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Media Landscapes

Turkey

Written by Ruken Barış

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Turkey geographically bridges Europe and Asia with a territory of 783,562 sq km. Its population is around 71.5 million based on 2008 figures. Half of the population in Turkey is under the age of 28.5 and 70 percent of the population live in urban centres. There are many religious and ethnic minorities in Turkey. Of these Kurds constitute the largest. The other minorities are the Laz people, Arabs, Circassians, Bosnians, Roma people and ethnic Bulgarians. Armenian and Greek Orthodox Christians and Jews are officially recognized non-Muslim minorities. However there are also Syriac Orthodox Christians and Yazidis. The Alevi identity, which is defined in cultural/religious terms as a distinctive form of Islam and permeates across ethnicity, is also important and consistent. 

Turkey became an associate member of the EEC in 1963 and signed the Customs Union Agreement with the EU in 1995.  In 1999, Turkey was officially recognized as a EU candidate country and accession negotiations started in 2005. Turkey is a (founding) member of the UN and OECD, the European Council, OSCE and NATO.

Mainstream media in Turkey is plagued with severe problems: media ownership is heavily concentrated, nationalist rhetoric and self-censorship is paramount and media are vulnerable against political powers (the military, the government etc). 70 percent of the media, including national newspapers, radio and TV channels, are owned by few cross-media groups. The activities of these conglomerates expand to other sectors beyond media such as tourism, finance, auto, construction and banking. These conglomerates, in order to secure their business interests, establish alliances with major powers (the military, religious communities, bureaucratic elites, government).

The outcome of this situation, during the last 25 years, has been a very biased and extremely nationalistic media landscape, and all attempts of independent journalism practice (despite some positive developments) remain dangerous. The news coverage of mainstream media quite often depends on the degree to which the published news would serve the business interests of the conglomerates which own the media outlets, and that, of course, is closely linked to the impact of news on the position of the established interest groups. In this environment media outlets adopt strategic editorial policies and become pro-government, pro-military or sect-oriented.

Besides these deficiencies, media also suffer from internal problems: editorial hegemony prevails in all major media outlets: news are overruled or bent in accordance with the desire of editor-in-chiefs who take hints from the media owners. Similarly the rights of young journalists and correspondents vis-à-vis editorial staff is not protected. Those journalists who are committed to truthful reporting suffer from very precarious work conditions.

Although in the wake of a recent democratization wave in the country there have been some positive developments in the media (such as sporadic emergence of some critical perspectives even in some notoriously biased media outlets), which may change this bleak picture, the structural factors which shape the media practice (media ownership patterns, working conditions of journalists) are too rigid and therefore it is too early to become optimistic.

Compared to its population the total number of readers (of any kind of newspaper & periodical), is considered to be low. The total number of newspapers currently circulating in Turkey is estimated to be 2,459. Newspaper circulation per 1000 inhabitants is 95. Fifty five of these are national, 23 regional and 2,381 local.

İstanbul and Ankara, where the headquarters of all the national newspapers and broadcasting companies are placed, are the main media centers of Turkey. Among the national dailies, (with their average daily sales) Zaman (800,000), Posta (510,000), Hürriyet (450,000), Sabah (350,000), Milliyet (250,000), and Haber Türk (210,000) are the major ones...

Turkey’s mediascape is heavily dominated by large multi-sectoral groups such as Doğan Group, Turkuvaz, Ciner Group, Çukurova Group, Doğuş Group, and Feza Group. All the major commercial channels and newspapers belong to these media holdings. Moreover the distribution of the print media is in the hands of  Doğan Group’s Yay-Sat and Turkuvaz Group’s Turkuvaz Dağıtım Pazarlama. Indeed these large conglomerates are also active in many other sectors.

