An overwhelming majority of Turkish media outlets give little to no screen time to opposition pundits while allocating the lion’s share to a handful of pro-government figures, according to a report by media ombudsman Faruk Bildirici released on Wednesday.
“The Screen Monitoring Report” by Bildirici, which analyzed talk programs on TV for the last four weeks, reveals that pro-gov’t pundits such as Türk Medya Ankara representative Melike Yiğitel, the Takvim daily’s Ankara representative Zafer Şahin and Mehmet Metiner, a former MP from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), appeared on 10 shows in the sample period.
Saying that pundits who dominated the Turkish media landscape five years ago are nowhere to be found, Bildirici stressed that this rapid change and the fact that the same handful of figures are taking turns appearing on TV talk shows illustrates how much power the AKP has come to wield over Turkish media.
The report points out that opposition pundits and politicians only have a shot at making their voices heard on a few TV outlets, such as Haber Global and Habertürk, with limited scope.
The TV stations that are critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP are repressed in multiple ways, from advertising bans aimed at cutting their sources of income to hefty fines that wreak financial damage on the networks.
Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), has imposed fines on TV stations critical of the ruling AKP, totaling 25 times the amount it imposed on pro-government TV stations in 2020, according to a report from a RTÜK member from an opposition party.
İlhan Taşçı, a RTÜK member from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) who wrote the report, said what determines whether a TV station is punished by RTÜK or not is their attitude toward the AKP government.
“The message given through RTÜK is very clear: I will not let you [those criticizing the government] live and will turn a blind eye to the public’s right to information while I will protect those who act as the mouthpiece of the government and the palace [a reference to President Erdoğan] and inundate them with commercials,” Taşçı said in remarks to the Cumhuriyet daily.