|Media and Politics (8160512) / 7
A Brief History of Turkish Media
The first printing house came to İstanbul, then the capital of the Ottoman Empire but also populated by Greeks, with the Sephardim Jews who were forced to leave Spain and migrate to Ottoman territory. The Nahmes brothers, David and Samuel, Spanish Jews who had fled from Spain, published in 1499 the Prophet Moses Five Holy Books in İstanbul. Other Jewish publishing houses followed in the 1500s in the cities of Selanik (Thessaloniki), Aleppo and Edirne.
In 1567 Armenian and in 1627 Greek publishing houses were founded in Istanbul. Between 1494 and 1729, 37 publishing houses are thought to have been founded by minorities and foreign missionaries in Turkey. None of them published books in the Turkish language.
İbrahim Müteferrika and Sait Efendi founded the first Turkish publishing house in December 1727. The first newspaper in Turkey was published in the French Embassy in Istanbul in 1795 with the title Bulletin des Nouvelles.
Alexander Blacque, a counterrevolutionary who escaped from France after the French Revolution, published the first private newspaper in İzmir under the title Spectateur Oriental. The paper attacked the big foreign states that supported the Greek independence movement trying to spread to the Aegean islands. Even though the publisher was not a Turk, it can be said that the first private newspaper published in Turkey had an anti-Greek aspect.
After the Spectateur Oriental it took over 30 years until the first Turkish language newspaper was published in İstanbul in 1831. This was Takvim-i Vakai, an official gazette published with the encouragement of Mahmut II, which existed until 1922 and informed people about state decisions. Although it is believed that the first Turkish newspaper was Takvim-i Vakai, Orhan Koloğlu claims, Mehmet Ali Pasha published the first paper Vaka-i Mısriye in 1828 in Egypt to promote the policy which Mehmet Ali Pasha was pursuing in Egypt. (Koloğlu,O.Osmanlıdan Günümüze Türkiyede Basın, İletişim Yayınları,İstanbul,1994)
The first Turkish language private newspaper was also published by a foreigner; a British merchant named William Churchill. Ceride-i Havadis of Churchill was published in July 3, 1840 and sold 10 thousand copies in the 1850s.
Twenty years later, on October 21, I860, Agah Efendi, a Turk, published his newspaper Tercüman-i Ahval. In his petition (formal request) for permission to publish, Agah Efendi expressed his anger at the foreign domination of Turkish media and asked "why a country where foreigners can publish newspapers does not give publishing rights to its own people?"
In the 1860s, there was a free press atmosphere under which many newspapers were published. In these years many Young Turks entered into journalism. The leading journalist figure of those days was Namık Kemal. “The main reason of the fact that our country is behind the other countries for centuries is that we do not have a press” he argued in Ibret. This paper had been closed for several times because of Namık Kemal’s articles. Finally, it was totally closed and Namık Kemal was exiled to Magosa.
Although the leading journalist figure of those days was Namık Kemal, the first opponent periodical was Muhbir of Ali Suavi. Ali Suavi criticized the Ottoman government especially on Girit issue. He claimed that the government was too passive on this issue. He was killed while making an attempt against the Sultan.
An increasing economic crisis and the Ottoman Empire's growing dependence on Western states led to legal limitations to opposition from the press. Regulations which already began in 1858 ended with comprehensive limitations in 1867. The government was even authorized to close newspapers. In the following years, Young Turks published several anti-government newspapers in France and in some other European capitals.
The Turkish press has played an important role in politics since the second half of the nineteenth century. In the 1860s the first generation of Turkish journalists emerged out of the ranks of the bureaucratic intelligentsia. That class of bureaucratic intellectuals was trying to put an end to the Ottoman sultans' authoritarian rule. Thus, journalists also took a part in this opposition movement. They began to play a role in introducing Western values to Ottoman Turkey and this role continued later during Republican Turkey. (Heper and Demirel, 1996: 109).
Starting in the 1830s, several foreign language newspapers were published in Istanbul and Izmir while the Greeks, Armenians and Jews also had newspapers in their languages. The state prepared Armenian and Greek language versions of the Takvim-i Vakayi and even Turkish papers were published in the Greek and Armenian alphabet. Similarly, a group of Armenian and Greek journalists contributed both to journalism and cultural development of society by writing in the Turkish newspapers.
In 1876, Sultan Abdulhamid II declared a constitutional monarchy which led to a relatively widespread experience of freedom. Unfortunately, this new atmosphere did not last long enough to contribute to a significant development of the Turkish press.
The first practice of censor was in 1876. The newspapers Basiret and Sabah protested the censor. Basiret carried a headline to its front page that its machines were out of order and it would not be published for the following few days. Sabah’s reaction was more creative. The columns of the articles and news censored by the government were kept blank in the newspaper. Hence, the readers got informed about the censorship.
Abdulhamid II closed the parliament in the spring of 1878 and began a 30-year-long absolute monarchy in the country during which the Turkish press had its worst days under the black oppression of a censorship committee. This was the beginning of “İstibdat” (despotism period) for the Turkish press. During this period, not only to express some ideas, but to use some words were banned. For example, the journalists were prohibited to use the words such as strike, conspiracy, rebellion, anarchy, socialism, equality, freedom, Bosnia, Macedonia, and “big nose” because Sultan Abdulhamit’s nose was some big.
