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HOME > 25th JAMCO Online International Symposium > Reconsidering Transnationalization of Turkish Public Broadcaster, TRT, in Relation to Foreign Policy and Public Diplomacy

JAMCO Online International Symposium

25th JAMCO Online International Symposium

December 2016 - June 2017

The Current State and Challenges of International Broadcasting in Key Countries

Reconsidering Transnationalization of Turkish Public Broadcaster, TRT, in Relation to Foreign Policy and Public Diplomacy

Dilruba Çatalbaş Ürper
Professor of Journalism at Galatasaray University, İstanbul, Turkey


Today increasing interdependencies between governmental and non-governmental actors force nation states to supplement usual means of diplomacy with alternative methods (Morin, 2012). Unlike traditional diplomacy which involves interactions between the representatives of states and other international actors, public diplomacy targets foreign publics and more specific groups of civil society, non-governmental organizations and individuals (Melissen, 2005: 5).

Transnational television surfaces as one of the essential instruments of “mediated public diplomacy” (Entman, 2008) that states increasingly turn to in order to promote a favourable international public opinion for their policies and cultivate a long term persuasive influence called “soft power”. As conceptualized by Joseph Nye, soft power refers to the ability of the states based on their culture, political ideals and policies to get what they want “through attraction rather than coercion or payment” (2004: X).

Privatization of broadcasting and the rapid proliferation of satellite and cable ventures in the 1990s have been a turning point for the transnationalisation of television in Turkey. Since the 1990s the public broadcaster, TRT, and major private media companies launched their international services in order to find new audiences particularly in Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East, the areas with which Turkey not only shares a common geography but also a long lasting historical, social and cultural affinity.

Transnationalisation of TRT television ran parallel to the pro-active foreign policy that the Turkish state has been following in its geo-political region since the 1990s beginning with late President Turgut Özal. During the presidency of Özal, TRT was authorized to serve the diasporic space of Turkish immigrants living in Western Europe and the geostrategic space created in the Central Asia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the 2000s TRT’s transnational operations were first driven to fill in the multi-linguistic space in the Middle East and the Balkans and lately expanded into English speaking global audience.

This paper investigates the transnational television ventures of the TRT in the 2000s against a backdrop of foreign policy interests and public diplomacy efforts of the present Justice and Development Party (JDP, a.k.a AKP or AK Party) government. Drawing from an analysis of secondary sources such as corporate web sites, industrial and institutional documents as well as news and feature articles, it examines the influence of governmental actors on the international motives of TRT.

The paper argues that the JDP has been using its influence over the TRT and other publicly owned or controlled media institutions including the AA, Turkey’s official news agency, to advance Turkey’s geopolitical strategic interests. TRT’s transnational expansion in the 2000s closely followed JDP’s foreign policy and public diplomacy endeavours which aimed to establish a sphere of influence mainly in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Balkans where Turkey has strategic interests. JDP expected multilingual broadcasts to be a platform for Turkey to deliver more effective soft power not only in its own region but in the global arena. Transnationalisation of television and later international exports of television programmes were encouraged in order to boost Turkey’s presence and assertiveness in the international arena as well as in the global cultural flows. In the aftermath of the 2013 Gezi protests and particularly after the failed coup attempt of 15th July 2016, JDP assign special importance to transnational broadcasting particularly in English as a means to challenge the domination of Western global news providers which have adopted an increasingly critical stance against Turkey in recent years.

In the 2000s with the full hearted consent of the JDP governments TRT made massive investments into its transnational operations and began to pursue an aggressive strategy of content production and marketing. Having lost its dominant position in the domestic broadcasting landscape in the 1990s TRT has keenly embraced its renewed public role as Turkey’s major contender in the league of global media institutions and had little qualms about being seen as the public diplomacy instrument of the JDP. However, as Nye points out, generation of soft power depends more on credibility, self-criticism and civil society than international reach (Nye, 2008). TRT’s image as the mouthpiece of the government not only undermines its capabilities as a tool of public diplomacy but also renders its transnational operations susceptible to ups and downs of Turkish foreign policy.

A brief history of public broadcasting in Turkey

Modern Turkish Republic was founded in 1923 under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal on the remains of the Ottoman Empire. Single party rule of the early Republican period which lasted until 1946 provided the Kemalist elites with the ‘autonomy of the state’ (Özbudun, 1986) to be able to implement profound reforms in social life, education, language, law and religion. Radio broadcasting was one of the means that the progressive Kemalist elites instrumentalized to create a Western style secular nation out of the religious community inherited from the Empire (Heper and Sayarı, 2012).

