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The Fourth Emerging Power in the Middle East:
Redefining the Turkish Media's Role & Future

Conference - April 2, 2004
For Questions & Answers

The Turkish Parliament
enlarged the view and power of Turkish Media.

A Presentation by Nuri M. ÇOLAKOGLU

A conference titled as, "The Fourth Emerging Power in the Middle East: Redefining the Turkish Media`s Role & Future" by Nuri M. ÇOLAKOGLU, was organized by Light Millennium, a not-for- profit Organization in tandem with the Stevens Institude of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey on April 2, 2004.

Being an expert in both national and international media for almost forty years, Çolakoglu gave a detailed speech enlightening the audience about the recent developments in Turkey and the role, future and significance of Turkish Media in the Middle East.




Today, I will be speaking about the recent developments in Turkey starting with the short history of Turkey to put the things in a perspective. It might be a long introduction for those Turks among the audience who already know what I will be talking about, so I will try to do that as quickly as possible. Then, I will try to place the Turkish Media where it is in all of these developments; and how the Turkish media plays an instrumental role in the changes that are about to be brought about in the region around Turkey.


About 10 years ago when I was assigned the task of to promoting Turkey together with five advertisement agencies, we started looking for and tried to find something catchy to sell Turkey. Apparently, the best idea we could come up with was a slogan which went as "Turkey isn't the center of the world, but it just happens to be there". Because if you take a map of the world and draw a line from the American Pacific Coast to Japan, and then connect the North Pole to the South Pole -the lines cross over Turkey.That was our starting point. Located at the crossroads connecting Europe and Asia, East and West, North and South, that's why probably one of the earliest human urban settlements dating BC 6000 happens to be there too. Also, it has been crisscrossed by migrating or invading people coming from east or west. They left very important traces and contributed to the civilization that developed in the region.

Today with a population around 70 million, Turkey is a vast market for anybody in the world. When we talk about the civilization, the civilization of today has lots of roots sawn in Turkey. When you take the Hittites, they were the nation who had signed the very first written peace agreement with the Egyptians about three thousand five hundred years ago. Then of course there is Troy, the root of all the mythology and stories we had grown up with.

There are also Ionian's cities where all the Hellenistic civilization has its roots and the Lydians were the inhabitants of Turkey who invented the coins. For the past two millennia, part of Turkey has served as the seat of the Roman Empire which was the center of the Pagan culture. It was the seat of the Eastern Roman Empire which was the center of the Christian civilization for nearly ten centuries. Then, for the remaining past centuries, it was the seat of the Ottoman Empire and the center of the Islamic culture. And this of course left enormous traces in what Turkey is, and where it is going to.


The Ottoman Empire went into World War, it lost and disintegrated leaving all the roots of all the present problems in the world today.

The Ottoman Empire's reform efforts go back to the beginning of the 19th century and the small steps in westernization. The recognition of the citizen' rights were among the very first among the Islamic nations. Also, the very first constitutional monarchy was accepted after big pressures from the army and the intellectuals in 1876. Of course this was a shortly movement and the age of the reaction and restoration brought back the repressive regime, but the resistance of the intellectuals continued mainly through the press as I will mention in a short while. Thus as a result of all these efforts, constitutional monarchy was again brought back after a revolt of intellectuals and military in 1908. Then, the Ottoman Empire went into the World War. It lost and disintegrated, leaving all the roots of all the present problems in the world today. Since 1923, after the very first war of independence in the nation, a secular republic has been established. Steps in modernization and westernization gained momentum.

There have been many changes in the alphabet, time and calendar, and attire. As a result of these developments after the end of Second World War; a multi party system was introduced in 1946. But in line with the ups and downs of the economic crisis and military interventions, Turkey had a very troublesome travel through history.

Today, it is on its way to accession to Europe. When we look at the recent developments in the country, Turkey was severely hit by the economic crisis as the one in 1994 and even a harder one in the year 2000 and 2001. Thus as result of these severe economic crisis, Turkey, under the supervision of IMF's very firm fiscal program, has been taking very drastic majors to cut government spending, tidy up its economy, liberalize economy, and reduce the government's role in the economy to curb embezzlement; and to produce principles of good governance. As a result of these, the economy started picking up. This started under the previous government which introduced this program, but the newly elected government of 2002 is following the same program fairly seriously, so the economy is now getting better under the present AKP government. But the most important development is the fact the rate of inflation is dropping to single digits for the first time since 1960s. Maybe I should remind you that the youngest person to remember the single digit inflation in Turkey would be around 55 years old. Because the last time we had single digit inflation was in 1968, it was 6,8 and this year we hope to see that again which is a very major accomplishment and probably one of the most important achievements in establishing a stability in Turkey. 