Under the pressure of the growing opposition against his despotic rule, Abdulhamid II declared a constitutional monarchy once again in 1908. On July 24th, 1908, on the same day when the constitutional monarchy was declared, journalists of Istanbul, which was home to only four newspapers at that time, came together and put an end to censorship. In the following three years the number of newspapers and magazines reached 500 and their total circulation was expressed in tens of thousands.
In 1908, also the first journalists strike took place. Because of his 25th anniversary in power, Abdülhamid planned to make a favor to the press. He lifted the stamp tax which was two liras for each paper. It was a great favor for the owners. Journalists requested their own shares from this money, but they were refused. So, the journalists left their jobs and bought one of the newspapers for 25 liras. But, this initiative was a real disappointment. Both the owner of Basiret, Ahmet Cevdet, and the owner of Sabah, Mihran Efendi, was able to publish their papers. The readers didn’t even understand what happened. On the other hand, joint enterprise of the journalists was not successful. Their newspaper bankrupted and all of them had to go back to their former works.
At the beginning of the period of “Meşrutiyet”, the freedom winds that blew did not last long. Four journalists, Hasan Fehmi, Zeki Bey, Ahmet Samim, and Hasan Tahsin, who criticized the Committee of Union and Progress (İttihat ve Terakki) were killed. The responsible of these murders were not found.
The well-known journalist of that time, Ahmet Rasim has a precious place in the history of Turkish Press. He was the first person to insist on the necessity of a union for journalists. Moreover, he suggested that there would be lessons on reading and understanding newspapers at schools.
In co-operation with Havas and Reuters news agencies, as it was in the case of Athens News Agency, the Ottoman Telegraph Agency was founded in 1911 as the first news agency in Turkey. It survived only 3 years. When World War I began in 1914, the Ottoman National Telegraph Agency was established with the support of Germans.
Censorship came back in 1914 with World War I and continued during the years of occupation until Istanbul was again liberated from the occupiers in 1923.
The years of occupation after Turkey's defeat in World War I marked one of the most interesting periods for the Turkish press.
During the national struggle, there were two different press groups in Istanbul: pro-Ankara and pro-Istanbul; those that supported the Kemalist liberation movement and those that supported the Sultan allied with the occupying forces.While some newspapers (İleri, Yeni Gün, Akşam, Vakit) supported the national struggle, some newspapers (Peyam-i Sabah, Alemdar, Türkçe İstanbul ) were against it.
When Mustafa Kemal moved to Ankara and opened the Grand National Assembly he also initiated a nationalist press and gave its name to the Hakimiyet-i Milliye newspaper published on January 10th, 1920. This paper later took the name of Ulus and became the official newspaper of Atatürk's Republican People's Party.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk also initiated the foundation of the Anatolia News Agency during the years of the National Liberation War to serve as the communication network of Kemalist action. "So that the world may hear Anatolia," was its motto.
Besides İstanbul and Ankara press, there were lots of local papers in different cities of Anatolia. Throughout the national struggle, the press was used as a means of dissemination of ideas to wider public.
The Republican Era
In the first years or the Republic, the press was not totally free. The founders of the republic didn’t tolerate opposition. Particularly those who defended “the caliphate” were discouraged.
During the first years of the republic, the Turkish press was divided on the subject of the caliphate, the leadership of world's Moslems. Those who defended the caliphate, in opposition to Mustafa Kemal's plan of founding a secular republic, were prosecuted in revolutionary courts. In 1925, when a pro-Kurdish Islamist revolt headed by Sheikh Said began in Eastern Turkey, extreme restrictions were imposed on the Istanbul press which was accused of having played a role in the revolt against the infant republic. Takrir-i Sükun Law on March 4th, 1925, which gave the government to curtail the freedom of press, was the result of this sensitivity. With this law, the new regime silenced its liberal and left wing opposition also.
On the first day of the law, six newspapers were closed. On the second day, other five were forced to knock their doors. Finally, on 15 Nisan 1925, Tanin of Cahit Yalçın stopped its machines. For every paper that has been closed, a new start was given to the courts. In Ankara Independence Court, Hüseyin Cahit Yalçın from Tanin, Zekeriya Sertel and Cevat Şakir from Resimli Hafta were on the chair of accused. Cahit Yalçın was acquitted thanks to his persuasive speech on press freedom. However, Zekeriya Sertel and Cevat Şakir were sentenced to death live in exile. Zekeriya Sertel who had thought to be sentenced to death announced the good news to his wife: “Good news! I was sentenced to live in exile.”
The other journalists in the list of the ‘Independence Courts’ to be judged were, Velid Ebüzziya, Sadri Ertem, Fevzi Lütfi Karaosmanoğlu and İlhami Safa. They were being blamed for provoking Şeyh Sait into rebelling. Sait had given these names in his trial. Furthermore, Ahmet Emin Yalman, Ahmet Şükrü, İsmail Muştak and Suphi Nuri were arrested.
Although with the Press Law in 1931 Turkish press was a bit freer; during the Second World War government increased its pressure on the press. Everyday, new prohibitions were declared.