Until the 1950s radio remained under the control of different state agencies. “Direct and absolute state control was consistent with the other features of the single party rule” (Şahin, 1981) which ended in 1950 when the RPP (Republican People’s Party) of the founding elites was defeated by the Democratic Party (DP). The partisan use of radio during the 1950s was one of the justifications offered by Kemalist elites and the Army for the overthrow of the DP from the government as a result of a first coup d’état in 1960.

In 1964 radio broadcasts were united under the rubric of the newly established Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, TRT. The most important achievement of the TRT in the 1960s was the launch of regular television broadcasts in 1968. The autonomy of TRT granted by the 1961 Constitution was annulled in 1971 as a result of the second military intervention  into politics by a memorandum of the Army. With the loss of its autonomy the government attained extensive powers in the appointment of TRT’s senior personnel, funding and programming.

Following the 1980 military coup another change in the legal framework of broadcasting left TRT more prone to government pressure at the executive level (Çaplı, 1994). TRT Director General said in 2012 that “there is a very clear clause (in the law) that says the relationship between the corporation and the government is carried out through the Prime Minister. If there is something concerning the government or to be done about the ministries we directly present it to Prime Minister or do it through him” (“Rekabet Kurumu Tarafından”, 2012).

In the 1980s thanks to growing penetration of television receivers and rising advertising revenues the TRT was able to make significant investment into its technology and expand its services. However, its bureaucratic, conservative and elitist programming policy remained unchanged. For long years TRT strictly controlled the production of audio-visual content from its headquarters in Ankara and banned from the national airwaves certain popular cultural expressions such as Arabesque music which it deemed low taste. Its programmes which treated and promoted Turkish culture as a single homogenous entity failed to reflect the regional, cultural, ethnic and religious diversity of the country (Aksoy and Robins, 2000).

Therefore, the de facto privatisation of broadcasting in 1990 by satellite channels which beamed their signals from Europe to Turkey was a major blow for the TRT. In a very short time span after the launch of first private stations TRT lost not only a significant proportion of its viewers but also a large sum of its advertising revenue. The privatisation of broadcasting made it clear that TRT had neither the loyalty of its viewers nor the backing of the political elites (Çatalbaş, 2000).

Therefore, TRT welcomed the prospect of extending its broadcasts to Turkish communities in Europe as a way of renewing its public service mission. Its first international service, TRT INT, went on air on 28 February 1990 as part of Turkish state’s strategy of establishing closer relations with Turkish migrants in Europe. TRT INT which broadcasted a selection of TRT programming was transmitted via satellite and distributed by cable networks in Germany, Holland and Belgium. Its aims were pronounced as preserving the ties of Turkish people living abroad with Turkey and Turkish culture; enhancing their educational and cultural level and promoting the image of Turkey and Turkish people.

What started as a television service for diasporic audiences in Europe was expanded on 27 April 1992 to encompass the Turkic speaking nations of the Central Asia in line with President Özal’s Turkist perspective in foreign policy. However, due to vast time differences as well as dissimilarities among the target audiences TRT Eurasia became a separate service on its own on 12 April 1993. Aksoy and Avcı argued that TRT Eurasia aimed to show the Central Asian viewers “how a unified world of Muslim Turks can be successful if they look to the West” (1992:39). However, in 1997 the state minister responsible for relations with the Turkic republics was complaining about the inefficiency of TRT Eurasia in the face of strong competition from India, China and Russia. The minister criticised the TRT for disregarding local audience in its programming policy (Sarıkaya, 1997).

Foreign Policy and Public Diplomacy during JDP governments and Transnationalization of TRT

JDP came to office in 2002 with the promises of economic prosperity, social justice and full membership in the EU. JDP’s strategies were in many ways the continuation of Özal’s economic liberalism and pro-active foreign policy. During the three consecutive terms of office of the JDP, Turkey has gone through a significant economic growth and political and social transformation under the premiership of its charismatic and highly popular leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Proactive foreign policy has been one of the most important factors which shaped Turkey’s economic, political and cultural transformation under the JDP (Keyman and Gümüşçü, 2014). In the early 2000s the JDP adopted a strong pro-EU stance and took steps to realize the political and economic accession criteria deemed necessary for modernization of the Turkish state. Turkey’s resolute steps in the direction of democratization and its economic achievements were applauded in the West as a “Turkish model”which demonstrates the compatibility of Islamic values with western style democracy.