Doğan Group, the largest and the most prominent of the media giants, owns a substantial part of the media in Turkey: The mainstream (indeed nationalist leaning) major dailies Hürriyet, (with an exception of few liberal columnists) Milliyet and Vatan, the boulevard daily Posta, the liberal paper Radikal (40,000), the sports daily Fanatik (190,000), the business daily Referans (11,000), and the English-language daily Hürriyet Daily News (5,500) are all owned by Doğan Group. However in 2009 Doğan Group was seriously troubled with a major tax problem and now faces the danger of losing its grip on the media landscape.  

Turkuvaz Group is owned by Çalık Holding which has connections with the ruling party AKP. The mainstream Sabah, the boulevard daily Takvim (120,000), the sports daily Fotomaç (200,000), and the most prominent regional newspaper Yeni Asır (40,000) belong to the Turkuvaz Group.

Gazete Habertürk (220,000) was launched in March 2009 by Ciner Group, which appears to be determined to become a major player in the media landscape. It is not unlikely that in coming years Ciner group may replace the Doğan group as the largest media conglomerate in Turkey.

The biggest selling, liberal/Islamic daily Zaman is owned by Feza Group, which has close connections with the Islamic sect leader Fethullah Gülen.  Zaman also has a sister newspaper Today’s Zaman (5,000) in English.

Çukurova Group owns the nationalist dailies Akşam (150,000), H.O Tercüman (15,000), and the boulevard paper Güneş (110,000).

The conservative Islamic daily Yeni Şafak (100,000) is owned by Albayrak business group. The Islamic A.Vakit (50,000) is more radical and sensationalist in content and has been prosecuted several times. Milli Gazete (50,000) is another Islamic daily known to be the voice of “Milli Görüş” which has been the ideology of a certain Islamic political tradition in Turkey aiming at substantial restructuring of the state in compliance with the maxims of Islam. This vision has been promoted by the group led by Necmettin Erbakan and entered into politics with the National Salvation Party in the 1970s and with the Welfare party during the 1990s. “Milli Görüş” is considered well organised in Europe.

Of the national dailies Cumhuriyet (55,000), which is not entirely owned by any multi-sectoral group and once was the newspaper representing the left-wing in Turkey, is now considered as the voice of the staunch Kemalists and nationalist status-quo groups.

Star daily (100,000) is owned by the businessman Ethem Sancak who also owns the news channel 24. Star has a wide range of columnists with Islamic and liberal political orientations.

In November 2007, several prominent journalists and intellectuals together with a small publishing house, launched a new national daily, Taraf, which challenged the established dogmas, undermined the monolithic nationalist discourse of the media, and uncovered many ‘dirty’ stories on Turkey’s taboo issues, such as the role of the military in politics, the politicisation of the Turkish judiciary system, governments’ unfair legislation on state contracts. Consequently Taraf obtained an unprecented position in Turkish media landscape: within three years many times its news shaped the politics and public opinion in Turkey. The sudden rise of Taraf’s sales (50.000 copies) in a severely monopolised media market reveals the appetite of people for this kind of independent journalism.

The interest for the magazines and periodicals in Turkey is also low compared to the size of the population. The biggest selling one is Aksiyon news magazine (Feza Group) with a quite steady rate of 38,000. Other popular news magazines are Turkuvaz Group’s Yeni Aktüel (8,000) and Newsweek Türkiye (5,000). Weekly economy magazines Ekonomist and Para sell around 9,000 copies. The celebrity magazines have a total weekly circulation of 20,000 copies, while the automobile magazines circulate over 15,000. It is also important to mention Birikim, a highly respected liberal-left journal which publishes elaborate articles on social and political issues.

There are also newspapers of the officially recognized minorities. IHO and Apoyevmatini are published by Greeks, Agos, Jamanak and Nor Marmara by Armenians and Şalom by the Jewish community. These newspapers are struggling to maintain their existence.

Radio broadcasting started in Turkey in 1927, with a private company owned by the state. From 1964 to 1994, Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) had a monopoly in radio broadcasting.