But in the mean time, we had a series of military coups and interventions in 1960, 1971, and 1980. This led to discontinuity and fragmentation in the political party system. As a result of this, we had a number of smaller parties which were not very successful in coping with the crisis and taking necessary measures against these. These escalating crises culminated into economic crushes and new military interventions. So we were sort of living through the mythos of Sisyphus over and over again watching the same film, and nearly getting sick and tired of that. And of course all these military interventions led to the infringement of basic civil rights and repressive regimes which led to lots of international criticisms.

When we look at the bigger picture, the problem of Turkey is I believe, we live in a bad neighborhood. Whenever a gun is fired, Turkey always gets shot first because since the end of the Cold War when stability around the world nearly started coming back everything that happened, happened around Turkey. We had the crisis in the Balkans, the disintegration of Yugoslavia, and ensuing wars between the newly found states. We had the conflict in the Caucasus, the Armenian-Azeri war, and the problems in Chechnya and Georgia.

Of course we are acting and living under the shadow of never ending Middle Eastern conflicts between Israelis, Palestinians, Iranian-Iraqi War, Gulf War, and the recent war in Iraq. All these of course take their toll on the economic and political life in Turkey. As a result of all these wars and developments in 1960's and 1970's, we had violent clashes between the left and right factions in Turkey which let 5000 people slain on the streets. In 1970's we had the agents seeking the Armenian militants who assassinated larger number of Turkish diplomats and civil servants. In 1980's, the Kurdish insurgency that broke out cost 35,000 lives and finally brought under control after their leader was apprehended in Kenya. Then he was brought to justice, and was given a life sentence.

Nuri M. ÇOLAKOGLU with Erich KUNHARD, Dean of the
Stevens Institute of Technology

AKP is taking drastic measures as far as changing the constitution and bringing about more democratically accepted principles.

Today for the first time Turkey is ruled by a party which has very strong Islamic connections. In the past, parties with similar ideologies have always been seen as a threat to the secular lifestyle of the majority of the people in Turkey. But the corrupt practices of the secular parties led to the unexpected the rule of an Islamic party in Turkey. The party leader Tayyip Erdogan is underlining the fact that they are not an Islamic party, but a democratic conservative party and will not attempt to bring major changes in the daily life in Turkey. The government is following a very pro-western line. It's very much in line with the requests of Europe and the U.S. But still strong doubts in society rising from the government's insistence in the continuation of the theological schools, the access of their alumni to the universities, and in bringing back the issue of the headgear called the turban into the agenda.

These developments send shivers among the people but more so within the army, the self appointed guardian of the secular democratic republic. But the army in Turkey has never made a move without the backing of the US and today the US and the European Union are firmly supporting Mr. Erdogan. The agendas of the European Union and Mr. Erdogan's AKP seem to coincide: The Copenhagen Criteria put forward in front of Turkey and the measures that are taken in line with that Copenhagen Criteria seem to be fitting Mr. Erdogan's agenda just as well. Both the US and Europe would like to see an economically and politically stable Turkey which can serve as a role model for the democratization of the greater Middle East. The EU wants the power of the military curbed and their watchdog functions to come to an end. AKP is also trying to curb the powers of the military and the establishment. In order to meet the Copenhagen criteria put by the EU as a prerequisite, AKP is taking drastic measures as far as changing the constitution and bringing about more democratically accepted principles of the western European democracies.


Now under all these developments last week, on March 28, we had local elections in Turkey. Let me briefly summarize what has happened: AKP, despite its18 months in power and taking all these measures and trying to cope with the Iraqi war and the crisis in Cyprus, increased its vote.

Here is a comparative table that I want to show you. AKP's vote was 34.3 in November 2002. Today, it has gone up to 42.1. Its vote was 10 million 800 thousand, today they managed to get 12 million 800 thousand. So their vote has increased 2 million and their percentage has increased nearly 8%. Meanwhile, the main opposition party CHP (The Republican Party) came down from 6.1 million votes to 5.3 million, and their percentage descended from 19.4 to 18.1. And similar developments have taken place with the two leading center right parties. ANAP has nearly been erased from the face of the political world, whereas DYP has consolidated its place to a certain extent -with some of the votes it has managed to transfer from ANAP. Whereas as you can see, all the other parties have lost their relevance in the Turkish political system including DEHAP (the party supported by the militant Kurdish groups).