A symbolic triumph for Turkey’s efforts to gain European recognition in the early 2000s was Turkey’s winning in 2003 the Eurovision Song Contest of EBU (European Broadcasting Union) for the first time. The following year TRT hosted the 49th Eurovision Song Contest in Istanbul which was broadcast live into 36 countries as a major show of emerging Turkey. In December 2004 the EU leaders agreed to commence accession talks with Turkey in 2005.

However, the EU-Turkey relations did not go a long way after the beginning of the accession negotiations due to obstructions of some EU member states and the gradual retreat of JDP from the reform agenda. From 2009 onwards Turkish foreign policy which came to be associated with the foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu expanded its global horizons. Davutoğlu argued that its history and unique geographical position at the cross roads of the Middle East, Balkans, Caucasus, Central Asia, Mediterranean and the Black Sea provided Turkey a “strategic depth”. Turkey, Davutoğlu asserted, was not a regional but a central power and, therefore, should play a leading role in the resolutions of regional as well as global conflicts through negotiation and public diplomacy.

Davutoğlu’s soft-power diplomacy which was mostly conceived as “neo-Ottomanism” was based on a strategy of “zero problems with the neighbours” and became largely effective in achieving economic cooperation with several of Turkey’s Middle Eastern neighbours. Public opinion surveys carried out in the Middle East confirmed that Turkey’s efforts to present herself as a “mediator for conflicts”, an emerging “political and economic power” and a “role model” contributed positively to its image and popularity (Alankuş and Yanardağoğlu, 2016). Moreover, the humanitarian and constructive efforts of Turkish state and non-state actors such as helping the tsunami victims in Indonesia, supporting earthquake and flood victims in Pakistan and providing aid in Somalia, Ethiopia and other African countries elevated the standing of Turkey and the image of Erdoğan in several other distant corners of the world (Akgönenç, 2012). Erdoğan’s fierce criticism of Israel and the UN over the Palestinian problem won him a widespread popularity in the Middle East and the Muslim world at large. In 2011 Arab respondents named Erdoğan “as the world leader they admired most” (Al-Ghazzi and Kraidy, 2013).

As Turkey’s confidence grew in the international arena the EU membership seemed to lose its prominence in JDP’s foreign policy. While the relations with the EU receded there came another symbolic parting of the ways. TRT refused to take part in the Eurovision song contest since 2013 in protest to the change of rules in the voting system. Some observers noticed the similarity between the TRT’s criticism of EBU for providing unfair privileges and immunities to five European countries and Erdoğan’s criticism of the structure of the UN Security Council (Cohen Yanarocak, 2012).

From the end of the first decade of the 2000s and particularly in the aftermath of JDP’s victories in 2010 constitutional referendum and in 2011 general elections, JDP’s policies began to sway into authoritarianism and social conservatism (Akyol, 2016). The rhetoric of Erdoğan and other leading figures of JDP began to reflect the distinct political background most JDP cadres came from: “the Islamist movement, with its strong populism, anti-establishment message, and kind of anti-capitalist rhetoric” (“Interview: Cihan Tugal,” 2016, April 16). While JDP’s position in the so-called Arab Spring and in Syrian war caused a noticeable decline in the Middle Eastern perceptions of Turkey, Erdoğan’s uncompromising attitude against the Gezi Park protests in 2013 and later the collapse of Kurdish peace process and ensuing military operations cast serious doubt to the ‘Turkish model’ particularly in the Western media and political circles.

Gezi Park protests in 2013 not only exposed the limits of JDP’s liberalism but also demonstrated the growing political polarisation in Turkish society and the media. From the early 2000s JDP successfully redesigned the media system by intervening ownership of private companies and by appointing its supporters to the key posts in the public media. The resultant media scene was composed of an increasingly intimidated and shrinking secular/liberal private outlets and increasingly growing pro JDP outlets. TRT and the AA openly aligned with the government despite the protests coming from opposition parties and civil society that they became a propaganda arm of the JDP.