Currently, the number of private radio channels  in Turkey is around 1100, and 100 of them are also available on cable. Of these 36 are national, 102 are regional and 950 are local radio stations. TRT has 4 national radio channels; Radyo 1 (general), Radyo 2 (TRT-FM) (Turkish classical, folk and pop music), Radyo 3 (primarily classical music and also jazz, polyphonic and western pop music, broadcasts news in English, French and German), and Radyo 4 (Turkish Music). TRT’s international radio service Türkiye‘nin Sesi / The Voice of Turkey broadcasts in 26 languages.

TRT also has 10 regional radio stations. Besides the radio stations owned by the media holdings, there are also many independent national, regional and local radio stations. Private radios mostly offer music programmes. The most popular ones are Kral FM (Turkish pop music), Süper FM (Western pop music), Metro FM (Western pop music), Power Türk (Turkish pop music), and Best FM (Turkish pop music). Another radio station to mention is Açık Radyo (Open Radio), which broadcasts in the wider Istanbul  area since 1995. The first of its kind in Turkey, Açık Radyo is a radio station that is financially supported by listeners, and which encourages listeners to participate in public discussions on sensitive issues to promote open dialogue.

Television is the main information and entertainment source in Turkey. The Radio Television Supreme Council’s (RTÜK) first ever TV viewing survey (covering two weeks time) shows that average daily TV viewing time per person is 5.09 hours in the week days and 5.15 hours in the weekends. The first broadcasting company in Turkey, Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), was established in 1964 by the state and enjoyed the monopoly in broadcasting (granted by law which prohibited private TV and radio channels) as public (i.e. state owned) broadcaster for more than 20 years. However in 1990 the first private commercial TV channel STAR 1 began broadcasting via satellite from Germany (thus in theory not breaching the law which banned broadcasting from Turkey by private agents). This has paved the way for some 100 local commercial TV channels and 500 local radio channels which began operating subsequently without licenses. Consequently the broadcasting scene faced radical changes due to this quasi- illegal but de facto situation. Finally on August 1993, the parliament lifted the monopoly on TV and radio broadcasting by amending the related article of the Constitution. Now there are 24 national, 16 regional and 215 local television stations.

The public broadcaster TRT has 11 national television channels: TRT 1 (general), TRT 2 (culture and art), TRT 3 (youth channel with sports and music programs and live broadcasts from the Turkish National Grand Assembly at specific hours), TRT 4 (education), TRT Müzik (wide range of music from traditional Turkish music to jazz). TRT has also a regional channel TRT-GAP for the southeastern region of Turkey, and two international channels TRT-TÜRK for Europe, USA and Australia, and TRT-AVAZ for the Balkans, Central Asia and Caucasus. In January 2009, as a part of the new democratization process initiated by the government, Turkey’s first full time Kurdish channel, TRT 6, was launched.

The multi sectoral groups again are the main actors in the private broadcasting market: Doğan Group owns Kanal D, Star TV and CNN-Türk, Turkuvaz Group owns ATV, Çukurova Group owns Show TV and Sky-Türk, Ciner Group owns HaberTürk, Doĝuş Group owns NTV and Feza Group owns Samanyolu TV. Kanal 7 is considered to be the voice of Milli Görüş. News channel 24 is owned by the businessman Ethem Sancak who also owns the Star daily. İHLAS Group’s TGRT channel’s 51 percent share has been sold to News Netherlands Company owned by Rupert Murdoch in September 2006.

The most popular private television channels (ATV, Kanal D, Show TV, Star TV and TGRT), and to a certain degree TRT 1, offer a quite similar content comprising entertainment, news, football and locally made dramas and sit-coms. Samanyolu and Kanal 7, the channels with Islamic orientation, also attract considerable attention. Roj TV (a pro PKK channel) which broadcasts in Kurdish from abroad via satellite is quite popular among the Kurdish populated areas. There are also thematic TV channels in Turkey: NTV, CNN-Türk (a joint venture with CNN International), Habertürk, Sky Türk, and TGRT Haber are 24-hour news channels. Kral TV and Number One TV are music channels which broadcast, rank and promote music-clips and in this way to a certain extent manipulate the music market in Turkey.

