April 14, 2016

80,000 unsubscribed from Digiturk after its removal of critical channels

Digiturk TV cable network lost 80,000 of its subscribers in the last quarter of 2015 after it removed seven TV channels, that were thought to be critical of the government, from its platform, according to a recent report released by the Information Technologies Board (BTK).

In a controversial move that attracted widespread criticism, Digiturk stopped broadcasting Samanyolu Haber, Bugün TV, Mehtap, Irmak, Samanyolu, Kanaltürk and even children’s channel Yumurcak TV last October. The digital platform’s move was interpreted as an act of censorship by many who said they would cancel their contracts with the digital platform.

BTK’s report titled, “Turkey Electronic Communication Sector,” revealed that while Digiturk had 2,625 million subscribers in September of 2015, the number of its subscribers fell to 2,546 million after it removed seven TV stations.

Digiturk announced in a statement back then that the stations had been removed by order of the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office on the suspicion that they support a terrorist organization.

Digiturk has been run by the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) since March 2013 when it was confiscated by the fund. The former owner of the cable network was businessman Mehmet Emin Karamehmet.

In addition to Digiturk, other private digital platforms and state-owned Turkish Satellite Communications Company (TÜRKSAT) last November dropped dozens of radio stations and TV channels including seven TV channels above in a severe blow to already deteriorating press freedoms in Turkey.

Their move came amidst escalating government pressure on members of the Gülen movement as well as business groups that are thought to be affiliated with it like the targeted TV stations.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government launched an all-out war against the Gülen movement after a corruption investigation targeting people in Erdoğan’s inner circle became public with a wave of detentions on Dec. 17, 2013.

Erdoğan accused police officers, judges and prosecutors he claimed are linked with Gülen movement, which is inspired by Turkish-Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, of being behind the investigation, which he branded a “coup attempt.”

The movement strongly denies Erdoğan’s allegation.

As part of the government’s war on the Gülen movement, many individuals have been arrested and business places and organizations have been either shut down or taken over by the government on the grounds that they support terrorism.

In a move that attracted worldwide condemnation last month, the AK Party government took over the Feza Media Group, which includes Turkey’s best-selling Zaman newspaper as well as Today’s Zaman newspaper, Aksiyon magazine and Cihan News Agency.

Published on Turkish Minute, 13 April 2014, Wednesday