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A presentation on "TV
in Turkey: Extension and Proliferation of Turkish Media" was given
by Nuri Çolakoglu; NTV Chairman & CEO, at the Turkish House
in New York on March 29, 2000. The event was organized by Oguz Alpoge,
The Society of Turkish American Architects, Engineers
Here is the first part of Mr. Çolakoglu's presentation (transcribed) on the Turkish electronic media, which will enlighten us on the subject in terms of historical process, obstacles for the privatization of radios and TV's, and how the state monopoly was lifted...
From the state monopoly era to private television channels:
As you know television in Turkey started in Istanbul in 1950's in Istanbul within Istanbul Technical University. On a very experimental basis. These broadcast went on for sometime in 1964 and autonomous broadly was called TRT -Turkiye Radyo ve Televizyon Kurumu- last form late in 1960's but TRT initially was born one single Radio. Actually, it was a network off the radios all around Turkey and then it started developing second channel and second channel was TRT-2, it was called Radio-2, then came the television.
In late 1960's, TRT started television broadcast in black and white. Thanks to German technical aid from studio Hamburg, which was a German technical institution giving aid to -then so- developed countries. Is there any one in this room whom might have watch TRT broadcasting in late 60's?
- It was very dull. I remember at the very beginning Prof. Enver Ziya Gard would come in a room like this where were audiences and two cameras pointed at him. He would start for a lecture -no slides, nothing- about 45 minutes and leave the room. That was the end of the program. That was how the whole story started .
In the mean time, the legal status of TRT gave the TRT administration some bit of independence and autonomy. They started moving away from the government which created a role, and it was a big debate about how much government control it should be! And with the military intervention in 1970's, first thing was done to limit the autonomy and independence of the TRT. The government had -a greater say- in whose to run the TRT, and which way you should be running it.
Well, that was used for once for the benefit of better broadcasting quality, when Bulent Ecevit government of 1974 appointed to Ismail Cem as the director general of TRT. With Cem a brand new approach has been brought to TV. Entertainment , better quality programming, better quality form material started making their appearances. And during his period we solved the proliferation of trade TV transmitters across the country.
So a brand new concept, Saturdays and Sundays football games were shown on TRT, and they would have in built entertainment program pretty long. That's how popularity of TV started increasing in Turkey. Then, of course as everything gets back this government control turned back and gave a stronger control of the other government that followed the Ecevit's government and in this politically turbulent years. We saw degradation, degeneration and quality of programming, too much government mouthpiece, too much controlled programming .
During the late 80's, we saw another shift in the program structure. Of course at the beginning of 1980's and the new military government brought in a retired general, who although didn't have too much with the quality of programming. He was courageous enough to introduce color television to Turkey. Also, they were able to expand the TV network. Thus, giving more provinces access to TV broadcast.
This followed by Cem Duna period which was a new 'kiss of life', which brought in a lots of better quality programming , better quality films, more activity on TV's , and TRT's 2nd and 3rd channels were launched. So TV was becoming a very much wide spread family entertainment.
However, in the mean time there was another strength that was developing. In late 1980's, as TRT was slow enough putting its transformers/terrestrial transmitters all across the country. The municipalities started taking the initiative in putting up transmitters in their area just to be nice to their electors, and the municipalities while putting up these transmitters, all of us sudden noticed that in the sky -where they were receiving the TV transmissions-, there were far more interesting and exciting channels up there like the BBC, CNN, RTL. So they started broadcasting these, and this let to a role between the central government, which was then little bit conservative government . And, some of the channels that were putting on air was bit courages a mild word. This controversy let to a legal ruling that re-transmission of a foreign signal wouldn't be an infringement of the constitutional monopoly given to the government on the TV broadcast.
Of course this was a great signal for enterprising businessmen. So they came up with a very creative effort in 1990's that, why don't we do foreign channels, which will broadcast in Turkish. In May 1990, Magicbox-Star started its transmission from Germany in Turkish. What Star was doing was, paying the municipalities money enough to build the second transmitter to broadcast signal of Interstar. That's how the private channels came in today.
In February 1992, I was involved to launch of Show TV from France and I lived in France for 6 months. Organizing the whole thing was a totally crazy exercise. The films, we were broadcasting will be sent from the US or England to Turkey, they will dubbed, they will put another plane to send to France, where they would take it to the studio, put it on the air, send it up to satellite, picked it up in Turkey, put it on the transmitter. That's how people have started watching Show TV. Of course, a couple months later Kanal 6 came from the UK. In April 1993, ATV started broadcasting from Turkey. Thus, the loop-hole was broken and this led to a new legal battle between the government and the TV stations.
We saw radios and television stations -probably not everywhere-, and the government all of sudden became afraid of loosing the control over this transmissions. In 1993, they decided to ban all the televisions and radios. But, of course TV's were far too strong, and that let to a very great public outcry. So, they decided to go on the radios, and put all the private radios off the air. And this led a campaign called, "I want my radio", and people, who were for the freedom in broadcasting started time 'black ribbons' to the antennas of the car radios. This campaign went on for sometime. Thus the government thought , it was loosing face, and decided to retreat and it was a very quick constitutional amendment, which lifted the government monopoly, which is still in effect.
RTUK in comparison with the FCC:
The commission started working on the "Broadcasting Act of 1994. Right now this is the situation with this law a supreme body called; RTUK (Radio-Televizyon Ust Kurumu) was formed. This corresponds to FCC in the USA (Federal Communications Community), which it suppose to regulate all the in the USA. FCC has far more power and is regulating much wider area including telephone and the other communications as well.
Where as in Turkey, RTUK was only involved in the radio and television broadcast. They were suppose to do a frequency map of whole country , fixed and see what are the capacities available, and go off a tender and give out these frequencies. But for the last 6 years, nothing has been done so far, and still this romp is going on the legal plane.
EXTENSION and PROLIFERATION OF TURKISH MEDIA
@The Light Millennium magazine was created and designed
by Bircan Unver. Third issue. Summer 2000, New York