Media watchdog debates public broadcaster TRT’s Erdoğan coverage

Media watchdog debates public broadcaster TRT’s Erdoğan coverage

Zeynep Gürcanlı ANKARA
Media watchdog debates public broadcaster TRT’s Erdoğan coverage

Erdoğan's rallies are all broadcasted live by TRT and most of the private channels.

The Turkish state broadcaster’s one-sided coverage of presidential elections that ignores the opposition’s candidates while broadcasting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s rallies and statements live and uninterruptedly has caused a stir among members of the media watchdog.  

The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) met yesterday with the primary agenda of the state broadcaster TRT’s coverage of the presidential elections. RTÜK’s members representing the three opposition parties severely criticized the TRT for ignoring their presidential candidates, Ekmelettin İhsanoğlu and Selahattin Demirtaş, and introduced a report disclosing the durations of TRT’s coverage of each candidate.

According to the report, the TRT never mentioned the public activities of İhsanoğlu and Demirtaş on July 3 while Erdoğan appeared for 30 minutes on the state broadcaster. On July 4, TRT Türk broadcast news about Erdoğan for one hour and 20 minutes while İhsanoğlu was seen only for one minute and Demirtaş was fully ignored, the report said.

Demirtaş also gave figures about the TRT’s coverage of him and other candidates on July 4, 5 and 6. On these three days, Erdoğan appeared for 305 minutes while İhsanoğlu and Demirtaş did not appear at all on TRT Türk. On TRT 1 news bulletins, Erdoğan had a share of 24 minutes while İhsanoğlu appeared for two minutes and five seconds as Demirtaş was fully ignored. TRT Haber covered Erdoğan for 204 minutes, İhsanoğlu for one minute and 20 seconds and Demirtaş for only 45 seconds.

Erdoğan’s rallies and all sorts of public speeches are continuously broadcast by all TRT channels live and in full. They are also carried by a number of news channels, especially pro-government ones.

Members of the RTÜK from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and People’s Democracy Party (HDP) have underlined that TRT is violating laws as presidential elections were not a race between political parties but individual candidates.  

“TRT should be equal to all candidates. But it’s not doing this. Although it’s a state broadcaster, it almost completely ignores two oppositional candidates while giving all the space to Erdoğan,” they said.

Members of oppositional parties have suggested that TRT should be fined due to its violation of the laws, but ruling party members on the RTÜK panel, who form a majority, rejected the proposal.

“There were though discussions at the RTÜK meeting because of TRT’s broadcasts,” Ali Öztunç, a CHP representative at RTÜK, said on his Twitter account. “It seems RTÜK has become Erdoğan’s stick. It is now under Erdoğan’s control, especially on the eve of the presidential elections. RTÜK has unfortunately no conscience or justice.”