TV main source of news in Turkey where gov’t tightens grip on media - report

Television remains the most important source of news in Turkey, where the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has further strengthened its control of the Turkish media over the last year with the sale of the leading media group to a businessman with ties to the government, according to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report for 2019.

While the country’s print newspapers continue to be well read by international standards, their circulation is declining, the report said. Meanwhile, smart phones have become the most important device for accessing online news in Turkey.

The sale of Doğan Media Group to Demirören Holding in March 2018, months ahead Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections, was the most significant development in Turkish media over the past year, the report said.

The transfer, which took place with the help of credits from the state bank, was seen as the last nail in the coffin of independent mainstream media group in the country. Since the sale, media coverage has become more explicitly supportive of government lines, the report underlined.

The ending of the print edition of two newspapers, Habertürk and Vatan, in mid-2018 due to reduced sales and rising costs has been another major development in Turkey over the past year, it added.

‘’The circulation of Turkish newspapers and their share of advertising revenues has been declining steadily, while printing costs have also risen as a weak Turkish lira makes imported newsprint more expensive,‘’ it said, noting that 88 other newspapers have either reduced their page numbers or stopped their Sunday editions.

The most popular online media listed in the 2019 survey include Sözcü and Cumhuriyet - two secularist-nationalist newspapers that are critical of the government.

Social media and smaller internet sites have become the main platforms for alternative news in the country, which independent watchdog Freedom House classified as ‘not free’, the report noted, underlining, however, that they have been unable to achieve significant reach.

The report also underlined the emergence of a few credible fact-checking organisations such as amid heightened political and media polarisation in the country give way to misinformation.

WhatsApp and Instagram are particularly popular for news in the country, it said, noting that fear of government surveillance does not explain their heightened uses since they are also used widely by supporters of the ruling Islamist party.

The report pointed to an increase by 8 percentage points in overall levels of trust in media compared to last year, with 48 percent of those surveyed saying they trusted news overall.

TV news sources like Fox and NTV, along with critical voices like Cumhuriyet and Sözcü, rated highest for trust, according to the survey.

Despite the fact that pro-government media, such as Anadolu News Agency and A Haber, tend to be trusted less, they received higher scores from those that use them.

Up to 90 percent of the Turkish media by audience share is owned by businessmen or companies with close ties to the government.