If we go back to the results of the election on March 28, AKP with its 42%, managed to get 7 out of 12 of the metropolitan municipalities. CHP only had its hold on to two. MHP got one and one went to DSP. Similar development seemed to be taking place in all the provinces and sub-provinces. So AKP seems to be enjoining a popular support in Turkey, most probably because of their success in the economic developments.

In this picture, AKP is sticking to a very tight economic program which leaves no room for populist policies of the past. However, in the past whenever there was an election, the governments used to open the coffers and distribute money to their voters. Buying votes was the regular practice. We saw that neither in 2002 nor in 2004. And the government is making important efforts to solve the 40-year-old Cyprus problem now being negotiated in Switzerland. Actually the negotiation has been completed, and the agreement or the disagreement which concluded these negotiations will be submitted to a referendum on the island both on the Turkish and Greek side on the 24th of April. Both Turkish Government and the Turkish Cypriot government has declared their support for the final phase of the Annan Plan; whereas the Greek Cypriots, and the Greek government voices a discontent with this program.

So as a passing remark I should point out that if on the 24th of April, the Turks ratify the Annan Plan and the Greeks refuse it, the EU will have an enormous dilemma in front of them because this was the formula which they had been pushing forward before the Cyprus' accession to EU as a full member on the 1st of May. So Cyprus will become a full member respite the support of the Turks and the opposition from Greeks to the Annan Plan. This is going to be in the agenda of EU in the coming years, and probably will lead to a further push for Turkey's full membership to the EU which could be the only final solution to the Cyprus problem.

And on top of that we have the widening of the boundaries of civil rights liberalizing the freedom of the press to enable the broadcasting and publishing in the Kurdish language in an effort to accommodate the Copenhagen Criteria, despite the resistance of the establishment. This was a very important development in Turkey. Also, all these are leading AKP to move further towards the center; thus, converting it into a conservative party rather than an Islamic party. By relinquishing their Islamic references, they are poised to fill the center right vacated by the traditional ANAP of Mr. Ozal and DYP of Mr. Demirel.

It has always been the media who had been hit the hardest but that didn't stop the media from fighting back.

So this is the summary of the political scene in Turkey. Now, I would like to concentrate a little on the media in Turkey. Print media and the newspapers & magazines were introduced to Turkey nearly at the same time with the reform movements in the Ottoman Empire. They served as the importer of the new libertarian ideas of the 19th century Europe; and when the resistance rose against the modernization, it was always the papers which were banned. But publishing continued abroad and the newspapers published in Paris or in London were smuggled into the country contributing to the constitutional movement against the Sultan.

Under the Republic, the media was the strong supporter of the new reform movement's effort to enlarge newly introduced freedoms. And under the repressive regime of Democrat Party in 1950s, the press was in the forefront and many papers were banned for supporting democratic ideas.

In the following military coups however it has always been the media who had been hit the hardest, but that didn't stop the media from fighting back, and eventually contributing to the withdrawal of the military to their barracks.

Today, media is a careful watcher and critic of the movements of the ruling party in power, whether or not they would be a threat to the secular regime or not.

On the other hand, when we look at the media in Turkey, we see an enormous concentration in the hands of a couple of companies. We have 3 major players in the market, but two of them have major economic problems. We see that the Dogan Group is the leader in the pack with a viewership of 19% with two television channels, a circulation share of 38%, and they hold the 44% of the magazine market. Of all the total advertisement, their share is 39%.

The second largest group, Sabah, is having 15% of the viewership. Their circulation share is around 18% and their magazine sale is about 23%. As a result of all these activities, they get 18% of the total advertisements in the country.

The third large group Cukurova has 14% of the viewership, 8% of the circulation, 3% of the magazine sales and 11% of the advertising. The rest is distributed among the smaller groups.

When we look at the distribution of advertisement revenues among different media, we have a very interesting picture which is much similar to the one in the US where there is a dilemma for the print media. On top of the table you see real numbers in million dollars what the distribution is between television, print media, and other media. And in the bottom, you see the percentages which might be easier to comprehend. You can see that the TV's and print media's shares were nearly equal in 1995: 41.5% each. Today, we see that televisions are getting the 50% of the advertisement whereas the print media is getting only 39% of the advertisements. And there is a continuous increase in the share of the TV; whereas, print media is losing ground and the others of course are getting smaller every day.

