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In Turkey, there are 196 television channels, 19 of which are national, 12 regional, 165 local (RATEM 2019). The number of radio and television stations inspected by the RTÜK is 1,780.

As of September 2021, state-owned Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) owns 14 channels in total. In 2009, TRT started broadcasting in Kurdish with its channel named TRT Kurdî. Additionally, in 2010, TRT El Arabia, which broadcasts in Arabic, was established. TRT is mostly criticized for pro-government broadcasting.

Founded in 1964 as Turkey's first national television channel, TRT was the only TV channel broadcasting until 1990. Star 1, Turkey's first private channel, was founded in 1990. A law for private broadcasting was added to the Constitution in 1993. While TRT, as a state channel, was not expected to take the side of any ruling group, it supported the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the period before the 2019 local elections by focusing on negative news about the election speeches of other parties, violating the principle of neutrality in broadcasting activities.

With the Presidential decree issued on July 14, 2021, the entire board of directors of TRT was changed and the number of board members was increased from seven to nine. With the decree, the functions of the TRT Chairperson of the Board of Directors and the TRT General Director, which were stated to be carried out by the same person with the phrase “General Manager is the Chairperson of the Board of Directors” in the previous regulation, were separated. Mehmet Zahid Sobacı was appointed to replace İbrahim Eren, the General Manager of TRT, whose 4-year term expired. Sobacı previously worked at the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), known for their targeting of journalists and close ties to the ruling AKP. The new TRT Chair of the Board of Directors is Prof. Ahmet Albayrak.

In their written statement, the International Press Institute (IPI) reacted to the appointment of figures close to the government, such as Hilal Kaplan (a columnist for pro-government daily Sabah), to the board of directors of TRT, with a presidential decree. The IPI called for the 2018 decree on the appointment of TRT’s administration to be overturned in order to restore the autonomous structure of TRT.

A large part of TRT's revenues come from electricity bills and banderole revenues.

According to the figures announced, TRT earned 1 billion 215 million 447 thousand TRY from the share of energy revenues cut from electricity bills and 2 billion 619 million 604 thousand TRY from the banderoles in 2020. According to the news of Deniz Ayhan from Sözcü, the total revenue of TRT in 2020 was 4 billion 378 million 811 thousand TRY. TRT has not published an annual report since 2017.

Media and advertising investments

13 billion 976 million TRY of media and advertising investments, which totaled 17 billion 469 million TRY in 2020, were media investments. While the sum of press, TV and radio constituted 41 percent of these investments, investments in digital were 54 percent. This year, television media investments amounted to 5 billion TRY, which marked an increase of 23 percent when compared to the previous year. Television investments rank second with 36 percent (35.8%) after digital media investments (54%). The same data indicate that total television viewing times increased significantly in the second quarter of 2020, with the increase in the time spent at home during the Covid-19 pandemic (the estimated data of the Advertisers Association published in April 2021).

According to the March 2020 report of the Advertisers Association, the television investments, total media and advertising investments grew by 5 percent in 2019 when compared to 2018 and received the largest share with 46 percent. The total investment was worth 4 billion 68 million TRY. 

In 2018, a decision was taken by the TV Audience Research Company (TİAK) to not report advertising expenditures. While the data of the rating rates broadcast by the TİAK can be accessed, it is not possible to access the data on which television channel and which company advertised.

According to Kenan Şener's research, the 5 channels in the top 10 on the list of TV channels that receive the most advertisements from public banks in 2020 belong to Turkuvaz Media Group, which has close relations with the government. Habertürk, Bloomberg HT and Show TV, which have the highest ratings, were the television channels that received the least advertisements from public banks. Public banks did not advertise for a single second on channels critical of the government such as FOX TV, Halk TV, Tele-1, KRT and TV5 in 2020 (gazeteduvar July 2021).

The Reuters Institute Digital News Report (2021) mentioned that the selected urban sample preferred to watch FOX TV and CNN Türk among the television channels during the Covid-19 pandemic period. The 2020 version of the same report points out that the urban sample (85%) largely uses online media, but television is the most important news source in Turkey.

The rate of those who say they “do not watch TV” is 6.7 percent and the rate of those who say "I do not watch the news on TV" is 14.2 percent. The same research says that FOX TV is the most-watched channel. FOX TV is followed by ATV and TRT (KONDA Barometer 2019-2020 Data).

According to a study conducted by public research company KONDA in August 2016, 65 percent of the population found out about the July 15 coup attempt via TV channels.

After the sale of the media assets of the Doğan Group to the Demirören Group in March 2018, Demirören Group has the widest audience. According to the 2020 data, out of the top 10 TV channels that hold the most audience, 5 belong to four big holdings. The most-watched channel, ATV, belongs to Zirve Holding. Zirve Holding has two channels in the top ten together with AHABER TV. There is a channel belonging to Demirören group (Kanal D), a channel belonging to Ciner Holding (Show TV) and a channel belonging to Doğuş Group (Star TV). Other channels include FOX TV, owned by FOX Networks and known for its anti-government broadcasting, two channels owned by the state broadcaster TRT, Kanal 7 owned by Hayat Görsel Broadcasting, and Beyaz TV owned by Kanal Beyaz.

9 of the 10 most-watched channels are owned by the companies that have political and economic relations with the government.