Until the multiparty system was introduced in 1945, the Turkish press lived under severe restrictions imposed by the ruling Republican People's Party (CHP). The Democrat Party (DP), which was founded as the second political party of the country, immediately founded newspapers close to its line and established links to the press.
Zekeriya Sertel, after turned from exile, published Tan. He and his wife Sabiha Sertel were two of the journalists who supported the new party on opposition. They were writing on the advantages of the multiparty system everyday in their newspaper. Moreover, Zekeriya Sertel was blaming the governing CHP for corruption and defending to have closer relations with Soviet Russia. These thoughts irritated the ruling circles. Hüseyin Cahit Yalçın wrote an article titled: “Wake up O People!” This was a provocative article and the address he pointed was simply Sertels’ Tan. Suddenly, on December 4th, 1945 ten thousands angry university students began to walk towards Tan. They destroyed and looted whatever they found on their road. When they reached Tan building, they torn down the best rotary press in Turkey with axes. Police remained silent to all events.
This was a black day for Turkish press. Sertels were arrested and stayed six months in the jail after the events. Then, they left Turkey and lived abroad until their deaths. Sabiha Sertel died in Baku in 1968. Zekeriya Sertel died in Paris in 1980.
These events were the main reason why the press began to support the new opposition party against the ruling Peoples Republican Party while Turkey was walking to multiparty system step by step. Adnan Menderes, vice president of the newly formed Democratic Party at that time, was promising press freedom from the chair of Grand National Assembly. These promises were attractive for journalists.
On May 1st, 1948, Hürriyet, and two days later Milliyet, began to be published. The publication of these two papers marked the beginning of a new period in the Turkish press. These papers chose to be mass newspapers instead of being an official paper of a political party, while also introducing to the country the modem printing technology of the time. In the second half of the 1950s, they began to print more than 100 thousand copies and in mid-1960s Hürriyet became the first Turkish paper whose circulation exceeded 1 million.
The new parliament made a new press law on 15th July 1950. This law promoted an atmosphere of freedom. Thus, a honeymoon started between the new Democratic Party government and the press. Prime Minister Adnan Menderes was having dinners with the press owners. However, this pink atmosphere didn’t last long. As the economic conditions in the country deteriorated, press began to criticize the government.
Democratic Party government didn’t tolerate these criticisms. The DP which came to power on May 14th, 1950, with the support of the massive popular demand for further liberalization, began to impose restrictions on the media when newspapers turned against its policies. They made changes in the Press Law towards authoritative controls. With these changes, public prosecutors were authorized to bring lawsuits against the press. Till that day, this kind of court cases had required complaint. Democrat Party government closed Ulus, the publication of CHP. Hüseyin Cahit Yalçın, who was over 70, was arrested.
The events of 6-7th September in 1955, which caused real harm to the Greek and some Armenian oriented Turkish citizens living in İstanbul, has been another reason of the new restrictions for the press. With this event İstanbul turned into looting and burning of minority properties. DP declared martial law, which also meant banning and closing newspapers. Then, in accordance with two restrictive laws dated 1956 (number 6732-6733), the journalist could be arrested.
International Press Institute reproached Turkish government for its restrictions on press. However, the government went beyond and in 1958 decided on the diffusion of advertisements under the authority of one management. This meant that the government might give more advertisements to whoever it wanted. Democrat Party government added the press union to its list of closed. The Union was closed for nine months because it had brought discredit on government policy.
Denial was one of the much used restrictions Turkish press faced. Some funny examples of the denials are as follows:
- The news covered in our March 18th 1959 dated newspaper is a lie.
- We wrote wrong information. A market in Şişli hadn’t been robbed.
- İnönü’s predictions are totally wrong. (Vatan, July 10th 1958 headline)
Besides, some news was totally banned. Because of this reason, if the staff of newspaper were informed late about ban, the front page of papers had blank columns that day. It was not much different from Abdülhamit’s censor. The DP government was under pressure from widespread protests that were led by university students who had the backing of the press. The Turkish army and in particular the younger generation of officers were known to support the students.
Military Intervention - 1960
On May 27th, I960, the army toppled the DP government. Prime Minister Adnan Menderes and two of his ministers were executed.
The military intervention of I960 was the first intervention of the Turkish army, and was followed by two other coup d'etats in 1971 and in 1980. Unlike the last two, the first intervention ended with the most democratic constitution the country has ever had. It also brought the greatest freedom the press has known.
The military regime of May 27th 1960 made a new press law numbered 212. This law was organizing the working environment of the journalists. In accordance with this law, the journalists could not be fired without being paid compensation.
The other development was the establishment of “Basın İlan Kurumu” (Advisory Board for the Press).
The newspaper owners harshly criticized these new laws. On January 10th 1961, they declared a statement in which they said declared that they would not publish their papers for three days. These newspapers were Akşam, Cumhuriyet, Dünya, Milliyet, Tercüman, Vatan, Yeni Sabah, Hürriyet and Yeni İstanbul.
However, this law was a great opportunity for working journalists. For the first time they felt in security in their job. Therefore, they protested their bosses and circulated an alternative newspaper for those three days that the main newspapers were not published.
