The Turkish government will create its own streaming platform as an alternative to foreign platforms such as Netflix and HBO. This has been announced by Mehmet Zahid Sobacı, the director general of TRT, the Turkish state broadcaster, which will be in charge of setting up the platform.
Speaking at the International Forum of Young Communicators in Antalya province, Sobacı said that "as a country, we need to better explain our position nationally and internationally".
For Sobacı, this becomes more urgent as "we live in a time when the line between truth and lies is being broken, and toxic ideas and information have become commonplace". Disinformation, he continues, would not only be found in the news, "but also in films, series, documentaries, animations and mobile apps". Thus, Ankara would be willing to fight the cultural and information battle, with this new platform as a loudspeaker for its message to a mainly young audience.
Turkish TV series have become one of the country's main cultural products, constituting a mass phenomenon internationally, with hundreds of millions of viewers from the Arab world to Europe. Turkey has thus become the second largest exporter of TV series in the world, behind only the United States.
This announcement comes against a backdrop of growing tensions between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and platforms such as Netflix, against which government censorship has increased.
In April 2020, controversy erupted over Netflix France's plans to work on a film about the Armenian genocide, a massacre of hundreds of thousands of Armenians and other Christians by the Young Turk government denied, however, by Ankara. In response, a campaign against Netflix was organised on social media. A few months later, Netflix had to cancel production of the Turkish series 'If Only' in the face of government pressure over the presence of a homosexual character.
A subsequent law by the AKP government made it mandatory for internet platforms to respond within 48 hours to requests to remove content, which led Netflix to remove part of its catalogue in the country.
Erdoğan's government has been a leading force in the Islamisation of Turkish society, with a strongly conservative stance. In a speech, the president said that foreign platforms such as Netflix "do not suit this country and our people. That is why we want to shut them down or control them completely". "Do you understand why we are against platforms like YouTube, Twitter or Netflix? To get rid of these immoralities," the AKP leader concluded.
Erdoğan's critics, meanwhile, point to the instrumentalisation of TRT to promote their own policies, both their news channels and TV series. This was stated by Renan Akyavas of the International Press Institute, for whom "TRT used to be the most respected media outlet in Turkey, thanks to its high quality, diverse and objective news. Unfortunately, its management has been taken over by the government step by step through decrees or changes in its regulations, turning it into a state propaganda media".