December 16, 2014

Media crackdown threatens Turkey’s lucrative TV industry

A raid on Sunday targeting prominent members of the Zaman newspaper and Samanyolu TV (STV) networks also involved the detention of screenwriters for two STV dramas, a move that does not bode well for the industry as a whole, said Fikret Duran, the lawyer for STV head Hidayet Karaca.

Tek Turkiye
“They are presenting the series [‘Tek Türkiye'] as if it were committing crimes through its plot,” said Duran, adding that the operation has created the understanding that channels, actors, scriptwriters and producers can be subjected to criminal investigations, which could significantly harm the industry.

“Tek Türkiye” Director Naci Çelik Berksoy, assistant director Engin Koç, screenwriter Ali Sami Noyan, assistant scriptwriters Radiye Ebru Şenvardar, Makbule Çam Alemdağ, Hikmet Tombulca, Ali Kara and Elif Yılmaz were also detained. Salih Asan, who also produces the STV drama “Sungurlar,” was also detained on Sunday. Şenvardar, Yılmaz, Alemdağ and Berksoy have subsequently been released.

“Tek Türkiye” tells the story of a young, idealistic doctor who travels to the Southeast from İstanbul -- without knowing that he was born in the region -- in a bid to help the local population, which has been suffering for decades from terrorism perpetrated by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). It aired on STV between 2007 and 2011, receiving high ratings despite lacking a star-studded cast.

The move against the series is worrisome for the Turkish TV industry, which commands a massive domestic audience in addition to immense popularity abroad. Turkey comes second in the world in the exportation of local TV series, only preceded by America, Turkish Exporters Assembly (TİM) President Mehmet Büyükekşi said in İstanbul in October.

The president pointed out that Turkey aims to increase the value of its exported cultural products to $2 billion by 2023. Büyükekşi said the cinema industry follows only the pharmaceutical and arms industries in importance, as it reached a volume of $88 billion in 2013. “This amount is expected to rise to $100 billion in 2017 and $110 billion in 2018,” the president pointed out.

On Dec. 14, 31 people in 13 provinces were taken into custody in an operation aimed at intimidating and silencing media outlets close to the Hizmet movement, which is inspired by the teachings of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

The Zaman daily editor-in-chief was taken into custody in the operation, which has been condemned by critics as a deliberate attempt to silence critical media and punish the Hizmet movement for reporting done by its media affiliates on corruption allegations that were unveiled on Dec. 17 and 25 of last year.

Published on Today's Zaman, 15 December 2014, Monday