On cable there are approximately 60 TV channels including BBC World, BBC Prime, CNN, TV5, RTL, MTV, Eurosport, National Geography and Discovery. However, after the completion of the digitalising process the number of TV channels available on cable is expected to reach 300.

Most of the TV channels quickly imitate each other’s programmes which proved to attract viewers’ attention and create quite a monolithic understanding of television broadcasting. Consequently the apparent lack of diversity and creativity in programme-making undermines the quality of the audiovisual media. Television’s share in the advertising market (of around 1 billion dollars) dropped to 48.2 percent in 2009 when it was 50 percent in 2008, and 56 percent in 2005.

On the other hand, print media’s share decreased to 31.2 percent that was 33 percent in 2008, and 36 percent in 2005, while radio’s share decreased from 3.4 to 3.3 percent. The advertising market in Turkey is considered to be relatively small compared to the number of actors in the broadcasting scene, which makes it difficult for small entrepreneurs to enter the broadcasting market or to survive. Indeed, the limited potential revenue that may be obtained from advertisements renders the media independence rather dubious, as most of the commercial broadcasters function under media conglomerates, whose financial sources are provided by activities in the non-media sectors. Characteristically the major media groups also get the largest share from advertising revenues.

Since 2000, the number of movie-goers is steadily increasing. This is mainly due to the rising interest in Turkish films, economic growth, political liberalisation and improved quality of theatres. There were about 255 films distributed in 2009 reaching 35 million people. Of these, 70 of them are of Turkish origin attracting half of the audience. Although the movie audience is expanding by 20-25 percent per year, the average is still below the European level and the number of film theatres outside the three big cities is still very limited.

In the last few years some Turkish films also won some prominent international awards attracting more audience abroad than in Turkey. Most of these films were financially supported by European film funds (Eurimages) and the Turkish Ministry of Culture, which contributed greatly to the improvement of the Turkish art house films reflecting the social transformation in the country.

There are about 40 films produced annually in Turkey at a cost of around 50 million dollars equivalent to approximately 18 percent of the total sector. 30 percent of the total production costs are covered by sponsors.

Two major companies in the film sector, Cinemars and AFM, were bought by foreign investors (Colony Capital  from USA and Eurasia Cinemas from Russia) in 2007.

In 1995, postal services and telecommunication services were separated from each other and Türk Telekom was established. The company was privatized in 2005 selling 55 percent of its share to Oger Telecom. 30 percent of TT’s share is owned by the Treasury and 15 percent is reserved for the public. Türk Telekom provides wide range of integrated telecommunication services ranging from broad-band Internet and land phone lines to GSM . In March 2009 there were 17.3 million land line phone users, 6 million ADLS users, and 12.6 million GSM users subscribed to Türk-Telekom. However, the telecommunication market becomes increasingly more competitive in Turkey.

The number of Internet users has increased to 26.5 million as of March 2008, showing a penetration of 34.5 percent, which was only 7.5 percent in 2004 and 13.9 percent in 2005. Access through Internet cafés and work-places seems to be more common than private home connections. The number of ADSL subscribers reached 4.5 million users as of September 2008. The Internet is widely popular among the youth (16-24). According to the “Information and Communications for Development 2009 report” of the World Bank, only 7 percent of the women in Turkey use the Internet.

All the national newspapers and TV channels have web editions updated throughout the day, and some of these are also in English. There are numerous news portals and Internet magazines. Despite the low Internet penetration, the interest in online media is considered to be high. Yet it is hard to talk about alternative news making. Due to the heavy costs of having correspondents most of the news are almost “copy-pasted” from the news agencies and the traditional media. Only few of the online media employ journalists.

