What would Turkey be without its televisions? TV has definitely become a part of social life in this country and whether we are at home, visiting the family or relaxing in a tea garden, the magical “tube” is certainly never missing! With nearly 17 million television-owning households and user coverage of about 95 percent, the Turkish broadcasting market is one of the largest in Europe. According to the 1996 Eurostat and International Telecommunication Union statistics, Turkish people own even more TV sets than telephones: 26.9 TVs versus 20.1 phones per 100 inhabitants. Now then, time for some useful information about how to get your communication infrastructure set up. We will tell you what channels are available, explain how to arrange for them and inform you about the costs. The sole public broadcasting station is the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT). It runs six full-time channels, along with some part-time ones and features like Teletext or Internet TV. A short overview of the programming follows.
The family channel, TRT 1, provides all kinds of information and entertainment, including Turkish movies, music and talk shows and children’s programs, in addition to news and sports bulletins. For those who want to receive more detailed news and information, TRT 2, which focuses on news, documentaries and cultural programs in particular, is certainly the best choice. Moreover, TRT 3, which is actually designed to provide broad coverage of sports activities, airs even when the Turkish Parliament is in session. Along with this, the TRT-GAP program has been established on the same channel on a time-share basis, aiming to enhance recognition of the controversial Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP). TRT 4 is educational and broadcasts so-called Open University courses along with informal education programs.
The channel also meets the need for music programs. The programs broadcasted by the two channels TRT-INT and TRT-TÜRK are aimed at Turks living abroad. They partly broadcast with subtitles added in foreign languages or in different dialects of Turkish. And last but not least, after years of opposition and months of heated debate, the channel TRT 6 began broadcasting a 24-hour program in Kurdish; TRT also plans to launch other channels in Farsi and Arabic within this year.
Generally, watching these public channels is free in Turkey. That means all you have to do is buy a TV and a satellite dish. However, for every receiver bought in Turkey or brought to Turkey through customs, a tax stamp fee is collected — only once — by the authorities on behalf of TRT. (This is the case for every kind of device that receives broadcasting signals.) The amount of the tax stamp fee is reset annually by the Cabinet. Currently they vary between 50 and 150 euros, depending the type and size of the TV.
Take into account that cable TV subscriptions are always linked to addresses, not to names. If you move apartments, you will not automatically take your cable TV line with you. You should terminate it early enough to prevent any abuse. However, to watch TV programs in languages other than Turkish, the best option is to arrange for private channels. The Turkish cable TV system carries more than 70 television channels, at least 10 of which are foreign. The two main systems offered are Digitürk and TürkSat. The latter is the only company in Turkey that provides both satellite and cable TV in Turkey. For subscriptions to these providers, it is best to contact them directly via their Web sites, as they have many packages and options. Subscription fees start from TL 10 per month, but may range into the hundreds, depending on what you choose. Generally, group applications are cheaper than individual ones.
The expat forum www.mymerhaba.com compares the two providers’ features: Türksat allows you to watch more than 50 channels, most of which are in Turkish. Through Türksat, however, you can also get foreign channels: BBC Prime (contests, serials, documentary and films), BBC World (mostly news and documentaries), Eurosport and the news program CNN. TV5 is the only channel broadcasting in French, providing viewers with films, serials, contests and documentaries, as well as local news from Switzerland, Belgium and Canada. The German channel RTL is also available.
Digitürk offers more than 130 channels through a digital platform. The Family Channel, Hallmark, E! Entertainment and Extreme Sports are among its coverage. National channels, radio and digital music channels are also available. The special feature of Digitürk is that most of its programs can be followed in either English or Turkish because they are broadcasted with subtitles. Thus, Digitürk is indeed a perfect method for learning Turkish. Though, as I said before, one should think over whether or not to sign up for these channels due to their high prices.
Internet TV: an alternative?
If you have a good Internet line, you may also think about canceling the conventional TV idea and decide to watch your favorite TV programs via the so-called streaming option. Indeed, nowadays, many countries’ TV channels offer a selection of their broadcasting on the Internet, if not free of charge, then for an amount of money that is certainly lower than the fees you would pay to arrange cable TV for yourself in Turkey. You may inform yourself about the programs available on the Internet TV Web site (www.wwiTV.com), an independent guide to streaming worldwide media available online. The site links visual media content from all around the word and offers information about what the Internet offers from a wide range of countries — from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe! An equivalent Web site, focusing on Turkish programs in particular, is www.creatonic.com/tv.