Television viewership of 5 hours which is a world record.

Why is that so? The answer is on these tables. This is the TV viewership figures around the world for the last three years (1997 - 1999). These are all in minutes.

When you look at the figures in Korea, usually the people watch TV for about 2.5 hours on the daily average. In Germany it is 3 hours. Same in France. In Brazil, they watch around 2.5 hours. In England and Italy, it is 3.5 hours per day. In the US, it is nearly 4 hours. When it comes to Turkey, you have television viewership of 5 hours which is a world record because TV is the main source of information and entertainment. Because the Turkish television channels, as Prof. Foster has indicated, are very colorful, very rich, and the options offered to the viewer are very wide which I will mention in a minute. So with 5 hours of television viewership, television in Turkey has become the source of information, entertainment, education, and everything. So television is stealing away from all the other media in Turkey.

When you look at the growth potential in Turkey in this media, on the average in North America per capita advertisement spending is around $477; whereas in Europe the average is $178 or in former Eastern European countries which are about to join European Union - in Hungary it is $112, in Czech Republic $82, in Poland $65, in Latin America $ 44, in Asia Pacific Region $21; whereas, in Turkey we have $14 per capita advertising spending.

So there is enormous room for the improvement in the advertising revenues of the media in Turkey. This would mean that the Turkish media will be gaining more momentum and will be playing more major roles in the coming decade.

Why television is so popular? If we go back to the roots of television in Turkey, broadcasting started in Turkey as a radio nearly at the same time like Europe. The very first radio station in Istanbul started in 1927, nearly at the same time as BBC. It was a private company but with the crash of 1929, it was taken over by the government. After that, it became mouthpiece of the single party government. When multi party system was introduced in 1946, the demand for unbiased radio rose. Then, with a new democratic constitution that came into power after the 1960 coup, the new constitution stipulated that an independent autonomous body was to be found to handle the broadcasting. TRT, the state run company, was launched in 1964. Its initial autonomy disappeared after the next military intervention in 1971.

Later, TRT again became the mouthpiece of the consecutive governments. With the poor programming and financial difficulties, TRT got rather poor viewership. In 1989, the private channels started broadcasting. All started as pirate stations and after a while, radios and televisions popped up all across the country.

Under these circumstances, the Broadcasting Act was passed in 1994. The regulatory body "Supreme Council of Radio and Television" was formed. The Broadcasting Act was strictly regulating. The ownership limited shares in TV assets, anybody who owned more than % 10 of any TV wasn't allowed to do any dealings with the government and in the stock market.

We always try to find a loophole, we run around and get through it.

In Turkey we have a different habit; when we look at the law, we always try to find a loophole, how we run around and get through it. And exactly the same thing happened here. All the TV owners were replaced by the people who really were the figureheads as far as the ownership was concerned. So in order to bring reality to the TV world, in 2002 the act was amended to liberalize the ownership and to abolish the heavy handed penalties passed to the broadcasters by this Supreme Council.

We have terrestrial networks…

Today in Turkey, we have terrestrial networks like you have in this country. State owned TRT which runs 5 nationwide channels. On the top of that, we have 16 nationwide private channels. Four of them are leading the pack: Kanal D, ATV, Star and Show TV which have %60 of the total audience. On top we have, 15 regional and 238 local private TV channels which means in any locality in Turkey with a simple antenna you attach to the back of your television set, you can watch roughly speaking 15 to 20 channels.

On top of that, we have the cable network. Cable network is controlled by the Turkish Telekom, and run by 6 private companies on revenue sharing basis. Cable subscription is available in the top populated 20 cities -9 of them have a network of 44 channels, and the rest have 60 channels. About 2.5 million households are passed, but the subscribers are around 1 million. All the terrestrial channels are available on cable in addition to 10 cable only private channels and 12 foreign channels.

Also we have a digital system which initially we have three digital television operators. Today, only one of them is left, Digiturk, and the other two left the race because of their financial difficulties.

I just want to give some more figures for those who are interested in this market.