The first day editorial of this alternative newspaper was as follows: “The newspaper owners did not close their papers even on those days when the press freedom was totally restricted and when not only the press but also the whole country was in a real danger. However, now what the owners do against ‘Basın İlan Kurumu’ will not have an honorable place in our history of Press. To publish a newspaper is not like to run a socks factory. Journalism is a public service.”
1960s were the years of new technologies. Television for example came in Turkey. And in print media, some newness was applied. Haldun Simavi who studied in U.S. published a new newspaper which could be read easily. The news coverage was shorter and the font used was bigger. The front page on which people were used to read serious, political issues was getting magazine al. Moreover, for the first time, Turkish press met semi-naked girls. This newspaper was Günaydın. The dream of Haldun Simavi came to realization.
In the 1960s, new newspapers began to be published under the atmosphere of press freedom but the Simavi family which had founded Hürriyet, the Karacan family which had founded Milliyet and Yunus Nadi who had founded Cumhuriyet, all traditional journalists, became the most influential names and dominated the Turkish press until the 1980s.
In the early 1990s, while these traditional families were slipping out of the media sector, Dinç Bilgin, from another traditionally journalistic family originally from Thessaloniki became the rising star of the Turkish media sector. The daily Sabah of Dinç Bilgin and the Sabah Group became involved in other areas of business through shareholdings and partnerships.
For today, all of these traditional journalist families are eliminated from the Turkish media industry.
Military InterventionS – 1971 & 1980
1970s began with a social chaos. Terror was in the every corner. The young’s were fighting with each other because of their political thoughts and universities turned to battlefields. The government was too weak to provide law and order. Some academicians and journalists were in cooperation with a group from the army. However, powers fought in army, and the group of the moderates was eliminated.
Intervention of 1971 has taken place by the conservative group. After intervention, the government proclaimed martial law in 11 cities. Detentions and arrests followed each other. Many journalists have been arrested and even tortured. The government changed the many of the liberal articles of the constitution of 1961, including articles about press freedom. The balance-sheet of 1970s was too serious. Newspapers were full of terror news. On February 1st 1979, journalist Abdi İpekçi was killed.
The tradition that intervention took place once a decade was not left and Turkey found itself again in a military intervention in1980. For press, the result of it was too serious. Many journalists were arrested, tortured or lost. The military coup changed the 1961 constitution. The new constitution of 1982 said that press will be free on the ground of law. Therefore, all restrictions of the press by law was legitimized.
With the 1983 election, Turgut Özal’s Motherland Party came to power. Özal blew the winds of liberalism. He was meeting the owners and editors of the big papers; he took the journalists and businessmen to his travels. Özal was the first politician who tried to establish close relations with press and so he could manipulate it.
The liberalism wind around Turgut Özal could not cool down the other workers of press. On the contrary, the number of arrests increased sharply. Between the years of 1980-1990 the number of lawsuits which made the journalist, writers and artists sit on the chair of accused was above 2000. 1990s were the time of murders of leading journalists.Some of them is: Çetin Emeç (1990), Muammer Aksoy (1990), Tarık Dursun (1990), Uğur Mumcu (1993), Ahmet Taner Kışlalı (1999)
Turkish Media Conglomerates
When Sedat Simavi published Hürriyet for the first time, date was 1948. Simavi was both the owner and the chief editor of it. Simavi was the first journalist who carried Cyprus issue to the agenda. He also organized a campaign that Turkey should join NATO.
When he died in 1953, his sons took over the newspaper. Erol and Haldun Simavi adopted a vertical and horizontal integration so Hürriyet family was getting crowded. New magazines and newspapers were published. Therefore, Simavi familiy took the first step on the road of press’ transformation into the holdings.
Karacan family, the owner of Milliyet followed. Then Kemal Ilıcak bought Akşam after 1960 military intervention. All of them, together with the Nadi family that owns Cumhuriyet since 19290s, were family companies and they managed their newspapers with this traditional understanding. Their only business was mass media.
In fact outside capital came into the media industry for the first time in 1948. Then there were some enterprises but none of them was able to be successful in press and they had to withdraw. 1980’s brought permanent outside capital into the press. This process went side by side with the demand of media support in political arena. Politicians needed media and media owners who had different businesses outside the media industry needed close relations with the government.
The first example of outside capital in the media industry was Çavuşoğlu-Kozanoğlu Group. In fact they were contractors and with the money earned from there they bought Güneş. But they were not successful in media industry and sold Güneş to another contractor, Mehmet Ali Yılmaz. The last owner of this newspaper was Asil Nadir. Although he had entered with great capital, he met formers’ fate.
The cake to share was so sweet that those who had already been in press tried to play in accordance with the newcomers’ rules. Bilgin family was a journalist family for three generations. They published Yeni Asır in İzmir. The son of the family Dinç Bilgin was aiming to have a newspaper in İstanbul. He reached his aim with Sabah. However, he was not satisfied only with newspapers. With the entrance of private broadcasting rules, he founded his television channel, ATV. Then he entered into the finance sector and bought a bank. However, this was totally disappointment.
Today the new owner of the Sabah Group is another businessman, Ahmet Çalık.
