Monday, March 15, 2010

Television News in Turkey


I find Turkish television news very interesting, but only if you start with the premise that about 10% is actually news. The stories can be extremely educational- though probably not in the way they were intended. A lot of ex-pats avoid the local and national news altogether and I sort of feel sorry for them. They don't know what they are missing. (Literally!)

I think it is a bit peculiar to decide to live in a country and then do everything possible to avoid learning about what's actually going on. Sometimes I'd meet my circle of friends with news of latest constitutional crisis or horrendous calamity and they would knit their brows, without a word to say. It didn't seem to have anything to do with them. Having said that, many of them would probably have the same ostrich-mentality back in their own countries.

Perhaps they are right. I am not sure, but I would say it might explain how innocent foreigners can wind up in the middle of a war zone wearing flip-flops and Bermuda shorts, getting bum-rushed by soldiers on tarmacs to waiting helicopters.

The morning news is traditionally the lightest news of the day, the idea being not to push viewers too hard before they start their workday. I guess they fear that too much talk about the economy or crime or government investigation will result in mass nervous breakdowns in the afternoon. So one is apt to see a lot of You-tube videos showing "wacky" stories- babies dangling from hot-air balloons by one leg- and promotions to the channel's latest evening soap operas. (Yes, they do consider it news.) Stories about the latest invention for losing weight or the oldest living granny. (Sixty-seven grandchildren!) That sort of thing.

The evening news, on the other hand, pretends to be hard-hitting and serious. The new readers work each story as if they were making it at a potter's wheel. Reporters at the scene, shouting at the edge of hysteria and shaky camera work. Stories that last 10 minutes with footage that lasts only 45 seconds, shown over and over in a tight loop. This is punctuated by in-studio interviews that inevitably wear down into the same dreary talking heads. Talking heads, channel after channel. 

The producers seem fond of emotive background music to set the proper tone of the story. Sad stories without fail use violins or smoky-voiced Sezen Aksu songs. Funny stories are accompanied by silly music from the 70s and 80s or that dreadful "Yakty Sax," better known as "The Benny Hill theme."

When all else fails to attract attention, there's human anatomy. In summer, any low-down excuse will add a filled bikini into the program and truly any excuse will do. Dangers of sun-burn is tried and tested. The number of tourists is expected to increase? Then you had better show a German vixen cavorting with her friends on ze beach. I have even seen stories about breast cancer treatments that used Natasha-like women "au naturel" on the beach as their primary footage- tantalizingly digitized boobies under threat of attack.

Anyway, here is my selection from today's news.

1820_2 According to the morning news, new laws in Turkey will prohibit, vegetable and fruit sellers in the farmers' markets - and presumably at bazaars- from shouting. Violators will be fined 50 tl. for each instance of such noisy marketing. The sellers interviewed were, of course, rather surprised or confused. Some had that look you often see, of weary resignation. Many were nonplussed by the new laws and in response, have decided to "sing" their prices instead.

There was another story about "One Minute" Cafe in New York City. The reporter desperately attempted to make a faulty connection between the name of the establishment, run, incidentally, by a Turk and an Israeli. The infamous incident in Davos last year between Erdogan and Perez was once again rehashed. Flustered and fuming, the Turkish president's face was once again beet red, with his index finger potently erect. Link

In end, as anybody could have clearly seen at the start, the name of the diner had absolutely no connection to that silliness but, as the Turkish co-owner painfully explained, was a reference to the salt-shaker-01speedy service.

Still another story, this time from the US. According to the news, salt is now banned in New York restaurants and. users will be fined up to $1000. This left me scratching my head with visions of a customer in disheveled business suit being hauled out of Gotham Fine Dining in handcuffs as he hisses to his wife to "Toss the shaker. Do it.  For GOD'S SAKES! Do it!"

In fact, further details erased that extreme vision. According to the proposed ban, restaurant chefs were forbidden to use salt in their prepared meals. With shakers on the table, the amount of salt used by the customers is purely a matter of choice. A bit more research on this subject reveals that New York assembly member Felix Ortiz has introduced this bill while  the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, "has stopped well short of proposing an outright ban on restaurants adding salt, instead campaigning for a voluntary cut of a quarter over five years."

The fog of the original story was starting to clear somewhat. Presently it made more sense to me. I recall my father whose high-blood pressure forced him to adhere to a strict no/low salt diet. In the beginning, he was exasperated and depressed. "Nothing tastes good anymore,"he'd complain. After a few months and my mother experimenting with other spices, he became more accustomed to living without salt. "You cut out salt and all of the sudden you start to notice how much salt is in EVERYTHING. Even toothpaste and the worst? Ready-made soups." I didn't have the heart to tell him that condensed soups were not meant to be served directly from the can.

In New York, where eating out is the norm, trying to stick to such a diet would be next to impossible. It'd be like trying to find a non-smoking bar in the 1990s.

Still, I kind of wondered about both of the newly- proposed laws. If all of the details are accurate, then I have to question the logic behind the laws. I mean, is it really necessary to make every violation a punishable offense? Is self-regulation now obsolete? What's next in the farmers' market.. all signs must be printed and not hand-written? The vegetable sellers must all shave and wear uniforms?

In New York, what's next? No sugar in anything because some people are obese? Eventually we may find ourselves dining on a moderate sized bowl of oatmeal and plain yogurt on the side with a peeled apple slice for dessert.

