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MELİS ALPHAN >Don’t books have as much value as a fridge?

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With a cabinet recent decision, there will be no Special Consumption Tax (ÖTV) on appliances, yachts, boats, cruise and excursion ships and no stamp tax on real estate.

However, the Added Value Tax (VAT) on books will stay as it is. As a matter of fact, social states keep the tax on books at a minimum level because they know that if access to books is difficult, then their country will not develop culturally. 

In our country, there is no tax concession on music either, just as with books. If you have a musician on the stage, then you have to pay the entertainment tax. While concerts are being cancelled one after the other because of economic or security reasons, at a time when musicians are experiencing very difficult days, if you also levy the entertainment tax on them, then the laborers of this sector cannot even earn their keep.  
Movies and television are the biggest culture sector in Turkey in terms of turnout. In other words, for a vast majority, culture and the arts are limited to television at home.

Demand for movies does not have an artistic concern. This is because of the demand for television again. Every year, more than 100 locally produced films are released. But 70 to 85 percent of the total box-office revenue goes to the top 10 movies in which television stars play the leading role, while the whole production is similar to a TV serial. 

The shortage of movie theaters in Anatolia has still not been solved. The total of the nine provinces with highest number of movie theaters does not add up to the total in Istanbul. The same goes for theaters. Istanbul has 178 theater halls; 49 provinces have a cumulative total of 112 theaters. 

In terms of turnover, book publishing comes after cinema and television in the culture economy. Reading rates are very low in our country, but the turnover is high because the lion’s share in publishing is in textbooks. 

Culture economist Funda Lena has revealed that people in Turkey also spare very little money for culture and the arts.  

When only 0.3 – 0.4 percent is allocated for culture from the central budget, then you would expect the interest of individuals in art to be that low. 

We are not only behind developed countries regarding culture, but also behind less developed European countries such as Romania, and even behind Thailand, Mexico and Colombia. This is about education as well as money. Our education system does not encourage young people to take an interest in the culture and arts. 

If you take a step back and look, you’d see that we are a society that continuously watches television but which does not read and does not particularly participate in cultural and artistic activities. 

Sectors that make up the cultural economy should be supported.  

The state supports cinema, but smaller-volume fields such as contemporary art and music also need support.

 It is not possible for institutions to stay afloat by ticket sales alone. The support of the private sector is here today but it might cease tomorrow. There are big holdings behind several cultural institutes, but if these holdings pulled their support, the cultural sector would collapse. For this reason, public support is very important. If we bear in mind that culture and the arts are the most fundamental tool for social progress, one would expect the state to invest in this field.  

Our legislation is weak. There is a law that was processed some time ago that enables companies to get tax deductions from sports sponsorships. The scope of this law is narrow; it should be revised according to contemporary needs. 

In an environment where cultural institutes are barely surviving, support from the state is very important. Cultural activities, books, concerts and the like should be exempt from tax or there should be a symbolic tax.

Why is the portion of electricity bills that is sent to the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) not distributed among other institutions, for instance? 

Resources can be found, if so desired. Even if 1 percent of the budget of the Sovereign Wealth Fund reported to have been formed to finance giant projects is allocated for culture and arts, Turkey will rise a level. 

Is a fridge needed but a book is not?

February/17/2017

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