Mar 22 2018

Turkish media sale was ‘inevitable’ - FT

The sale of Turkey’s biggest media company is being carried out in difficult times and was inevitable, the Financial Times reported citing an official at the company.

The sale of Doğan Holding's outlets deals a blow to a media landscape now dominated by newspapers and television channels loyal to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the FT said.

“This is a historic moment for the Turkish media,” the official said, according to the FT. “These are difficult times. Everyone is sad. But I think people recognise that it was inevitable.”

Doğan Holding, owned by secular business tycoon Aydin Doğan, is to sell units including CNN Türk and Hürriyet, Turkey’s best-selling newspaper, to Demirören Holding, owned by a businessman with close ties to Erdoğan.

An official at Demirören told the FT that talks were “progressing and an agreement has been made on the acquisition”.

The sale represents the departure of one of the few remaining media owners who was not intimately linked with Erdoğan.

Demirören is owned by Erdoğan Demirören, a businessman best known for a leaked recording that captured him sobbing on the phone as he was berated by Erdoğan for a story, the FT said.

Doğan, 82, began to face criticism from Erdogan after Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won power in 2002. In 2009, his company was slammed with a huge tax penalty that was widely seen as politically motivated.

Since then, columnists and reporters at Hurriyet and CNN Turk seen as too critical of the government have been sidelined or sacked. Two journalists who said they planned to vote no in a referendum on extending presidential powers for Erdoğan last year lost their jobs.

The Turkish media have long held deep conflicts of interests because of overlaps between politics and business. But the model has changed during the AKP era, the FT said.

“Instead of newspaper groups leveraging the government, as used to be the case, the government imposed newspaper ownership on its friends as a tax for doing business,” said Andrew Finkel, a journalist and press freedom campaigner. “The new newspaper owners were people who weren’t really interested in media but felt they had to buy newspapers in order to do with the business with the government.”