In fact, the most successful businessman in media industry is Aydın Doğan. Doğan began his business carrier as an agent of Koç Automotive in 1958. When Abdi İpekçi was murdered, the owner of Milliyet, Ertuğrul Karacan decided to sell his newspaper and to leave the country. There were rumors that Koç Holding was aspired to buy Milliyet. Reactions were harsh.
It is said that Koç supported Aydın Doğan to enter the sector. Today, Doğan has the biggest share in this sector. He also has investments in many different industries other then media, including tourism, energy and finance. In 2001, Doğan bought Petrol Ofisi.
Since the media turned to a sector which was dependent on the other businesses, particularly finance sector, it was an inescapable fact that media met finance sector’s fate. From 1989 to 2001, finance sector and media were living in their golden ages. External debts, exemption of duty, subventions let the rise of two sectors. It was seen that the number of people entering media sector was increased. In 1994 there was an economic crisis but they could overcome. Unavoidable growth was continuing. .Meantime, media moved from Babıali to İkitelli. Thus, the period of plazas in media started.
The aim was to have the biggest share from the cake. Owners noticed that they had to have a powerful distribution firm to do so. After a cooperate firm Gameda, Doğan established YAYSAT, Bilgin founded BBD. In 1996 they allied and the firm became BIRYAY. The intention behind this act was to eliminate Akşam, whose owner Mehmet Karamehmet was also from the outside sector.
Another cake was the advertisement. Mepas was the biggest firm in this field. It was enterprise of Doğan, Bilgin and Aksoy. Then, Doğan and Bilgin eliminated Aksoy and established BIMAS.
Finance sector which had an illusioned growth could not overcome 2001 crisis as easy as that in 1994. Lots of banks were taken charge. Dinç Bilgin lost ETIBANK and his media group. Turkey Group which belonged to Enver Ören suffered a similar shock and lost İhlas Finans. Also Karamehmet lost his two banks, Pamukbank and them Yapı Kredi.
Circulation and promotions
The total circulation of Turkish papers almost doubled following the freedoms introduced with the 1961 Constitution. In 1955, the population of the country was 24 million and the total sales were 500 thousand. In 1964, the population had become 30 million while the total circulation passed over 1 million. Until the 1980s both the population and newspaper circulation increased gradually, despite a decrease in 1980, the year of the last military junta. Total circulation which was 2.169.402 in 1979 fell to 1.826.822 in 1980 despite a 1.2 million increase in the population. But during the years of the junta, circulation began to increase again.
According to the 1979 UNESCO year book, the number of newspapers for every 1000 people was 107 in Greece while it was 74 in Turkey in the same year.
Continuously decreasing circulation has turned out to be the main problem of the Turkish press. In the 1970s daily total sales were around 2 million and became 3 million 280 thousand in 1990s. In 1996, total circulation became almost 5 million. In September of 1996 it was 4 million 882 thousand. From 1990 to 1996 total sales increased from 3 million 280 thousand to 4 million 882 thousand - an increase of 1 million 602 thousand.
At first glance, this was an exciting increase, but only if the promotion campaigns and price wars are not considered. Some papers decreased their prices to 3-5 and 10 thousand TL while other papers were sold for 50 thousand TL. These were newspapers from the same groups that sold expensive papers and could be produced with 6-7 journalists almost like a paid supplement of the expensive main newspaper.
The increase in sales was very low when compared with the increase in population. The young Turkish Republic could sell 3-2 newspapers to every 1000 people in 1927, and this number had risen to 54.5 in 1970. However, in 1980, it fell to 44.2. A considerable increase with 85.1 papers per every 1000 person was seen in 1985. This increase was mostly due to promotion campaigns and the publication of new popular dailies. In the years between 1985 and 1990 this high ratio could not be preserved and in the first 6 months of 1990 it fell to 57.9 (Yagız, 1996: 407). In the same year, the number of papers per 1000 persons was 139 in Greece.
Promotion in Turkish press turned into a mad race in the 1990s. Kaya (1994: 391) wrote that promotion operations in the Turkish press, as well as some other new forms of competition, was a result of commercial logic. He said:
"A popular press which appears to have become ever more belligerently partisan on the front page, but which tries to increase its entertainment value by bare-breasted and bare-fisted photos on the second and/or the last pages has emerged. It also concentrates regularly three to four pages of its 22-24 pages to sports events and proceeds to sales promotion operations by resorting to bingo, gadgets, prizes, folders, etc."
According to a research carried out by Yagiz (1996: 408), even large and serious newspapers such as Sabah, Hürriyet and Milliyet owed over 30 percent of their readership to promotion campaigns. Only Cumhuriyet could stay out of this crazy promotion race. It took to offering free books on a weekly basis, making the promotion campaigns a cultural, if not ideological affair.
The big media groups introduced cheap quality papers as a new form of promotion. Yeni Yüzyil which was selling around 60 thousand increased its sales to 300 thousand when it decreased its price from 50 thousand TL to 10 thousand TL. Table 5 taken from Yagız (1996) shows the role of promotions in the sales of Turkish newspapers in 1996.
In late 1996, Turkey was number three in the world in terms of the newspaper titles published each day. Everyday 399 different dailies were appearing in Turkey, in India that number was 2,300, and in the USA 586 dailies (Cumhuriyet, 28.11.1996).