If we look at the figures for year 2001, 2002 and 2003 you can see that the Dogan Group is controlling about 18 to 19% of the television viewership, Sabah has a 14-15 % of the viewership, Cukurova is going in the same way although decreasing in the recent years and Uzan Group's Star has been going down quite dramatically. And Ihlas, a conservative group's television, is keeping its position and the other channels are increasing their shares from 31% to 35%.

This is something we see also in the advertising revenues as well. The Dogan Group has a share of 30%, Sabah Group has 20% of the advertising, Cukurova has a similar share, Uzan is losing its ground which is coming down from 20% to 10 %, and Ihlas is more or less keeping the same position. So when we look at the TV viewership share -these figures are quite significant if you look at the development.

As you can see in 1998, the four major players: Kanal D, ATV, Star TV, and Show TV control about 70% of the total audience. Whereas, in 2003 their total share has come down to 60% because lots of new television channels which address to certain niche markets are coming and becoming very popular nowadays. Thus, the others share is going up from 21, 5% to 25%.

In the UK where there are about 5 newspapers which have a daily circulation over 3 million but the population of England and Turkey are very similar.

And I will briefly touch upon to the print media before winding up my speech. Newspaper publishing we see a similar picture as far as the distribution is concerned, but we see that the two groups are even stronger in here. Dogan Group
has in 2005, 45% of the total circulation; but as new newspapers are introduced, their share has come down to 38%. Sabah Group is keeping its position as nearly 20%. Cukurova's share is fluctuating around 10%. As you can see, the others share has gone up from 12 to 24% because a number of new successful newspapers have been launched despite the share of the newspapers are decreasing overall in the market.

In the advertising, you can see that two thirds of the total revenue of advertisements go to Dogan Group, Sabah has 20%, and all the others despite their share of circulation is increasing their revenues are not increasing terribly much.

In Turkey, right now we have 28 leading daily newspapers with an average daily circulation of around 3 million up to year 2000. In 2000, with the boom of the economy it has gone up to 4.3 million. Then with the crisis it came down to 3 million again, but today it is over 4 million daily.

This is a very small number if you take into consideration the number of papers sold in a country like the UK where there are about 5 newspapers which have a daily circulation over 3 million; but the population of England and Turkey are very similar.

Magazine world here again the Dogan Group has a very strong lead because of their partnership with Germany's "Burda" and Italy's "Rizzoli". They have about 45% of the market. Sabah Group is holding 25% of the market and the rest is being distributed among the others. Again in the advertising revenues, Dogan Group has the control of about 45%; whereas Sabah Group's share has come down from 25 to 16%.


Under these circumstances what Turkey stands for?


So, under these circumstances what Turkey stands for? Turkey used to rule the Balkans, the Caucuses, and the Middle East until 100 years ago. Therefore, it has a strong affinity with the peoples of these countries along with the central Asian nations who are distant relatives of the Turkish people.

Therefore, the developments in Turkey are watched closely by these people. So the Turkish experiment can easily be seen as a role model for these countries. This is also a major element in policies of the US and the European Union towards Turkey, as I mentioned a little while ago. Turkish media which until very recently was more interested in the developments in the west is now getting more excited about the developments in Balkans, Caucuses and the Middle East. Thus they have started appointing resident correspondence in these areas.

Next to the satellite technology, Turkish television channels are widely watched in these regions; and the developments in Turkey are followed closely. There are a number of Turkish papers published and distributed in these countries as the economies of these countries pick up and are able to sustain more expensive media operations. Turkish companies probably will start moving into these countries and this will not be a surprising movement.

In the meantime, as Turkish media is flourishing and as the advertising expenditures increase, we may be going into the third phase of media ownership in the Turkish media.


Initially, the papers were launched by strongly opinionated columnists, and they were the cutting edge for the sales of these papers. In the second phase, which we are living today, bigger and more powerful domestic conglomerates started stepping in.

Today, bigger boys -the international media groups, are looking into the Turkish media scene. In 10 years time one shouldn't be surprised to see a more international media in Turkey. Thus, Turkey can become a stepping stone on the way to expand into the regions which are now on the top of the global agenda. 

Thank you very much for listening! If there are any questions, I will be pleased to answer them.

For Introductory by Prof. Edward Foster

--Press Release of the conference - April 10, 2004

- Turkish media executive Çolakoglu to speak at Stevens


--Announcement of the conference by Light MIllennium: March 3, 2004

Special thanks to Hande Ilsever and Gokce Ilsever for the transcription.
Also, special thanks to Ayça Bahçe.

The Light Millennium, April 2004, New York.

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