The switchover from analogue to digital in terrestrial broadcasting is planned to be completed before the end of 2012. Initial moves in the switching from analogue to digital have been launched by TRT in Ankara, İstanbul and İzmir in February 2006.

After the digitisation process the interference of frequencies in analogue broadcasting thus the low quality of vision in terrestrial broadcasting, especially in the big cities, will end. RTÜK officials mention that the switchover will be gradual because of the lack of free frequency spectrums to launch digital broadcasts. The analogue broadcasting will continue together with digital broadcasting till the digital penetration reach over 80 percent.

The switchover in satellite has been completed and the process on cable is still going on. Since the major channels are also available terrestrially, the penetration of satellite and cable TV is low. Digiturk and D Smart are the digital platform providers on satellite having a subscriber base of over 3 million.

Anadolu Ajansı (AA), Doğan Haber Ajansı (DHA), İhlas Haber Ajansı (İHA), Cihan Haber Ajansı (CİHA) and ANKA are the most prominent news agencies in Turkey. DHA, İHA, CİHA and Ajans HaberTürk have high technical facilities thanks to their belonging to affluent multi media groups. 

AA (Anadolu Ajansı) is the oldest news agency and it is the prime source for the press in Turkey. It was founded by Kemal Atatürk in 1920 to promote the independence war of the Turkish Republic. It is the ‘official’ news agency subsidized by the state. AA has 28 offices in Turkey and 22 offices abroad, and provides approximately 800 news and 200 photos to its subscribers each day.

Independent news agency, ANKA founded in 1972 also has a daily news and photographic services: it provides a daily economic bulletin in Turkish and a weekly one in English.

DHA is owned by Doğan Group and primarily provides news services for newspapers, TV and radio stations belonging to the Doğan Group.

Ihlas Group’s news agency İHA has 145 offices in Turkey and abroad. It also covers Europe, Middle East, Arabian Peninsula and Central Asia and provides news services to European, American and Arabic TV channels. İHA services in English and Arabic too.

Ajans HaberTürk belongs to Ciner Group and CİHA belongs to the Samanyolu Group and it is well organized on a local level in Turkey. CİHAN has offices in 31 countries including Gaza, Baghdad, Erbil and Kabul and gives service to 22 foreign media organizations in Arabic language.

Another independent agency, Dicle Haber Ajansı (DIHA), which was established in 2002, provides services in Turkish, English and Kurdish. Other than these native agencies, there are also foreign news agencies operating in Turkey like Reuters.

Most of the media employees are working under harsh conditions without having job security and social security as they are forced to work outside the legislation regulating the rights of journalists (known as the law 212) and without permanent contracts. Consequentially during the economic crisis in 2001 approximately 5000 media workers have lost their jobs.

Media workers who are not provided a contract under the law 212 cannot obtain a press card and cannot become a member of Turkish Journalists Union (Türkiye Gazeteciler Sendikası, TGS) which is the only trade union that has the authority to negotiate collective agreements for journalists. The influence of TGS has diminished considerably at the beginning of  the 1990s due to the pressure of the media owners. Most of the media workers are cautious about the union membership due to fear of employer retaliation which may cause dismissal.

Although the unionization level is very low there are many journalist associations all around the country. Some of the important journalist associations in Turkey are: Türkiye Gazeteciler Cemiyeti (Journalists Association of Turkey), Türkiye Gazeteciler Federasyonu (Federation of Journalists), Çaĝdaş Gazeteciler Derneĝi (Progressive Journalists Association), Ekonomi Muhabirleri Derneĝi (Association of Economy Reporters), Foto Muhabirleri Derneĝi (Association of Photo Reporters), and Parlamento Muhabirleri Derneĝi (Association of Parliamentary Reporters).

