PBS to Air Documentary on Turkey Cronkite to Host

ISTANBUL–According to a recent report in the Turkish daily Milliyet–the Ward Television Company has completed the preparation of a 90-minute documentary on modern Turkey. The project has been in the works for about two years and cost the producers approximately $1 million. The American educational television network PBS has agreed to broadcast the documentary "early in 1998."

The program is conceived and structured within the broad format of One World Series that in the past covered a number of countries stretching from Finland to India. According to the noted American commentator and veteran media star Walter Cronkite–who happens to be heading Ward Television Co.–"this series is not intended to purvey propaganda for a given country. Rather it aims to enable the American and the world audiences to better and more completely understand these countries." To emphasize its independence–Ward Co. reportedly refused to accept any governmental funds or financial help from public institutions. On the other hand–however–it concedes accepting monetary help from private organizations in Turkey and the US acting as "sponsors."

According to Sami Kohen–Milliyet’s veteran columnist–"many Turkish and American companies assisted in the preparation of this documentary," the title of which is Turkey: A Bridge Between Cultures and Continents. It appears that Cronkite first went to Turkey to establish contact and explore the possibilities for the project. In his column–Kohen declared with pride that the producers of the documentary were surprised to note that Turkey was not a typical Oriental or Near Eastern country. On the contrary–for example–Turkey’s image "which some circles abroad are conveying to the rest of the world" is at odds with what they encountered in Istanbul. Reportedly–these producers examined all parts of Turkey–interviewed hundreds of people–and collected thousands of meters of film footage.

In the course of a gala festivity–at which Turkey’s President Sleyman Demirel was present–a 40-minute portion of the documentary was shown to the guests. Retired Turkish Admiral Isik Biren is the Honorary Coordinator of the Turkish part of the preparations of the documentary. Under the patronage of noted Master of Ceremonies Jonathan Ward–the news of the completion of the project was triumphantly announced at a recent banquet. Kohen also indicated that some of the shortcomings of modern Turkey will be exposed in the documentary to make it more "objective" and "balanced," especially with respect to such issues as troubles in domestic politics–human rights–constraints imposed upon freedom of expression in the press and by dissident intellectuals.

Despite these caveats–however–it appears that the aim of the documentary is essentially a pro-Turkish "image-building" as Kohen himself admited. He argued in his column that Turkey "badly needs" such image-building in as much as she is treated coldly in the US–mainly because "she is not known well or is wrongly understood." The broadcasting of this documentary will not be confined to the US–but will be extended to other interested counties between "the Baltics and Thailand."

In his conclusion–Kohen declared: "We believe that this major–realistic and objective documentary will serve the purpose of bringing to Turkey a good name and esteem."


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