According to the MOM's audience data of 2020, the top 10 most-watched channels are as follows: ATV (Zirve Holding), FOX, SHOW TV (Ciner), KANAL D (Demirören), Star TV (Doğuş), TRT 1, KANAL 7 (Hayat Görsel), TRT NEWS, BEYAZ TV (Kanal Beyaz), A HABER (Zirve Holding).

According to the audience data of 2019, the top 10 most-watched channels were as follows: ATV, FOX, KANAL D, SHOW TV, TV8, STAR TV, TRT 1, KANAL 7, TRT HABER, A Haber.

The shutdown of television channels

On April 8, 2021, the Constitutional Court annulled the Decree Law, which paved the way for the closure of newspapers, television and agencies on the grounds that they "posed a threat to national security" during the state of emergency.

Owned by Former Minister of State and businessperson Cavit Çağlar, having started broadcasting on November 30, and directed by Süleyman Sarılar, former News Coordinator of Kanal D, Olay TV was closed on December 25, 2020, after broadcasting for 26 days. The channel was criticized by the government for broadcasting the Parliamentary Group meeting of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

A Turkish court seized Koza İpek Media Group televisions Kanaltürk and Bugün TV in October 2015 based on being connected to the Gülen Organization. Public Satellite and Cable TV operations company Türksat stopped the broadcasts of Bugün TV, Kanaltürk TV, Samanyolu TV, S News TV, Mehtap TV, and Irmak TV.

The decrees [668 (27.07.2016), 675 (29.10.2016), 677 (22.11.2016), 675 (29.10.2016) ve 670 (17.08.2016), 689 ( 29.04.2017), 693 (25.08.2017) and 695 (24.12.2017) and 701(08.07.2018)] declared during the state of emergency brought the shutdowns of 6 news agencies, 41 radios, 38 TVs, 70 newspapers, 20 magazines, and 29 printing houses and distribution channels (in total 204 news agencies). This includes the decisions to shut down by RTÜK (19 TV channels and 17 radio stations).

The decisions to shut down 17 newspapers, 4 radios, 4 TV and a total of 25 media organizations under decrees were canceled. During the State of Emergency period, a total of 179 media agencies (53 newspapers, 34 TVs, 37 radio stations, 20 magazines, 6 news agencies and 29 publishing houses) were shut down.

These shutdowns were based on "connection, coherence and communication with the Gülen Terror Organization (FETO/PYD) which has been established as a threat to national security; as well as terror organizations and structures and groups which have been declared as acting against the security of the state, by the National Security Council."

16 TV channels have been shut down through decree 668, 19 were shut down by RTÜK based on decree 668. On October 3, Med Nûçe TV (Kurdish), which broadcasted in Europe, banned on French satellite Eutelsat through Turkey's official request.

In 2018, 1 TV ( Avantaj TV) was shut down based on decree 701 (July 8, 2018).

In total, it became 38 TV channels that were shut down with the decree laws after the coup attempt on July 15. The shutdown decisions for four were lifted.

TVs listed as shut down

Art TV, Azadi TV, Barış TV, Bugün TV, Birlik Medya TV, Can Erzincan TV, Denge TV, Dünya TV, Hayat TV, Hayat'ın Sesi TV, Hira TV, Irmak TV, İMC TV, Jiyan TV, Kanal 12, Kanal 24, Kanal 35, Kanaltürk, MC TV, Mehtap TV, Merkür TV, Mezopotamya TV, Ört TV- Ödemiş, Özgür Gün TV,Samanyolu TV, Tele 9 Adana, Tuna Shopping TV, TV 10, Van TV, Van Genç TV, Yek Televizyon, Yumurcak TV.

The closure of SRT TV was canceled through a decree. The Kurdish children's channel Zarok TV restarted operating with the condition that it broadcast 40 percent in Turkish.

Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK)

The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) was established in 1994 as per the "Act of the Establishment of Radio and TV Initiatives and Broadcast." Regulating broadcasters, providing licenses and auditing broadcasters are among the authority's responsibilities.

RTÜK consists of nine members elected by the Parliament from among the candidates nominated by the parties. With the election held on January 25, 2021, Ebubekir Şahin, whose two-year term expired, was re-elected as the President of RTÜK. Arif Fırtına is the Deputy Chairperson of the RTÜK.

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 protests on October 6-8, 2014, RTÜK’s HDP member Ali Ürküt was detained and arrested. Ürküt is in prison as of October 2021.

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.

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 is stated that the files of some channels (such as A Haber, Kanal 7, TV Net and TGRT Haber) that are known to be close to the government are not discussed at RTÜK.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has stated that Turkey's media authority imposes punitive sanctions on critical media outlets (December 2020).

In its statement, RTÜK also stated that media organizations that receive funding from foreign institutions may have a "national security problem". 

According to the BİA Media Monitoring Report 2020, the RTÜK issued 297 monetary penalties and 70 program suspension and broadcast suspension penalties on visual and auditory media in 2020, issuing an overwhelming majority of the penalties on television outlets. The total amount of fines that RTÜK issued reached 19,063,835 TRY.

According to the BİA Media Monitoring Report 2019, the RTÜK issued 57 monetary fines and 24 program suspension fines to TV channels for violating the Law 6112. Any action was not taken against radio outlets. The council issued a total of 4,090,999 TRY of fines to TV channels.

MOM updates were based on viewership rates for 2020. Although they are in the top ten list of the most-watched TV channels, thematic channels such as TV8 and TRT Çocuk were excluded. See:

Television Database
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  • Heinrich Böll Stiftung