Some of the employers’ organisations are: Televizyon Yayıncıları Derneği (Association of Television Broadcasters), Anadolu Gazete Radyo ve Televizyon Yayıncıları Birliği (Union of Anatolian Newspaper, Radio and Television Publishers and Broadcasters), Televizyon Yayıncıları Birliği (Union of Television Broadcasters ), Yayıncılar Birliği (Turkish Publishers’ Association).

Associations in the advertising sector are; Turkish Association of Advertising Agencies (TAAA) (Reklamcılar Derneği), Association of Advertisers (Reklamverenler Derneği) and IAA Turkey (International Advertising Association).

The recent expansion of the demand for locally made productions, especially soap series, created a market for independent production companies with a high degree of technical sophistication. This market has an annual size of 650 million dollars.

Although it is stated in Article 28 of the constitution that the press is free and shall not be censored, the judiciary can censor all media outlets under constitutional provisions and loosely interpreted laws, especially on the grounds of “protecting basic characteristics of the Republic” and “safeguarding the indivisible integrity of the State with its territory and nation.”  

A considerably important development is the enforcement of Freedom of Information legislation. The Right to Information Act of April, 2004, gives citizens and legal persons the right to request information from public institutions and private organizations that qualify as public institutions. There are concerns, however, about the improper application of the Act. 

In addition to the Press Law, passed in May, 2007, a law concerning “Regulation of Publications on the Internet and Suppression of Crimes Committed Through Such Publications” was enacted. According to the law, the Telecommunications Communication Presidency (TIB) was authorised to execute court orders to block websites and to issue blocking orders for the content providers in or outside Turkey for committing crimes such as child pornography, encouraging drugs and, especially, crimes against Ataturk. Since the enforcement of the law approximately 3,700 websites including YouTube, MySpace, Geocities have been blocked.  

After termination of the state monopoly on broadcasting in August, 1993, the Radio Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) was established by the Radio and Television Law (Law No. 3984) in April, 1994, to regulate private broadcasting and to control compliance of broadcasts with legal framework. The RTÜK was made responsible for assigning frequencies and issuing broadcasting permits and licences to private companies. All television and radio broadcasters are under its supervision. The RTÜK is granted with the authority of giving penalties (for breaching the legal framework) to the broadcasters, which may range from warning to the suspension of the TV and radio channels. However, the RTÜK does not have authority on TRT because the public broadcaster is subject to a separate law (No. 2954).   

To speed up the process of allocating the frequencies and to end the chaos of an unregulated broadcasting market, the Communications High Council HYK (founded in 1983 to approve communication policies) and  Telecommunication Authority TK (established in 2000 to regulate and control the telecommunication sector) were rendered partners of the RTÜK in 2002. The duty of frequency planning is transferred to the TK. The process of auctioning the frequencies by the RTÜK has been unsuccessful, however, mainly due to discordance among these regulatory bodies and the pressure of the media conglomerates. Governments did not try to hasten the process, fearing retaliation of the media giants. Further preventing the commencement of frequency auctions was the intervention of the MGK (National Security Council). It obliged broadcasters to acquire a national security clearance document in the supposed hopes of preventing establishment of religious TV channels. Acquiring a national security document has consequently become mandatory for all the TV channels. Today frequency distribution continues to be a problem; all terrestrial radio and television stations continue to operate without licences.

The characteristic feature of Turkey's heavily monopolized media landscape is the prominence of countrywide print and audiovisual media with highly nationalistic rhetoric, and weak regional/local media suffering severely from financial problems. Accordingly, addressing certain issues (such as the position of the Army, Cyprus, Kurdish and Armenian issues) without complying with the official position of the state is considered almost to be tantamount to a kind of heresy across the media.  The recent democratization attempt by the government has generated a rather paradoxical situation for the mainstream media: as the state broadcasting company (TRT) begun to follow a much more liberal line (by engaging with the hitherto taboo issues mentioned above), some mainstream media outlets followed the suit while some others retained their hard-line status. However, it is increasingly possible to find some solitary journalists who try to adopt more a liberal line even in the most staunch pro-status-quo media outlets (perhaps with the exception of Cumhuriyet newspaper).

