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Making Television for Germany's Turks

Christiane Wolters (dc)August 27, 2006

As the son of Turkish immigrants to Germany, Seran Sargur has learned first hand about integration. That's what drives him to produce quality broadcasting aimed at Germany's Turkish community.

Kanal Avrupa tackles integration issues that affect Turks in Germany

A station ID jingle emanates from the big-screen TV in the entrance of the otherwise quiet, container-like building that is home to Kanal Avrupa, or "Channel Europe." It's the summer break, but despite the lull, Seran Sargur is a busy man.

The 27-year-old is the co-founder of Europe's first German-Turkish TV station, a business idea that was fuelled by Sargur's first-hand experience as the son of Turkish immigrants in Germany. He seems as if he is constantly juggling several tasks simultaneously. With his goatee, gelled hair and corduroy jacket, you could easily mistake him for a VJ at a music channel. But with Kanal Avrupa, Sargur is pursuing loftier goals.

"I like to think of the channel as the last step in the German integration or immigration story," Sargur said. "Before we came on the scene, German Turks had almost everything -- their own businesses, their own athletes and their own newspaper. The only thing that was missing was a TV channel."

That changed in January 2005 when Kanal Avrupa began broadcasting around the clock via satellite. It reaches Turkish-speaking viewers in Europe, Turkey and the Middle East, although its focus remains the Turkish community in Germany.

Unique vision

That's important to Sargur, because he doesn't want Kanal Avrupa to be lumped in with other Turkish media that can be seen in Germany, but have nothing to do with life in Germany. While 90 percent of the shows are currently produced in Turkish, in the long term, half of the channel's offerings will be in German.

"Our vision is to make people aware that while they may live in a different country, that's where their home is now, and they can continue to live out their culture in this country," Sargur said. "I don't think other Turkish broadcasters have this same vision."

Ausländer in Berlin-Kreuzberg
Sargur plans to offer German for Turkish housewives via the channelImage: dpa

Aside from Turkish series and pop music, Kanal Avrupa's line-up also includes numerous shows dealing with issues typically faced by Turks who live abroad. Take "Avrupaca," for example. It means "European" and is a talk show in which young German Turks discuss socio-political topics.

"We're preparing for the new season now, and we especially want to do more educational shows," Sargur said. "We'll be offering German courses for housewives. I think television is a great medium to teach people something, and the first priority for us is the German language."

Political ambitions

As much as German politics and integration drive him, Seran Sargur is one of the few people working at Kanal Avrupa who's kept his Turkish citizenship, and with good reason. He knows he'll need his Turkish passport to realize his future plans.

"My goal is to one day make it into the Turkish parliament," Sargur said. "I think that, in 20 years, Turkey won't have made much progress when it comes to joining Europe, but that dialogue with the Turks will be very important. And I think a discussion between Chancellor Merkel and myself would be much more productive than a discussion with (Turkish Prime Minister) Erdogan."