The years after 1980
The year 1980 has become a watershed for any socio-political or economic analysis of Turkey. Since then, analysis often begins with 'Before 1980', or 'After 1980' as if 1980 referred to the birth of the Messiah. To take 1980 - which was the year of a military intervention and the subsequent years of military rule - as a turning point is not an error (Tihg, 1997: 391).
Nezih Demirkent and Metin Toker, two prominent Turkish journalists, often complained about the journalism practiced after 1980. In his book Medya Medya, Demirkent (1995) wrote that journalism was done now in a way very different from how it had been. "The correspondents have to think now very carefully about what to write and what not to write... They cannot write even one word about some persons while some others are in the papers each day. Earlier, friendship with government officials was not something to be proud of, after 1980 it became a source of prestige for the journalist. Because of such relations everything that's said by political leaders is considered to be important," complained Demirkent.
Toker (1996: 17) wrote that: "In the years when I began journalism, people believed that if something was written by the press it was true... Later some clever persons established the rule that 'the news have to be interesting, their truth value is not so important… Then readers began to lose confidence in the press. Now people think that it must be a lie if it is written in the papers."
In the years following the coup d'etat of 1980, Turkey began to experience a period of structural transformation. Both the European Union countries and the USA began to present Turkey as a model to the new independent states of the former Soviet Union and the Middle East. The Turkish state warmly welcomed this role from the early 1980s till 2002 elections.
The role was indeed nothing more than how Turkey had presented itself to the West during its 150-year-old Westernization process. With AKP Government, this role turned to a new role within the Greater Middle East Initiative: Moderate Islam Democracy.
The fall of the Soviet Union and the emergence of new independent states in Central Asia and Caucasus was a new factor that made the West consider Turkey much more seriously than before, as a bridge between the East and the West. Now with the arrival of the Turkic republics of central Asia and the Caucasus, Turkey's thesis was strengthened. Turkey could have used its influence on central Asia and the Caucasus to attract Western countries and firms for joint business.
The Motherland Party (ANAP) of the late President Turgut Ozal came to power in 1983 and ruled the country for the following eight years. Turkey became more and more integrated into the world economic system in those years, mostly through IMF-directed policies. The outcome of this "great transformation", as Ozal liked to call it, included an export-promotion development strategy (accompanied with many cases of corruption such as sending empty boxes abroad to get export credits from the state), temporary restoration of law and order on the base of the de-polarization of the society under the rule of the military regime, a worsening income (retribution, emergence of a new type of individualism, and further attachment to the values of the market economy.
All these developments, formulated within the ideological framework of the New Right, also continued under the rule of the centre-right and centre-left coalition governments until the mid-90s. Islamic groups and the Welfare Party (RP), as the most organized one among them, benefited from the consequences of this transformation that harmed the middle and lower middle classes. The support given to the RP rapidly increased in the suburbs of the big cities and the urban poor that backed the revolutionary leftist groups turned to the RP which had managed to present itself as a party challenging the system.
Islamist media played a significant role in this Islamisation process after the 1980s. Hundreds of Islamist newspapers and magazines were published locally and nationwide while hundreds of local Islamist radios and TV stations began to broadcast, along with a few national ones in the 1990s. The so-called years of the "great transformation" in the early 1980s also caused an important transformation in certain aspects of the Turkish media. "The market-based and outward oriented strategy for economic modernization adopted in the 1980s has produced a shortcut to a more information based economy" (Kaya, 1993: 87).
A World Bank report prepared in 1992 also concluded that Turkey had used its resources for a transition to an information-based economy: "As a matter of fact, the massive investments in communications in the 1980s were unprecedented in scale and this increase went hand in hand with an absolute as well as relative decline of investments in virtually all the other sectors of the Turkish economy. Investment in information technology picked up sharply in both the public and private sector, especially in the second half of the decade, when the state-owned PIT (Post, Telephone and Telegraph Directorate) absorbed approximately 1 % of the country's total GNP, every year. This was equivalent to approximately 4 % of Turkey's total capital formation and higher than practically all other OECD countries, surpassed only by 1.07 % in Brazil. This investment shift to communications infrastructure was accompanied by striking changes in Turkey's media environment." (Kaya, 1993: 87).
Entering the radio-TV sector and advertising revenue
The "great transformation" of the 1980s had also meant a striking change in the structure of media ownership. The press employed the latest technologies which could easily compete with the American or European newspapers. This investment in communication technology was a consequence of the transition to an information-based economy mentioned above. In March 1990, the state monopoly of TV and Radio Programming and Transmissions, which was protected by article 133 of the 1982 military constitution until July 1993, was de facto abolished.
Despite the legal framework the private sector had already entered the market. Taking advantage of the opportunity created by high-power satellites with transmission footprints that covered mainly Western Turkey, and of the development of cheaper antennae capable of receiving direct satellite broadcasters, a private sector station, then co-owned by the son of the late President Turgut Ozal, began broadcasting into Turkey from Germany and effectively and surprisingly challenged the TRT (Turkish Radio and Television Corporation) monopoly (Kaya, 1993: 88).
