When visiting a Turkish radio station our colleague Peter Kettner in Ankara received an unexpected offer – to host his own radio show. Thanks to the combined efforts of the German Embassy, Goethe Institut and DAAD, Alman Usulü now goes on air once a week. And what does it offer? Any amount of information about German society, culture, politics – and music, too, of course!
Visits to editorial offices are all in a day’s work for embassy press officers. Sometimes, however, routine visits give rise to ideas and ideas to groundbreaking projects. That was exactly what happened one day in July 2013. I was visiting the editorial offices of one of Ankara’s leading radio stations, RadyoODTÜ, run by the prestigious Middle East Technical University (METU). In Turkey the thing to do on such occasions is drink tea and discuss all sorts of things, the family for a start, usually football as well and then at some stage you get onto politics. It’s a fantastic experience and each time I learn a huge amount! And often when goodbyes are said there’s talk of doing “something” together, and of course you know this is “something” will be the next cup of tea in a month or two ... and that’s great.
But this time it was different. When I asked the editor if we couldn’t perhaps do “something” together, for example, a radio show on Germany, he said, “fine with me – but only if you do a whole season! A weekly show in Turkish on some German topic, 40 weeks running. Oh, and by the way, you start eight weeks from now…” You can guess what my feelings were. What a fantastic opportunity! But we’ll never manage! Yet that’s part and parcel of our job at the German Embassy – communicating a realistic image of our country in Turkey. And if you see every opportunity as basically a problem, you won’t achieve very much.
As you can imagine, we had to get our act together pretty quickly. Within two weeks we’d assembled a sizeable team of presenters (six in all) and an even larger editorial team (up to fifteen people) from the Embassy, the Goethe Institut and the DAAD and got down to work with a vengeance. It was all very exciting, as most of us had never worked in radio before. So obviously there were quite a few issues we had to sort out. What kind of structure were we aiming for? What topics would be relevant and of interest? And what about the music? People have very different tastes, after all.
A name for the show was quickly found, however. Alman Usulü means literally “German style”, but in Turkey it means above all going “Dutch treat” in restaurants (i.e. everyone pays their own bill, something inconceivable to most Turks!). The design of the show’s logo was inspired by functional considerations. The first opportunity to publicise our show was the Oktoberfest given by the German Embassy in Ankara, traditionally one of the highlights of the social calendar. A good way to advertise our show would be beermats, we thought, so our logo should look like and fit onto a beermat. This proved a great success, so that’s what we’ve stuck to ever since.
Our first show went on air on 22 September, the day of the Bundestag election in Germany. So of course that’s what it was all about – Germany’s political system, elections, parties, programmes. And it ended with the announcement of the first trends on how people had voted.
Since then we’ve established something of a routine in many respects. We’ve ideas for the themes we want to cover right up to the end of the season. The editorial team meets once a week to decide who’s going to prepare and present each show. All the same, I still find it very exciting, for three reasons in particular. The first reason is simply that before every show on which I’m a presenter, I worry about whether my Turkish is up to it, however thoroughly I’ve prepared. Secondly, I still enormously enjoy the way we work as a team – minimal hierarchy and more as a kind of swarm intelligence. With everyone doing their particular bit, the whole thing gradually takes shape. Thirdly, we seem to have a remarkably large audience! We don’t have any precise figures as yet, but in the 25-40 age group RadyoODTÜ is the third most popular station in Ankara. Our colleagues there tell us that each show attracts well over 10,000 listeners. We see Alman Usulü as a valuable new tool complementing what we offer on our website (www.anka.diplo.de), Facebook page (www.facebook.com/buyukelciligi) and Twitter account (@GermanyinTurkey). Once created, our content is accessible via all these outlets, so reaching many more people.
Our plans for the future include expanding our promotional merchandise. In addition to the T shirts, pens and mugs we give away on the show, we’re now working on a soundtrack. This is trickier than you might think. Who holds the copyright for German songs in Turkey? What the future holds for Alman Usulü once this season ends we don’t really know yet. Right now it’s a lot of fun, however – and that’s a good basis on which to build!