During the 2000s JDP governments allowed TRT to pursue an aggressive strategy of growth and to make large investments into its technology to convert all its broadcasts into digital. The transnationalisation of TRT’s broadcasts continued at full speed with the launch of new channels. Looking much more confident than it was in the 1990s, TRT opened the first national children’s television channel and began its broadcasts in Kurdish and Arabic. TRT’s international web site, which offers news in 31 different languages went online in 2008. In 2009 TRT became the fourth largest investor in the Euronews channel and signed an agreement with it for a 7 day 24 hours service in Turkish which was launched on January 2010. In the 2012 Annual Report TRT Director General argued that TRT’s efforts in the previous five years had turned the corporation into “a truly global institution”, broadcasting from 10 different satellites and reaching the world with 15 channels (TRT, 2012).

Moreover, in order to strengthen its regional and international presence TRT opened new foreign bureaus and built partnerships with the public broadcasters and media institutions of neighbouring countries such as Azerbaijan, Greece, Albania and Turkish Republic of Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Bahrain. In 2012 in association with the public broadcasters of South-Eastern Europe, TRT launched a cooperative project called “From Balkan War to the Balkan Peace” which aimed to exhibit common historical ties through music. In 2016 TRT joined forces with the Sarajevo Film Festival to fund micro-budget projects “of fiction features from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia” (“Turkey’s TRT”, 2016).

TRT also took active part in international forums of public media and co-operated other national public diplomacy institutions in joint projects. TRT’s becoming a member of Board of Governors of ABU (Asia-Pasific Broadcasting Union) at the 52nd General Meeting of the organization in Istanbul between 24-31 October 2016 was announced as “a sign of the (international) interest and trust in the TRT” (TRT, 2015). In 2016 more than 130 media personnel from 44 countries in Asia, Africa, Middle East and Balkans attended the international media education programme that TRT organized in Antalya, Turkey, between 21-29 November with the support of TİKA (Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency), one of the oldest governmental public diplomacy agents in Turkey to provide international humanitarian and development assistance.

Transnational television channels of TRT

Transnationalisation of TRT channels was received very positively by the JDP as a show of strength of the “New Turkey” that they promised Turkish electorate since the early 2000s. Their launches were seized as valuable opportunities for JDP’s news management efforts. High ranking state officials and JDP members attended the ostentatious official opening ceremonies to declare how much prosperous and confident Turkey has become during the office of the JDP governments.

TRT Kurdi became the first among a series of transnational services that TRT commenced in the 2000s. Although it was intended to serve Kurdish speaking citizens of Turkey, its area of transmission covers the Kurdish-speaking communities in the Middle East and Europe as well. Being Turkey’s first Kurdish language television station, TRT Kurdi began its broadcasts in January 2009 in the Kurmanji and Sorani dialects as well in Zazaki. Its launch was a politically symbolic step in the recognition of Kurdish cultural and linguistic rights. It was also “a landmark event in the lengthy institutional history of TRT as the guardian of Turkish language and culture” (Heper and Sayarı, 2012:131). TRT’s official website which describes TRT Kurdi as “a family channel in Kurdish” stated that the channel aimed “the unity and integrity of our country”. TRT Kurdi attempted to undermine the influence of transnational channels such as Roj TV (formerly Med TV) which had found an audience among the Kurdish speaking citizens of Turkey since the 1990s.

On 21 March 2009 TRT Avaz was launched with a big ceremony attended by the then President Abdullah Gül, ex leader of the JDP, and high-level delegations from the Turkic states. TRT Avaz which means “voice” in Turkic languages began on the day of Newroz which is one of the most culturally significant days for large populations in Central Asia and Middle East, marking the beginning of the spring. The station aims to reach around 250 million people living in 27 countries and 13 autonomous regions throughout the Balkans, Central Asia, the Middle East and the Caucasus and produces programmes about seven different countries (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Bosnia Herzegovina and Turkey) in their languages. At the ceremony President Gül said TRT Avaz “will closely connect this vast geography and it will boost our common language and our communication further” (Cumhuriyet, 2009, March 21).

Within a couple of months after the launch of TRT Avaz another free-to-air news channel, called TRT TURK went on air on 8 May 2009. Then PM Erdoğan attended the opening ceremony where he connected live with the TRT reporters based in Jerusalem, Moscow and Brussels. In his opening speech Erdoğan said: “Turkey will no longer be covered in negative, sad news reports on the world media. With TRT TURK it will be understood that good things also happen in Turkey; that Turkey is changing fast; that she is a rising world star; and that our country has a very rich culture” (“TRT Türk Yayında”, 2009). TRT’s 2012 Annual Report affirmed that one of the prime objectives of TRT TURK was “to protect Turkish citizens from the manipulations of international broadcasters.”

