Netflix applies for license under Turkey’s new broadcasting rules

Netflix has applied for a license to continue operating in Turkey under new online broadcasting rules, the head of the country’s television watchdog (RTÜK) said on Tuesday.

The application by the U.S. online streaming service follows a move by Turkey last month to also grant the state agency for monitoring, regulating, and sanctioning radio and television broadcasts (RTÜK) oversight over all online content, raising concerns about censorship.

More than 600 institutions, including local streaming platforms Puhu TV and Blu TV, have also applied for licenses, RTÜK President Ebubekir Şahin said on Twitter.

The new regulation, which entered into force last month, stipulates that all broadcasters that want to provide radio, television, and other types of broadcasting services on the internet, including on-demand services in Turkey, will have to first obtain a licence from RTÜK and comply with its guidelines.

If broadcasters fail to respect the watchdog’s guidelines, they will be given 30 days to change their content, or face a three-month license suspension and later cancellation.

Under the leadership of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), RTÜK has taken a strict line with television stations, slapping channels with large fines for what it says is “offending societal values”. The choice to share work online instead by Turkish television producers has now come under RTÜK’s mandate. 

Pundits maintain the move to oversee online broadcasting by the country’s television watchdog will allow the government to tighten its grip on Turkish media, which is largely owned or controlled by supporters of President Tayyip Erdoğan and his Islamist AKP.