Live from a Paris apartment, the first Roma TV station

By Charlotte BOITIAUX (text)

Andrijano Dzeladin, founder of Sutka City TV - the first Roma TV channel, is an extremely proud man these days and he rarely misses an opportunity to explain the reason for this sense of self-satisfaction. "This is the first TV in the world for the Roma people. I put everything I had, all my savings, into it," said Dzeladin, breaking into a face-splitting grin in his Paris office.
The idea to launch Sutka City TV dates back to 2010, when Dzeladin was listening to a French radio show on the expulsion of a Roma community from a shantytown in France. “I called the radio show. I wanted to say that the Roma are not like that,” recounted Dzeladin.
The radio host, well-known French journalist, Jean-Jacques Bourdin, put his caller on air on RMC radio and Dzeladin found himself publicly declaring, “I want to show you our true face.”
Two years later, Sutka was born on September 2012. Sutka is the name of a suburb of the Macedonian capital of Skopje, where Dzeladin was born and grew up before moving to France in 2000. After arriving in France, Dzeladin did several odd jobs before starting his TV station.
But getting the world’s first Roma TV station on air was a hard struggle. "I fought. I sorted things out,” said Dzeladin, who is a Macedonian citizen. “I learned everything alone. But I succeeded. I wanted to show that the Roma are not all criminals, thieves. We have a culture, an anthem, a flag and integrity,” he said. “We can be journalists, doctors and artists. But there are not too many people who know this.”
The TV station provides an outlet to tackle the prejudices that bedevil the Roma. "In all our programs we want to speak the Romani language. We can speak French, some English, it depends on the language of the speaker, but in general, we speak our language, our dialects,” he explained.
Studio in the living room, control room in the bedroom...
At Sutka, most programs - culinary, cultural or musical - involve listeners. Programs include live debates on a range of topics from birth rites, weddings, funerals and exchange traditional recipes. “If you come from Serbia, Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria – the customs change and people want to share their views,” explained Dzeladin.
"Sometimes the phone rings continuously. In our first hour live, we received something like 32 calls. Once, there were between 800 and 1,200 calls on the voicemail in just two hours,” he noted.
The small successes, however, do not entirely cancel out the new station's weak points. Sutka City TV has only two employees so far - Dzeladin and his "right hand man”.
The TV channel's founder does almost everything alone: presentation, technical assistance, news management, marketing and purchasing equipment. So of course, sometimes it's a bit of a mess. "There are a few duds, a few hiccups," he admits, "The technician does not turn down the volume when it is necessary, we’re short of a remote control..."
Then there’s the lack of space.
The office-cum-studio is located in an apartment in the 19th arrondissement in Paris and was never intended to house a TV station. The crammed premises feature consoles alongside coffee sachets, the living room serves as a studio, one bedroom is the control room and another room is used as an office.
"Yes, this is not France Télévisions or TF1,” admits Dzeladin, referring to the leading French TV stations. But he’s extremely proud of his "baby" – and he loves it almost as much as he loves his three children. The TV channel was launched on September 19, 2012 - the day his third daughter was born. "I had to choose between the hospital and the TV station," he recalls. He finally chose the latter " against my will,” he noted before rushing to justify his decision. "My daughter has her mother. Sutka has only me.”