Turkey has varied legislation for radio and television enterprises and printed press. The legal framework provides specific rules for media service providers for the control of concentration, regulation of property and media transparency to some degree.
Legal thresholds to prevent concentration
Media concentration for audio-visual media is regulated with the Law no. 6112 on "Establishment of Radio and Television Enterprises and their Media Services." Furthermore, the Competition Authority is entitled to take action against distortion of competition according to Law no. 7441 on the "Protection of Competition."
Compliance with laws
The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) is the authority assigned to ensure compliance with the laws for radio, television and on-demand media services. It mainly monitors and supervises the broadcasts of media service providers, and supervises the television channel and radio frequency planning in the framework of frequency bands for the terrestrial radio and television broadcasts. The Competition Authority is the authority for the prohibition of cartels and other restrictions on competition, prevention of abuse of dominant position by an entity, which has dominance in a certain market and prevention of the creation of new monopolies by monitoring some merger and acquisition transactions.
Independent regulatory bodies
Both the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) and the Competition Authority are stipulated as independent public bodies in regulation. The RTÜK Board consists of nine members elected by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey for six years. The Competition Board is the decision-making body of the Competition Authority and is composed of seven members, one being the Chair and the other being the Deputy Chair. The Council of Ministers appoints these members from among two candidates each, to be nominated from inside or outside the following institutions for a vacant membership: Three members from the Ministry of Trade, one member from the Presidency of Strategy and Budget (the-then Ministry of Development), one member from the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges and one member from among the two candidates apiece, to be nominated from inside the Court of Cassation and Council of State.
Since the members of the Supreme Council are being elected by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey from among the nominees based on the number of members for each political party group, the number of nominees depends on the political parties' seats in the Parliament. Therefore, the Supreme Council lacks independence because of its election process.
The law enacted in March 2015 transferred the authority to inspect electoral TV broadcasts from the Supreme Election Council (YSK) to the RTÜK. Considering that the majority of the RTÜK members are representatives of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), this transfer has been interpreted as a way to guarantee that television channels will not be fined for their partial broadcasts.
In June 2021, two people from the AKP quota and one from the MHP quota were elected for the three vacant memberships. Thus, as of August 2021, there are a total of 8 members in RTÜK, including 4 members from the AKP, 2 from the CHP, 1 from the MHP and 1 from the HDP. As part of the investigation carried out by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office regarding the Kobane incidents on October 6-8, 2014, RTÜK’s HDP member Ali Ürküt was detained and arrested. Ürküt is currently in prison as of October 2021.
It appears that the RTÜK acts as a government tool to threaten news outlets critical of the government and silence the critical, independent media in Turkey through its punishments. However, it has been alleged that files regarding the pro-government channels have not been discussed at RTÜK.
The legislation in force requires a certain amount of transparency from the media. Media service providers are obliged to publish information on the name of the company, its correspondence address, telephone and email address, its logo/call sign, their broadcasting license and broadcasting networks, the name, surname and contact information of its accountable manager in an up-to-date manner in their websites and notify such information to the Supreme Council. However, the true powers and relations within these companies may never become fully transparent through this obligation.
Granting of licenses
RTÜK is the relevant authority for regulating and supervising radio, television and on-demand media services. The state-owned broadcaster TRT, Turkish Radio-Television Corporation, notifies the number of broadcast services to be conducted by terrestrial means and their coverage area to the Supreme Council, which then decides under the frequency plans what percentage of such requests will be met. In the print sector, creating a media is subject to a simple declaration to the Chief Public Prosecutor's Office. The creation of online media is not subject to a specific legal regime.
In March 2018, the new bill granting the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) the authority to regulate online content was approved by the parliament. The regulation of the content was not limited to commercial streaming services such as Netflix, Blu TV etc. but applied to foreign-based online platforms as well.
Since September 2019, online broadcasters have been under the inspection of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK). The regulation which requires platforms broadcasting on the Internet to obtain a broadcasting license from RTÜK entered into force on September 1, 2019 after being published in the Official Gazette. With this regulation, broadcasters can no longer provide broadcasting services without obtaining a license from RTÜK. Accordingly, the license fee is 10,000 TRY (~1,290 USD dollars) for Internet radios and 100,000 TRY for television and on-demand video broadcast. Digital platforms such as Netflix, BluTV and Puhutv came under the control of RTÜK. In November 2020, it was announced that Netflix and Amazon Prime Video were licensed by RTÜK. Finally, in December 2020, Netflix received a license from RTÜK.
Broadcasters which will give 5 per thousand of their annual revenues to RTÜK every year as required by the regulation must also remove content that RTÜK deems unsuitable from their catalogs. These broadcast platforms are also responsible for informing viewers aloud or in writing about the content of the program services using a protective symbol system.
Private media service providers must comply with provisions regarding their company structures and share percentages, as stated in the Law on Establishment of Radio and Television Enterprises and their Media Services. The same company can only provide one radio, one television and one on demand broadcast service. One real person or legal entity can directly or indirectly hold shares of a maximum of four media service providers. However, the annual total commercial communication income of media service providers in which a real person or legal entity is a direct or indirect shareholder cannot exceed thirty percent of the total commercial communication income of the sector in case of holding shares in more than one media service provider.
Broadcast license may be granted to joint stock companies established in accordance with the provisions of the Turkish Commercial Code for the purpose of exclusively providing radio, television and on demand broadcast service, and cannot be granted to political parties, labor unions, professional organizations, cooperatives, associations, societies, foundations, local administrations, any companies which are established by them and of which they are direct or indirect shareholders and capital market institutions and real persons and legal entities who are direct or indirect shareholders of these institutions. The proportion of total direct foreign capital in a media service provider cannot exceed fifty percent of the paid-in capital.