However, despite these developments the monopolization of the media “business” as depicted by the ownership patterns, inevitably raises doubts as to the objectivity and independence of the journalists and the quality of journalism in Turkey. All the multimedia groups are in fact large conglomerates, and their activities expand to other sectors beyond media including tourism, finance, automotive industry, construction and banking. It is not unusual to hear claims that certain news were deliberately ignored or inflated for the sake of protecting or furthering media holdings’ interests in other sectors.

Although RTÜK, in theory, may enforce media groups to sell their shares in order to prevent monopolization, under current conditions (in which all the media companies operate without licenses) there is no efficient way to alter the increasing concentration of media in few hands by using any legal means34. In this environment journalism ethics are tried to be promoted by two documents: the “Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities” by Turkish Journalists Association (1998) and the “Code of Professional Ethics of the Press” by Turkish Press Council (1989).  

In September 2006 a voluntary ombudsman mechanism has been introduced by RTÜK. Accordingly, TV channels may have a similar self-monitoring mechanism by establishing ombudsman branches, but they are not legally obliged. The ombudsman should be an individual with a university degree and with minimum seven years of working experience in the media, and should evaluate the calls, e-mails and letters from the viewers, and prepare a monthly report. Television ombudsman mechanism will first start in the national TV stations , and then  it will also be established in local media. Some dailies like Milliyet, Sabah, Hürriyet, Vatan, Yeni Şafak, Akşam and Zaman have ombudsmans too. However this self-regulatory mechanism is still very controversial since ombudsmans are not independent but employees of these media institutions, some with high ranking positions.

In the advertising sector the Advertising Self-Regulatory Board (Reklam Özdenetim Kurulu) was established by the members of the Advertisers Association, TAAA and  by the media institutions in order to monitor the advertising practices. TİAK (Television Audience Research Committee), BİAK (Press Research Committee), and RİAK (Radio Audience Research. Committee) are established to organise and monitor research about broadcasting and print media.

BIA is a non-for-profit organization that monitors and reports violations of freedom of expression, monitors the newspapers’ coverage about human rights, woman and children rights issues, and the functioning of the media in terms of media ethics. Its news and information network Bianet provides daily coverage of the issues that are ignored in the mainstream media, especially about human rights, gender rights, minority rights and children rights issues. Bianet has also an English version.

After the termination of the State monopoly over broadcasting in August 1993, Radio Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) was established by the Radio and Television Law (law 3984) in April 1994 in order to regulate the private broadcasting and to control the compliance of the broadcasts with the legal framework. RTÜK was made responsible for assigning frequencies and issuing broadcasting permits and licenses to private companies, and, all television and radio broadcasters are placed under its supervision. The RTÜK is granted with the authority of giving penalties (for breaching the legal framework) to the broadcasters, which may range from warning to the suspension of the TV and radio channels. However the RTÜK does not have the authority on TRT because the public broadcaster is subject to a separate law (no 2954).

To speed up the process of allocating frequencies and to end the chaos in an unregulated broadcasting market, the Communications High Council HYK (founded in 1983 to approve communication policies) and the Telecommunication Authority TK (established in 2000 to regulate and control the telecommunication sector) have been rendered partners of RTÜK in 2002. The duty of frequency planning is transferred to the TK. However the process of auctioning the frequencies by RTÜK has been unsuccessful mainly due to discordance among these regulatory bodies and for the pressure of media conglomerates.

Governments did not try to hasten the process in fear of retaliation by the media giants. Another reason preventing the starting of frequency auctions was the intervention of the MGK (National Security Council) to oblige broadcasters to acquire a national security clearance document, which would supposedly prevent the establishment of religious TV channels. Consequently acquiring a national security document has become mandatory for all the TV channels. Today the frequency distribution continues to be a problem and all the terrestrial radio and television stations still operate without licences.

