Strange negotiations at the supreme media board
It was the year 2009. The discussions were centered on the decisions made at the Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK) after İlhan Yerlikaya, from the Justice and Development Party (AKP), took over the position of acting president of the board.
Fines were sought for television stations because “how to prepare the drink margarita” was explained in a cooking program, because one of the actors held a beer glass in his hand, because a woman wore a bikini in a program and because actors kissed passionately in a soda commercial. Fines were imposed for a condom commercial, and for a drama because actress Beren Saat’s naked shoulders were seen.
“The moral development of young people and children is impaired… It is against public morality” were the most frequently heard words at the RTÜK building at those times.
Following the June 7 elections, we assumed that the “AKP reign at RTÜK” came to an end.
Our misconception was that universal principles of broadcasting would be back and that RTÜK would not step out of its boundaries, making it its mission to transform society into one with a certain moral sentiment.
The equilibrium in RTÜK changed after the elections. Members from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) went down from five to four at RTÜK, losing their majority.
Three seats were vacated at RTÜK because their term ended. İlhan Yerlikaya, who has his signature under the scandalous demands for fines and decisions mentioned above, has been elected to one of these seats. Yerlikaya is back at RTÜK after serving as a member of parliament for one term. For the second seat, Esat Çıplak from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) was elected. The person to occupy the third seat was to be determined according to the new parliament seat distribution. Because the MHP and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) have an equal number of seats, the correct method would have been to give them equal chances and draw lots.
The HDP wanted to draw lots but the speaker of parliament did not accept it; instead, he said, “Both parties should nominate a candidate and let them compete.”
The candidates of MHP and HDP competed. MHP candidate Arif Fırtına, supported by the AKP, defeated the HDP candidate and was elected.
One of the comments on this outcome was, “Since the MHP supported AKP in the election of the Speaker of Parliament, the AKP has made a gesture to give them the RTÜK membership.”
The HDP will take the issue to the Constitutional Court, but nothing will come out of it there because there is a gap in the law.
When the matter is left to the speaker of parliament, it is possible that such covert negotiations take place.
If we come to the real issue, there will be an election next week for the position of the head of RTÜK.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) nominated Ali Öztunç while the MHP nominated Çıplak. It is said that AKP will nominate the comeback member Yerlikaya.
One of the candidates needs to receive five votes to become the head of RTÜK. The CHP has proposed an alternating presidency to the MHP. They said: “This board was ruled by one party for 13 years. Now, let us have a president from the CHP for one year and from the MHP the next year.”
The MHP did not make an evaluation. There are rumors that they are negotiating with the AKP and that they will vote for the AKP candidate.
If the MHP supports the AKP at RTÜK, its struggle to defend its values such as fining those who insult Atatürk will be in vain. It will also be understood that their opposition to the series of groundless decisions taken by the AKP majority were not genuine and were only a show.
Now, whoever becomes the chair of RTÜK, there are no block votes waiting for him. The president can only make decisions upon agreeing with members.
However, it is not difficult to imagine that MHP members who will vote for the AKP candidate will vote positive for every file that the president brings to the board.
The presidential position in RTÜK is powerful. The president sets the agenda; decides which experts monitor which channels; the president organizes the entire operation. If he wants to, he permit the opening of any files on pro-government channels and only take the files on opposition channels. When other members want to take up a file, they are generally rejected. It is that simple.
Freedom of press and the freedom of the public to be informed are directly associated with RTÜK. This supreme board is very important.
The AKP knows this and is going to all lengths to hold the reins. A democratic MHP should accept the CHP’s “alternating presidency” proposal.