaining, programs on Turkey, Turkish culture and music are broadcast. The Voice of Turkey looks like the United Nations in miniature form, with some of its 300 employees being Turkish citizens of foreign origin.
First cross-border broadcast
Turkey’s first radio broadcast outside of its borders was a speech on Hatay (a province on the Syrian border) issued by the then-Prime Minister İsmet İnönü, which after being translated, was broadcast in Arabic in 1937. But the regular external service of the Turkish radio began in English, German and French in October 1938. Currently, the Voice of Turkey broadcasts live on the web in 34 languages in addition to Turkish. You can visit their website at www.trt-world.com