Wave of fraud raids spreads to TV world

Wave of fraud raids spreads to TV world

Wave of fraud raids spreads to TV world

Targeting the offices of several production and a rating firms, police conduct raids as part of an investigation launched after a complaint from the state-owned broadcaster. DHA photo

Hot on the heels of Turkey’s massive match-fixing case, the country’s TV world has also been shocked by a huge fraud case, with Istanbul police raiding more than 20 locations on allegations of irregularities in the rating measurements for certain channels.

Seven suspects, two of whom are women, were taken into custody yesterday in connection with the allegations, according to Doğan news agency. The suspects were accused of giving gifts to television viewers with measurement devices to keep the ratings of particular shows high.

The raids, which targeted the offices of numerous production firms and the AGB Nielsen company, which measures ratings, were part of an investigation launched following a complaint from the state-owned broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) for alleged tampering with television ratings. Computer hard-disks, five cell phones and large volumes of digital materials and documents were seized by the police during the raids, Anatolia news agency reported.

“There have long been rumors concerning the injustice of the rating measurements,” Professor Esra Arsan from Istanbul Bilgi University’s Media and Communications Department told the Hürriyet Daily News. “This is a problem especially pertinent to advertisers. Meticulous inspections on a par with international standards have to be conducted.”

Ratings measurements in Turkey are done by AGB Nielsen Turkey and TİAK, a company that brings together TV stations and advertisers. There competition in the TV market is very fierce as channels are constantly striving to gain a bigger share of Turkey’s $1.5-billion TV ad market.

TRT had already dropped out of the rating measurements in January 2010 on the grounds that the results of the measurements were of dubious reliability. A written statement issued from the TRT at the time also indicated that the ratings they received were inconsistent with the improvements they had been making over the past two years.

Other leading broadcasting stations have also decided to withdraw from viewer rating measurements, including NTV, Habertürk, CNBC-e and BloombergHT.

At the moment, only seven broadcasting stations are still subscribing to the system, namely ATV, Flash TV, Fox TV, Kanal 7, Kanal D, Show TV, Star TV and Samanyolu TV. There are devices in 3,500 to 4,000 houses to measure the TV ratings, according to the information available on Nielsen Turkey’s website.
The operation came too late, said television producer Can Tanrıyar, who has been complaining about the ratings system. “I will share every document I have on the issue with the police.”

Ömer Çelik, the deputy leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in charge of foreign affairs, said the media needed to be transparent. “For as long as the media establishment remains opaque, democracy will always be deficient. The rating operation is significant [in that it will help] uncover the truth,” he said on the micro-blogging site Twitter.

“While the media was supposed to be democracy’s fourth power node, it served instead as the soft power of military coups in this country for years. The well-being of a democracy is directly proportional to the transparency of its media establishment,” he said.