Others later followed Turkey's first private television channel, named Star 1. The first private TV was owned by Rumeli Holding, a firm that has dealings in a wide sphere of business operations ranging from construction to banking. Many were skeptical as to the success of the fait-accompli channels, since satellite dishes were needed to receive these broadcasters reaching Turkey via satellite. However, the private television company succeeded as a result of campaigns. Dish-manufacturing companies pushed the process, too. Thus, other private TV stations; namely Show TV, Tele-On, HBB, and Kanal 6, followed the path of Star 1.
ATV and Kanal D became the most popular private television stations in later years. In February 1997, the number of TV stations that were registered by the High Commission for Radio and Television (RTUK) were 260 in total. 16 of them have applied for national, 15 for regional and 229 for local licenses.
In 1995 every 100 Turkish citizen had 27 TV sets which meant a TV set for roughly ever) household.
The 1980s were a turning point for advertising. After 1983, color TV broadcasts began and opened new doors for advertisers (Topguoglu. 1996: 460). After the 1980s and under the Ozal governments, Turkish society turned into a consumer society.
The advertising sector was very happy about the development. Medya, the magazine of advertisers, evaluated the year 1990 in its March issue (1991: 14-16) as follows: "1990 became a very successful year for the sector. The expenditure in the sector was 620 billion TL in 1989 but reached 1.3 trillion in 1990. This is a real growth of 32.8 percent and it is the biggest growth rate of the sector in the last decade". Advertising expenditure per person which was USD 5 in 1980 increased to USD 8 in 1990.
In 1990, despite new TV channels, newspapers had 56.5 percent of the total advertising income while TV got 42.8 of it. However, the newspapers of the 1990s had also turned into companies that spent a lot on advertising. Since stations and newspapers belonging to the same group were placing advertisements with each other, campaign expenses were met by taking money from one pocket and putting into the other.
The TRT enjoyed its broadcast monopoly until 1990 when it also lost control of the the advertising market of the country. Immediately after being opened Star 1 began to get a bigger share from the total advertising expenditure in comparison to the TRT. In 1992 only 2 years after the de facto end of its broadcast monopoly TRT had lost most of its advertising revenue. In October 1992, TRTs share in the whole advertising income fell to 5 percent while private TV's income increased to 52 percent. In January-March 1994, the share of TRT fell even further, to 0.83 percent (Aksoy, 1995: 16). The share of advertisement incomes within the total income of the TRT has also fallen from 67.6 percent in 1990 to 18.4 percent in 1993 (Forum, December 1995:14). According to a report of Deniz Reklam Etudleri Company, the total advertising income of TV in 1995 was over 73.3 billion TL, while the incomes of the newspapers was over 44.8 billion TL and of the magazines was over 6.5 billion. In the first 6 months of 1996, the total advertising income for TV was 124.164.307.926 TL. Private TV got 122.441.096.270 TL (%98.6) and the state TV got 1.723.211.656 (%1.4). During the whole year in 1996, TV had the biggest share of this revenue.
According to the data provided by the Advertisers' Association, advertisement agencies in 1996 placed 28.5 trillion TL worth of advertisements. This was equal to 40.4 percent of the whole advertising income. Printed media, including magazines, followed TV with a 27.3 percent share and radios followed them with a 2.3 percent share (Milliyet, 7 March 1997&).
The first radio broadcast in Turkey had begun under state control in 1927 by a company, which was a joint venture with foreigners. This was a relatively early beginning when compared to the other samples in the world. However, there has not been a very significant development until 1938, most probably due to the lack of need for such a medium in legitimizing republican revolutions (Kocabaşoglu, 1980; Kaya, 1999)
Istanbul Technical University (ITU) began a TV broadcast in Istanbul in 1958 but the legal infrastructure of the TRT was prepared after the I960 military intervention. Then, on January 31st, 1968, the first TV broadcasts of the TRT began in Ankara. After August 1971, TV broadcast covered also Istanbul by the help of the ITU transmitter. However, regular broadcast of the state controlled TRT television began after 1972.
In February 1997, there were 36 radio stations broadcasting on a national level. Additionally, there were 108 regional and 1,059 local radio stations. The total number was 1,213 and licensing was expected to be completed soon, as in Greece. The results of research conducted by the Communications Faculty of the University of Istanbul indicated that half of the radio listeners in Turkey were women and a large majority of listeners were teenagers aged between 13 and 18 (Altan, 1996).
A report of the Interior Ministry (Cumhuriyet, 21.4.1994) said that "ideological groups" were benefiting from the radio boom. The report listed 454 private radios and 71 private TV channels and said that 96 of the radios and 17 of the TV stations were used for ideological purposes. 45 of the ideological radios were described as Sharia-seeking fundamentalist and 31 were described as ultra-leftist. Indeed, in parallel with the rise of political Islam in the country, Islamic media spread across Turkey and became quite influential. As soon as the private radio and TV stations entered the market in 1992, the Islamic media occupied a rapidly increasing place among them, both in the countryside and in the cities. The government was especially worried about their spread while the tension between secular and Islamist citizens were growing. Under a legally chaotic media atmosphere in early 1990s, Islamic media experienced a boom and suddenly over 200 Islamist radios and 40 Islamist TV channels appeared throughout the country in the mid-90s. Besides, in 1997, there were more than five Islamic daily newspapers; four of which have been in print for years, and over 40 weekly and monthly pro-Islamic periodicals printed and sold in the major cities (Tilic,, 1997: 399).
