Media watchdog deputy head says Erdoğan coverage 'cannot be expected to be equal'

Media watchdog deputy head says Erdoğan coverage 'cannot be expected to be equal'

Media watchdog deputy head says Erdoğan coverage cannot be expected to be equal

PM Erdoğan distributes t-shirts and scarves to the crowd following a campaign rally in Antalya, July 12. AA Photo

The deputy head of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) has dismissed the criticisms against public broadcaster TRT for overwhelmingly covering Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s rallies compared to the other candidates, arguing such a thing could not be expected because he is the prime minister.

“One of the candidates is only a party head, the other is only a presidential candidate, but [Erdoğan] is a candidate, a prime minister and a party head. He has three characteristics,” said the Turkish media watchdog’s deputy head Hasan Tahsin Fendoğlu on July 12, arguing that the media was broadcasting “what was worth as information.”

Fendoğlu claimed that in the first days of the campaigning between June 29 and July 10, Erdoğan had appeared on the public broadcaster’s news channel TRT Haber for 559 minutes, while the mainstream opposition’s candidate Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu was only covered for 137 minutes and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) head Selahattin Demirtaş only 18 minutes. But he said such share on airtime was not shocking at all and should be considered normal.

“Are we going to evaluate the presidential candidates as such? Can we see to it that the time reserved for the prime minister and the others are equal? Such absolute equality doesn’t exist anywhere in the world” said Fendioğlu.

Erdoğan’s rallies and all sorts of public speeches are continuously broadcast by all TRT channels live and in full. What has become tradition has not changed with the presidential campaign, putting the public broadcaster under fire with members of the RTÜK from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the HDP, underlining the TRT is violating laws as presidential elections were not a race between political parties, but individual candidates.   

Fendoğlu, however, said Erdoğan’s statements had to be considered more important. “He also gives the prime minister’s views on the governance in Turkey in addition to the opinion of a presidential candidate. Therefore, if one of the candidates is a prime minister, this should be taken into consideration when talking about the equality of opportunities,” he said.