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Journalist Fellows' Papers

Media capture and advertising in Turkey: The impact of the state on news

Reuters Institute Fellow's Paper

Press freedom in Turkey has been hotly debated around the world as the ruling party has stepped up pressure on journalists and media owners.

Advertising is one of the key tools that the government has used in the last decade in controlling the newspapers, as shown in the research paper 'The Media Capture and Advertising in Turkey: The Impact of the State on News' by Dr Servet Yanatma. The former foreign policy reporter of Turkey’s best-selling Zaman daily until its takeover by the Turkish authorities in March 2016, Servet examines the distribution of advertising for newspapers and the impact of the government on this allocation, particularly through official announcements, public firms and companies loyal to the ruling party.

Here is how Servet describes his research and main findings: “In Turkey, advertising basically comes from two main sources; private companies including publicly traded firms, and official announcements which are distributed by the state-run Press Bulletin Authority (BİK) agency. Supported with data, this study shows that the recent practices of the BİK are extensively political in the distribution of official advertising. Private and public companies are more significant for the advertising sector due to their extremely large budgets compared to official announcements. Using the Nielsen Company’s independently measured data showing the distribution of advertising space, this research uncovers how the public firms’ advertising has been used either to reward the pro-government newspapers or punish the critical dailies. Moreover, companies which do business with the state or cannot resist the pressure of the ruling party need to consider the political atmosphere and distribute their advertising in the same way as public firms. After the Gezi Protests and the massive corruption investigation in 2013, the advertising share of newspapers critical of the government has dramatically declined, whereas the share for newspapers widely seen as operating as mouthpieces of government, has sharply increased. My interviews with leading editors support the hard data showing that advertising has been used as a stick and carrot in favour of the government.”

As with all Fellows’ research papers, any opinions expressed are those of the author and not of the Institute.