RTÜK’s decisions of penalizing broadcasters so as to implement the Radio and Television law have been criticized domestically and internationally. Consequently the broadcasting law was softened by an amendment in May 2002, so that in case of violation of broadcasting standards, which are listed in the Radio and Television Law, RTÜK would suspend the programme instead of suspending the entire TV or radio channel. These compulsory broadcasting standards are regarded to be too comprehensive and yet very vague, including statements such as “not violating the national and moral values of the community and the Turkish family structure”, “not undermining the state and its independence and the undisputable unity of the country with its people” and “not undermining the ideals and reforms of Atatürk”.  The broadcasters also complain that the Council’s interpretation of the law has been extremely severe and subjective, and the sanctions implied by RTÜK have been anti-democratic and disproportional. Moreover the composition of the Council (i.e the political position of the appointed members) is another controversial issue which is considered to be profoundly influenced by the political considerations of governments and thus substantially undermining the Council’s claim of impartiality.

The first journalism school in Turkey was established in 1965 as part of the Ankara University. Now there are many other faculties in Turkey teaching journalism, media studies and communication. Moreover there are journalism courses offered by international and local civil society organizations and newspapers

Most of the information available about the media in Turkey is written in Turkish. The Turkish Statistics Institute (TUİK/TurkStat) provides some statistical data on media in English. Directorate General of Press and Information (BYEGM) is a source for information on foreign press accreditations in Turkey. BIA offers extensive media monitoring reports in English.

Turkey’s candidacy to the EU is the main driving force behind the recent democratization process in Turkey which also means more freedom for the media. As a part of the policy of fulfilling the EU membership requirements, legal reforms were carried out in Turkey: prison sentences for journalism related offences were replaced with heavy fines. Penalties of banning newspapers and the distribution of the newspapers and shutting down the media outlets were repealed. Recently the EU increases its pressure for the abolishment or amendment of the article 301 of the penal code which is quite often invoked to prosecute journalists, activists and authors.

However, despite these improvements 435 journalists, publishers and human rights activists were prosecuted in 2008 for expressing their ideas. 82 of them were charged with denigration of the state. Indeed the new penal code enacted on June 2005 introduced additional constraints on media. According to article 305, endangering ‘basic national interests’ will be subject to imprisonment from three to ten years. Similarly article 301 imposes imprisonment from six months to three years for those who “insult Turkishness”.

Broadcasting in languages other than Turkish was another requirement of the EU to be fulfilled by Turkey before the commencement of the membership negotiations. Initially the task of broadcasting in Arabic, Bosnian, Circassian and in Kurdish dialects of Kirmançi and Zaza was given to the public broadcaster TRT and after long debates on the issue, the broadcast of TRT started in June 2004.

The programmes in native languages would be broadcast within strict time restraints: they would not exceed a total of four hours per week and 45 minutes per day while radio broadcasts are allowed for five hours per week and 60 minutes per day. In January 2009, as a major step forward  both for the media landscape and democratization of Turkey , the state broadcasting company (TRT) launched a new TV channel TRT-Şeş, which broadcasts 24-hour in Kurdish.

As a conclusion one can argue that the general patterns of struggle in Turkish politics (as vividly demonstrated by the polarization generated by the Ergenekon Trial) is clearly visible in the media landscape too: while (still a considerable) part of the media implicitly or explicitly endorses the military dominated authoritarian state tradition which doubts the feasibility of an open society, a small (but increasing) portion opts for open debate and more democracy in the country.   

Ruken Barış
Media consultant & journalist
Eerste Ringdijkstraat 378
1092 BC Amsterdam
Tel: +31 35 6254306
E-mail: rukenb@gmail.com