In December 2012 TRT signed an agreement with SES, a leading satellite operator, to disseminate TRT TURK television and Voice of Turkey radio to audiences in sub-Saharan Africa (TRT Turk Selects, 2012). On 8 December 2015, TRT Board of Directors decided to unite TRT TURK and TRT Avaz stations on the grounds of expanding geographical reach of the united service as well using public resources more efficiently (“TRT Türk”, 2015).

TRT Arabic, aiming Arabic-speaking audiences in the Middle East was launched as a full-fledged 24 hour general interest channel on 4 April 2010. It was the outcome of JDP’s “proactive policies to amplify its historic and cultural links in the Middle East” (Heper and Sayarı, 2012). Speaking in its debut which was carried live on al-Jazeera and other Arab news networks, Erdoğan described Turks and Arabs like “the fingers of a hand” and said that they belonged “to the same history, the same culture and above all the same civilization” (Al-Ghazzi and Kraidy, 2013). TRT Director-General announced that the new channel aimed to reach out 350 million people in 22 Arab countries through three different satellites, Turksat 3A, Arabsat and Nilesat.

Designed as a “family channel”, TRT Arabic broadcast a range of programs which promote Turkish businesses, tourism, education and convey Turkish point of view. Al-Ghazzi and Kraidy (2013) argued that as part of “JDP’s charm offensive” to Arab audiences TRT Arabic has turned “neo-Ottomanism into a nation brand that evocatively articulates a Turkey that is European, Islamic, moral, politically influential, and economically successful—the neo-Ottoman cool brand.” TRT’s 2012 Annual Report acknowledged TRT’s eagerness to contribute to the soft power of Turkey in the Arab world. According to the Report “TRT Arabic which aims to be an important instrument in the development and consolidation of Turkey’s regional power pursues a broadcasting policy compatible with the position of our country which has become a global actor in the regional equation” (TRT, 2012).

In 2013 TRT announced its plans to launch a new transnational station in English which was expected to be the most expensive project in its history (Kaya, 2013). It was argued that the critical reporting of international media of Gezi protests in the summer of 2013 became a catalyst for the establishment of English language news channel. “The disproportionate use of force to crush the protests was widely viewed on international television broadcasts, casting shadow over Turkey’s soft power and raising doubts about Turkey’s democratization and the whole concept of the Turkish model” (Çevik and Seib, 2015). During Gezi protests which turned into massive anti-government demonstrations Erdoğan blamed international news media for being ill intentioned against Turkey and for playing into the hands of foreign conspirators (Karakaya and Albayrak, 2013). Deputy Director General of TRT asserted that the channel, which was later named as TRT World, would present international news “with a perspective of our own unlike that of Al Jazeera, BBC and CNN” (“İbrahim Eren, TRT”, 2014).

During the launch of TRT World’s news site on 1 May 2015 which coincided with the 51st anniversary of the Corporation, TRT DG argued that a global English language channel “was necessary and important” for TRT to demonstrate the same competitive strength that Turkey has achieved worldwide in the field of broadcasting (“TRT World’ün Internet”, 2015). Then Deputy PM of JDP who spoke at the launch of the test broadcasts on 18 May 2015 said that the manipulative war of perceptions in the international arena required Turkey “to engage widespread public diplomacy with all its institutions” in order to secure its national interests and protect its image and reputation. In his opinion, TRT World which “would show everyone that the world is bigger than Five (meaning permanent members of the UN Security Council)” (“TRT World test”, 2015).

The official inaugural ceremony of TRT World which began its regular free to air broadcasts on 29 October 2015 was held in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016. Speaking at the ceremony organized at the presidential palace in Ankara on 15 November 2016 President Erdoğan said that it was not possible for a country like Turkey to have a blind eye on what’s occurring in its region and that “Turkey has been shaping its foreign policy with this fact in mind since 2002” (“Cumhurbaşkanı Erdoğan”, 2016). Condemning Western media for being unfair and biased against Turkey, Erdoğan claimed that if it had been successful “foreign media would have legitimized the coup” (“TRT World launched”, 2016). In a press interview TRT World Director of News argued that their timely and accurate reporting of the coup attempt “prevented perception management operations against Turkey” (“TRTWORLD kara propaganda”, 2016).