The owners of the national radio stations were the big media groups. The high technology used in the press and the entry of TV and radio into the country's media life turned the business into a very expensive and highly competitive one. Under the new conditions, ownership patterns changed considerably. In the first years of the 1990s, media ownership was transferred from traditionally journalistic families to others which made their capital accumulation in commerce, industry, and banking or construction business. In mid-1995, mainstream media were already in the control of conservative corporate forces whose initial goal was to further increase their profits. These owners were in permanent need of new credit and other subsidies for the press. Thus, they were in debt to those in power. "It is no secret that several influential figures of the Turkish press have established 'client' relations with the government officials in order to seek business advantage." (Kaya, 1993: 89).
In the last decade, it was not a surprise for intelligent readers to see how the banner headlines in the front pages changed from supporting to severely criticizing the government. This shift often reflected the satisfaction or dissatisfaction of the media owner with a business or credit deal with the government. Government had the carrot and the stick to control the media. The stick, besides anti-democratic laws and pressures, consisted of cutting state subsidies, and sending financial inspectors to the other businesses of the owner. The carrot was just the opposite: Giving credits to the businesses of the owner or placing expensive advertisements for the public banks in his papers or on his stations.
Before concluding this short history of the Turkish media let us listen to a well-known Turkish correspondent, who also led the journalists' union for years, describing the situation of the Turkish media before and after 1980:
“There is a circle of media owners, journalists, politicians and businessmen who cooperate for their interest. But still there are also journalists who try to reflect the truth and to work with integrity.
How can these people still survive? Those who are in the circle are ready to do everything and they do everything other than journalism and so there emerges a need for people doing journalism. It is still not possible to sell papers only with coupons and soupy news.
They have other business interests. In contrast, the latter have made their fortunes in other areas and have entered an unknown field, which by itself was not promising as far as profits were concerned. They are not interested in daily newspaper production, but they are capable of creating empires, reducing greatly the number of different voices and opinions which are necessary for the press of a truly democratic country.”
It was widely believed that the new ownership structure polluted the whole communications process while also forcing the individual journalist to deviate from the constitutive principles of the profession. The evolution of the ownership structure from the traditional to the new form is not specific to Greece or Turkey and is often dealt with in communications literature. Christian (1980: 260) studies ownership structure while making a distinction between the journalism patterns of old times and the present.
Previously, there were a large number of small independent publications and owners were diffused. These days, however, "publications are now concentrated under the ownership of a small number of large-scale corporations owning chains of newspapers and other periodicals, often with interests in commercial television, and with deep involvement in a wide range of industrial sectors".
Christian has argued that this change in the ownership structure went hand in hand with the commercialization of the sector. This is very much similar to de developments on both sides of the Aegean. However, during the military junta in Greece, some media bosses behaved in a way that can teach their Turkish colleagues much about democracy. While the Turkish press of today resembles a supermarket in its activities, Greek papers retain their links to political parties. Both countries have undergone similar transformations in the media after 1980. The era of electronic media has replaced traditional journalistic families with new media owners. Both media have become commercialized, by contributing to the making of a consumer society, and by stressing the diverse internal peculiarities of such as society. Both in Greece and in Turkey, 'free market' has become the sacred concept.
The recent close relations between Greek and Turkish journalists do not only take place among the working journalists, correspondents, writers and editors but also among the media owners.
Media owners, who have close ties to their states and governments and who act in several other sectors besides the media, may now see that peace between the two countries is also in their general interest which should not be sacrificed to higher sales brought by hate speech and provocative reporting.
German radio correspondent Harald Weiss who was based in Athens in 1992 said in one of his reports in the ARD on August 7th, 1992 at 07:10 that there were 1,620 radio stations all around the country, of which 100 were in Athens. He said that many illegal radio stations were often entering into frequencies of others and making advertisements, in opposition to the European guidelines of broadcast. In 1988, the government even sent an anti-terror unit to a private TV channel in Thessaloniki in an attempt to end the chaos. In the same report, which was about the Greek media in general, he described the Greek media as extremely party affiliated and nationalistic. He said that readers were even forcing the papers to adopt these traditional party-affiliated lines and mentioned a case about readers who burned papers in front of the newspaper offices when once a columnist broke out of the line of the paper. The government sources and bureaucrats were described as very stingy in giving information to journalists. Weiss reported a personal experience of being asked to apply to the Europe an Union in Brussels when he called the Education Ministry to learn how many teachers per students there were in the country.
For more detailed information about the press history of Turkey see Ertug, 1970, Gevgili,1983; Kologlu, 1992; Şaporyo, 1969; Topuz, 1973.
For a detailed story of the Sabah Group and particularly the daily Sabah, see Munir (1993). Kozanoglu (1992) argues that Sabah was a newspaper which fits the social conditions of Turkey after the 1980s which he described as the "Age of Polished Images".
For a general and theoretical reading on ads and their role in TV broadcasts see Rutherford, 1996.