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Tuesday, March 23, 1999 Published at 09:55 GMT

Med TV: 'Kurdistan in the sky'

By Peter Feuilherade of BBC Monitoring

The Kurdish broadcasting scene reflects the complex nature of Kurdish political and geographical divisions.

Med TV, a UK-based Kurdish TV channel with studios in London and Denderleeuw in Belgium, took its name from the ancient name for the Kurdish people, the Medes.

Its target audience is Kurds living in Europe and the Kurdish areas of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran.

Its programmes are broadcast in Kurdish dialects and Turkish. There has also been a weeky news bulletin in English (Wednesday 1300-1315) and some programming in Arabic.

According to Med TV it has up to 10 million Kurdish viewers, half the estimated total Kurdish population.

A senior Med TV official, Diler Akrei, says some Kurds know his station as "a nation in the sky".

Content warnings

Med TV was granted a 10-year licence in 1994 by the UK Independent Television Commission (ITC) and began test transmissions in March 1995.

[ image: Turkey questions Kurdish objectivity]
Turkey questions Kurdish objectivity
Since the station began regular broadcasting on a Eutelsat satellite in May 1995, the Turkish government has brought pressure to bear on any country which leases airtime to Med TV.

Pressure from Turkey has forced Med TV repeatedly to change its satellite transmission arrangements.

Turkey claims that the station is connected with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Ankara describes as a separatist and terrorist organisation.

PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan has said that Med TV could never have existed without the PKK, but he added that "it can represent any ideology, any opinion and any cultural minority".

In Britain, the ITC has issued warnings to Med TV on several occasions for breaches of rules on impartiality.

In March 1998 it was fined for a broadcast that the ITC said "constituted encouragement and incitement to crime". And in November 1998 the ITC gave Med TV notice that its licence would be revoked if it failed to comply over the following six months.

Med TV has also suffered from what appears to jamming of its satellite feed on a number of occasions and has accused Turkey of deliberate interference to its signals.

New rival for Med TV

At the beginning of 1999 the Turkish newspaper Milliyet reported that a new station, Kurdistan Television (KTV), was being established at the initiative of Massoud Barzani, leader of Iraq's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

[ image: Barazani: New media interests]
Barazani: New media interests
"The reason for the KDP_s initiative to set up a satellite television station is reportedly its desire to prevent the PKK from establishing a constituency in northern Iraq by means of Med TV," the Milliyet newspaper commented.

In December 1998 KTV was observed with test transmissions to Europe and the Middle East via Eutelsat and Intelsat satellites.

Apart from Med TV, Kurds in Turkey can also listen to the pro-PKK radio station Voice of Independent Kurdistan, which has broadcast on shortwave since 1993.

Then there is the anti-PKK Voice of Dicle, Turkish for the Tigris river, which broadcasts in Turkish, Kurdish and Arabic in support of the Turkish government.

This was first monitored in 1993 and on medium wave, and on an audio subcarrier on the Turksat 1C satellite.

Iraq and Iran

[ image: Northern Iraq 1991: Tuning in before Kurds had their own station]
Northern Iraq 1991: Tuning in before Kurds had their own station
There are more than 10 local television and radio stations operated by various organisations and groups in northern Iraq, which has been under the control of the Kurds since 1991.

The KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan have two television stations.

There are also stations operated by groups as diverse as the Kurdistan Conservative Party, the Islamic Movement of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Communist Party and the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party.

There are also at least three radio stations targeted at Iran's Kurdish regions broadcasting programmes in Kurdish hostile to the Iranian government.

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