International programme sales

In addition to the expansion of international services another significant development that supported the transnationalisation of Turkish broadcasting in the 2000s was the rise of television series as one of Turkey’s major cultural exports. “Between 2005 and 2011, Turkey exported 35,675 hours of TV series and programs to 76 countries” (Karlıdağ and Bulut, 2014) mainly in the Central Asia, Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East. The plummeting of the sales to the Middle East and North Africa in the aftermath of the Arab Spring forced Turkish producers and distributors to search for new markets. By 2015 Turkish TV dramas have already travelled as far as South America reaching “more than 450 million viewers” (Temeltaş, 2015) and generating an income of USD 300 million in 2015 versus only USD 45 million five years ago (Prensario Internacional, 2016).

The success of Turkish television exports on foreign media attracted the attention of international producers and distributors such as EndemolShine which “works on a unique local and global axis, comprised of 120 companies across all the world’s major markets” (EndemolShinegroup, n.d.) to enter the Turkish market. In recognition of its dynamic and prolific drama industry, Turkey was chosen as the country of honour of MIPCOM 2015.

Rising television exports not only contributed to the international visibility of Turkish culture, traditions and life styles but also positively affected tourism and foreign trade. Skyscanner, a leading global travel search site, which found a positive correlation between flight searches and foreign TV series stated that “flight search to Turkey in 2012 and 2013 rose nearly twice” compared to 2011. Most of the increase in searches was originated from the Middle Eastern countries (Deloitte, 2014).

The sudden surge of popularity of Turkish television drama particularly in the MENA region and the Balkans is seen as contributing to the soft power of Turkey within its geopolitical region and beyond. The New Persuaders Survey, carried out in 2012 by a UK based think tank, The Institute for Government, Turkey ranked 20th among 40 countries in terms of its soft power potential based on five components: i.e. business and innovation; culture; government; diplomacy; and education. The results revealed that in comparison to the first survey in 2010 Turkey’s soft power continued “its ascent up the table off the back of cross-cultural appeal and smart positioning”. The 2012 survey in which the UK and the US ranked first and second respectively, measured a nation’s cultural soft power in relation to the quality and the international reach of a nation’s cultural output (McGlory, 2012).

Since 2009 TRT has begun to commission “high budget high quality” productions in order to better compete with its private rivals for the national ratings and enhance its sales in the international market for television content. Its entertainment and children’s programmes were showcased for global buyers at international content marketing events such as MIPCOM (Marché International des Programmes de Communication, Cannes, France) and DISCOP Istanbul (TV content and adaptation rights market). With a view to sustain the international growth of Turkish production industry TRT organized in April 2016 Turkey’s first company screenings for over 50 buyers from 23 countries mainly from the Middle East and countries from the former Yugoslavia and South America (Videoage, 2016, May 2). TRT DG recently announced that buyers from over 60 countries demanded the broadcast rights of the costume drama Resurrection (Diriliş), a new ratings hit of TRT which tells the story of Ertugrul who is considered as one of the founding fathers of the Ottoman Empire (“TRT Genel Müdürü”, 2016).

In Conclusion

This paper sets out to discuss the influence of the present JDP government on the international expansion of TRT television and the parallelism between the global ambitions of Turkish state and TRT’s new public mission of becoming an international player. Based on an analysis of secondary sources it argues that TRT has been a voluntary contributor of JDP’s pro-active foreign policy and public diplomacy efforts since the 2000s.

In the 2000s TRT has redefined its public service mission as becoming an internationally recognized Turkish brand in the field of broadcasting same as Turkish Airlines which has become one of the most well-known global brands in the field of civil aviation (“Turkey’s Global Ambition”, 2015). With the generous support of the JDP it continued to expand its international operations by launching new television channels, increasing the number of its foreign bureaus and building up new partnerships with foreign companies and associations. It has also begun to follow an aggressive strategy of growth in television content production and marketing.

However, TRT’s image of the mouthpiece of the government which seriously undermine its role as independent news and information provider not only damage its standing at home but also casts doubts to its soft power in the international arena.

Note: This manuscript largely derives from the author’s earlier paper that was presented at RIPE@2014 Conference in Tokyo, Japan, and later translated into Japanese to be published in Journalism and its National Boundary, edited by Yamamoto Nobuto, Tokyo: Keio University Press, 2015.


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Dilruba Çatalbaş Ürper

Professor of Journalism at Galatasaray University, İstanbul, Turkey

M.A., Leeds University, Institute of Communication Studies Ph.D., Goldsmith’s College, University of London, Media and Communication

Her main areas of interest include journalism, political economy and regulation of media, public service broadcasting and new media

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