Public sector ads almost double for Turkish daily after ownership change

Turkey’s Press Advertisement Agency (BİK), a state body that distributes the advertisements of the public sector in the media, has allocated 46 percent more advertisements for publication in the daily Cumhuriyet in 2019, a study by media researcher Mahmut Tezcan found.

Cumhuriyet received a total of 3,480 advertisements from BİK and became the newspaper that received the highest number of advertisements, according to Tezcan’s study. The paper had received 2,379 advertisements in 2018.

The BİK is supposed to allocate advertisements according to circulation numbers.

Throughout 2019, Cumhuriyet’s sales were at the level of 30,000 per week, putting the daily on the 18th to 16th spot among nation-wide newspapers, based on weekly circulation numbers announced on Gazete Tirajları. Top sellers were opposition daily Sözcü, and pro-government Sabah and Hürriyet, with the actual ranking changing week by week.

The Cumhuriyet Foundation, which owns the newspaper, elected a new board in September 2018 and sacked editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu. Some of the paper’s veteran columnists resigned after the change. 

Former Turkey rapporteur for the European Parliament, Dutch lawmaker Kati Piri, said the daily had been taken over by ultra-nationalists aligned with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

The editorial change came after 15 staff members were issued long prison sentences in April the same year, having faced charges of aiding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group designated a terrorist organisation in Turkey, and the Gülen movement, which the government considers to be responsible for the coup attempt in July 2016.

BİK issued a 17-day advertisement ban on Cumhuriyet last month for a column that criticised Turkey’s military incursion into Syria. 

Opposition dailies BirGün and Evrensel were also issued long bans, which they called unjust, and Evrensel’s editor-in-chief Fatih Polat said the BİK was pushing opposition media outside the arena. 

Most newspapers depend on income raised via BİK advertisements, especially ones that are not owned by big corporations.