Some laws are designed to protect the citizens and some are designed to keep public order. But what is the purpose of fining chefs that use too much salt and poor cucumber sellers for shouting?

But perhaps there is a higher level of logic at play. Some laws, it seems, are designed merely to add a new source of revenue to the local government.


  1. This made me laugh out loud. The things you've mentioned about Turkish news are all the things that irritate me, the background mood music, the constant repeating of the same piece of news footage, etc. Even though they irritate me I'm still compelled to watch! I do find it a bit tasteless at times, when cameras arrive at something like a road traffic accident and insist on showing inappropriate close-ups of injuries...then repeating them over and over.

    Have you noticed how there is always a cameraman and reporter to record almost every incident? Where do they come from? Do they hide behind corners?

    (I actually once wondered if they instigated accidents just to get a story)

  2. I mentioned this recently in some other blog- don't ask me where. But I recall years back a shocker about a woman who had to deliver at the steps of her hospital out in the east because all of the staff had locked the doors and left or went to sleep or something. As you said, it was graphically shown, husband screaming and wild-eyed, woman panting and groaning. It was a devastating piece of footage but then, I started to wonder.. what the hell was the camera doing there? How would they have known in advance? This was before telephones as video camera, I should add. All very suspicious. Of course I am that sort of person. I always ask the inappropriate question- party pooper stuff. Like "Well, then, who's holding the camera!?"

  3. Exactly! I often want to shout at the screen "put the bloody camera down and do something to help for god's sake!"

  4. these are weird laws in both the usa and our country. it is natural that the farmers shout to sell their vegatables. in this way they can attract consumers'attention. i mean by shouting. i think the goverment should find a way for serious problem. by the way i have heard a news. it happened in america. a killer was arrested. according to news he killed woman more than thirty after raping. that is horrible. unfortunately there are a lot of pervert and killer people over the world:( this is very bad. i wish they could be arrested one day...

  5. You know what's worse? It all seems rather prosaic nowadays. Another serial killer? I'll tell you how bad it is.. I was talking to a British friend of mine about a famous case called the Moors Murders. (I had been reading a book on the subject. It isn't always on my mind or anything.) And when I said the couple had killed seven children, the person swore that I must be wrong. The figure was too low. It HAD to be more because the crime was so shocking. If that doesn't say something about the society we live in,then I don't know what does. As if seven children murdered is not such a big deal any longer.

  6. Some news you have in there. I find it funny in Australia, where it's customary to give the news headlines quickly between TV shows, how they seem to combine the headlines into one weird sentence. It sounds like "Young child strayed from her mother at a mall, man arrested for car theft, the state celebrates 10th anniversary." At the end of it, you go: What what what? Was that one headline or 3 or maybe 2?

    As for banning sugar... I would gladly ban food processing plants including and especially those producing low fat -products. Nothing good has ever come out of them. Along the lines: If you want chips, fry them yourself, but you'll find eating a carrot is a lot easier.

  7. That headline thing also drives me nuts. By the time I realize what I have seen, it's gone and I have to wait for 3 minutes before it comes back around. Three minutes is about 2 minutes longer than my attention span so by the time it appears at the bottom again, I miss it one more time. And worse than that?
    Headlines at the news ticker at the bottom that are not covered in the main news. Why do they do THAT??! INTELLIGENT LIFE DISCOVERED ON MARS, SCIENTISTS SAY and then nothing. Or, BUSH OFFICIAL SUSPECTED OF SILENCING PRESS ON WAR and then you never can find the actual story anywhere. I tend to get paranoid and start to suspect cover-ups.

  8. Nomad, I told my husband about the hospital steps birth, and he said the press was able to get there because they have police band radios. As to why the press was there before other emergency services (or the people presumably inside the hospital), that's a whole 'nother thing.

    I suppose I'm that typical foreigner about the news here. It's not because I prefer to hide my head in the sand, it's because I find the news SO ANNOYING for the reasons you mention. The morning news especially, with those orange-faced women with giant heads just sitting there reading from various newspapers stacked in front of them. But I also ignore it because the news is more like the National Enquirer or the Sun, with insane scandal-mongering and hate-seeding, either blatantly or by implication. I figure, why bother watching that crap when 90% of the time it blows over by the next day. If it's real news, I'm sure to find out about it.

    But when I do watch the news, it's highly entertaining, as you say, and highly educational. My favorite time for news is around Kurban Bayram when all the village stories of animals running amok come out. And I try to watch when anything has happened in Dolapdere in Istanbul and the Gypsies are running amok with all sorts of weapons and shouting.

    Speaking of shouting, what a shame about the pazars! I love the hipermarket near my house-- it's the only place with people shouting in the market about fresh bread and cookies or whatever...

  9. Despite what I may have implied here, I often get sick to death of watching another story about Bulent Ersoy's latest crisis or Ibo's lost love-child. Once or twice a week I reach overload.
    So don't think I don't understand exactly what you mean.
    Still, can you imagine living here and not knowing anything about the Sledgehammer? I have met people like that. They can tell you what's happening on Eastenders but to save their lives they couldn't tell who the president of Turkey was.
    As far as the shouting, sure, it bothers me sometimes because I usually am walking past when some seller cuts loose. However, silly is silly and how the heck they plan to enforce it is anybody's guess.


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