The money for Turkey’s state broadcaster TRT
The tax stamp on electronic devices production and imports was recently hiked, for allocation to the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), the state broadcaster. Upon a decision by the cabinet, 4 percent has been added to the existing 6 percent tax stamp.
As a result of this decision, TRT will reportedly earn profits worth 500 million Turkish Liras.
Upon this change, we should ask a question immediately: Is the TRT an institution that works efficiently? Is it audited enough? Is it subsidized with tax revenues despite losing money?
Actually, the TRT issue is just one example of the general “lack of auditing” in the system.
The technical details of the hike in the tax stamp were investigated in a report in yesterday’s edition of Hürriyet.
As a journalist, I accept the existence a “public broadcaster” as a necessity – of course, along with the other private broadcasters. In particular, TRT should represent Turkey in a number of different languages abroad.
Once upon a time, TRT broadcasted domestically during the era when there was no private broadcaster in Turkey.
It always came under the influence of ruling parties, despite the fact that it was required to be “neutral” according to the law.
In recent years, TRT has been broadcasting like a totally pro-government media outlet.
However, the auditing issue is even more important than political criticism. So does the Court of Accounts investigate the accounts of TRT with regard to productivity and efficiency? Can it produce such reports about TRT?
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been moving to restrict the auditing authorities of the Court of Accounts since 2012. One result of this was that the Court of Accounts was subjected to a legal change that effectively emasculated its auditing of the TRT.
However, the Supreme Court cancelled that rule change in Dec. 27, 2013.
This ruling was an example of a perfect decision that should be taught in administrative law courses in university law faculties. A ruling party made a legal change that limited the auditing capabilities of a Court of Accounts for public institutions, but a Supreme Court cancelled this decision.
Transparent auditing is considered an important feature of democracy all over the world. There are thus a number of criteria showing how it should be done, determined by the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI).
Can we say that Turkey’s Court of Accounts audits TRT with consideration of these criteria?
If the government made the latest tax hike in order to conduct better advertising for Turkey, that may be OK. But if instead if it is working simply like an employment and propaganda corporation, why is TRT subsidized by all citizens’ pockets?
Why is the Court of Accounts important?
We should take a second to think about why equality, transparency, accountability and auditing in modern democracies are so important.
The Court of Accounts was introduced as part of the Ottoman Empire’s Tanzimat reform era of the 19th century, founded with a signature of Sultan Abdulaziz in 1862.
Today, the court is referred to in all European Union progress reports as a “competent institution,” but the reports also stress that its auditing powers are “insufficient.”
The 2016 EU progress report on Turkey noted that “the scope of the Court of Accounts is restricted,” stressing the need for “focus to be returned to the efficiency and effectiveness of public institutions.”
Clearly, the “auditing and balance” aspects of democracy are just as important as the popular vote.