If group therapy is a good way out of apparently insoluble problems, perhaps there is one hope for Turkey's intractable political and economic condition: an extraordinary new era in broadcasting.
Take the Kurdish question, the bloodiest and most expensive problem of all. Looking at the harsh Turkish repression of a 10- year Kurdish revolt and the jailing of Kurdish nationalist MPs, it only seems to get worse. But on the nation's television screens, the past year has brought a revolution. In a country where the very word Kurd was taboo until a few years ago, millions tuned in two weeks ago to a no-holds-barred debate about the Kurdish question between top Turkish officials, Kurdish nationalists and ordinary people that lasted nine hours until seven o'clock in the morning.
The passions aroused caused an elderly Kurdish participant to suffer a heart attack. But everybody had their say and shook hands at the end, as with myriad other topics that are tackled every week in what must be one of the most youthful and dynamic broadcasting sectors in the world.
It all began in 1989, when a loophole in the law and the indulgence of the late Turkish leader, Turgut Ozal, allowed a first satellite transmission to break the state monopoly. In 1993 other companies began to join the fray. Now I have to retune my television set almost weekly. I can choose from 22 Turkish channels in Istanbul, while an estimated 750 channels compete for provincial audiences among Turkey's 60 million people. A further 1,500 radio stations pack the FM bands.
State television's 8pm bulletin was once the dowager queen that set a strait-laced agenda for the nation. The show has been deposed and is now a weary litany of official comings and goings watched by just a tenth of viewers. Its rating is exceeded by four or five private stations that have few inhibitions about challenging the taboos about Kurds, the army and Islam. …