The globalization of Turkey’s television industry and its discontents

By Ece Algan
Submitted to Session P5202 (Global Encounters: Transnationalism and the New Political Economy of the Turkish Television Industry, 2018 Annual Meeting
Media Arts
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
Turkey’s television industry has become a global growth industry with over 250 commercial TV channels, whose national and transnational audiences span over 100 countries from the Balkans to the Middle East and from Asia to Latin America, making the country the 2nd largest producer of television series in the world after Hollywood today. In 2016 alone, television series exports brought over 350 million dollars in revenue reaching over 500 million viewers, with a number of TV series breaking viewership records both inside and outside of Turkey. This global success and popularity brought both TV industry professionals and government officials together to opportunistically unite under the claim that these exports strengthen Turkey’s soft power in the world, particularly in the Middle East. While this claim aligns with the government’s current foreign policy aspirations, it also puts an accountability burden on the industry. As a result, the professionals in the industry often find themselves trying to fend off interventions by governmental actors and various organizations that are close to the government. These interventions range from complaints and criticisms regarding the perceived inaccuracies in the representations of Turkish national identity, history and cultural values to government officials’ openly supporting TV series that they deem friendly to national interests and their conservative ideologies. With the help of my findings from the in-depth interviews I conducted with TV industry professionals in Turkey, I analyze how the cultural policies implemented on TV exports and interventions by government officials influence the content, production and sales of these TV series. By doing that, I aim to illustrate the hegemonic struggles over the cultural representations of “Turkishness” by both the commercial TV industry and Turkish government.