Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Parliament Passes Broadcast Media Bill

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc speaking after the law's passage. AA Photo from Hurriyet Daily News

The Turkish Parliament has passed a comprehensive law on broadcast media that gives the Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTUK) and the Turkish government broader authority to restrict media rights. Although there are positive measures in the law such as the allowance of broadcasts in languages other than Turkish (something already done in practice), the new law raises serious concerns about the government's ability to restrict programming with which it does not agree or finds morally objectionable. From Hurriyet Daily News:
The new measures also give the prime minister the authority to temporarily halt broadcasting. The law further restricts the sale of alcohol and tobacco by banning all marketing of tobacco and alcohol products.

The new regulation is also designed to protect children by banning advertisements for alcohol, tobacco products, drugs, gambling and “anything that encourages minors toward violence and abuse.”

Risqué images are banned on TV, along with content that is against the equality of sexes or objectifies women.

Movies or news bulletins that go over their allotted broadcast time will have the opportunity to cut to commercial once every 30 minutes. The broadcast of religious events, however, may never be cut for commercial.
The law also allows foreign companies to hold up to 50% of the shares in Turkish media firms, a move that has raised concerns with nationalists and those who fear the kind of large foreign investment that companies like Rupert Murdoch's New Corporation have made in past years.

RTUK, which is part of Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc's portfolio, has already been heavily criticized for restricting programming that government officials find morally and/or politically objectionable. For a litany of such cases, click here. For an earlier law the Parliament passed this year restricting the marketing and sale of alcohol, click here.

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