The Historical Background of AKP’s Media

A Chronicle of Neoliberal Media Architecture (1980-2002)

Gülseren Adaklı and Aylin Aydoğan

Novel hegemony project and the Turkish media

The current status of the media in Turkey reflects an authoritarian structure that the rulers of AKP, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, attempt to control and mainly succeed in controlling all aspects of social communication beginning with ownership structures.

This structure has not emerged with AKP that won a quorum of votes in the 2002 General Elections and claimed political power single-handedly. On the contrary, the conditions, which imposed AKP upon the Turkish society as a political formation that has become more tyrannical day by day, had been created long before the AKP rule. While the conditions of capitalist crisis, which had become rather evident in the 1970s, put neoliberalism into play as a new regime of accumulation[1] all over the world, they brought about a specific economic policy and a related neoliberal media formation in Turkey as well.

A bloody coup d’état, similar to the ones happenned in Indonesia in 1965 and in Chile in 1973, took place in Turkey in 1980 (Aydınoğlu, 2008). The IMF-controlled “economic stability measures”, made public on January 24, 1980, are singled out to be the most significant reason why a period –that was also related to the relative liberation created by the 1961 Constitution— in which the working class had a chance to achieve a strong economic and political representation and the social movements were on the rise, came to an end (Schick and Tonak, 1990). It was impossible for an organized society to consent to such drastic measures; Turkish Armed Forces seized power in the morning on September 12, 1980 in accordance with the chain of command and commenced a new oppressive period which apparently was for three years but still goes on as per its effects (e.g. see. Demirel and Sözen, 2013: 183-190).

The cutting back of the vested rights of the working classes through the shift from import substitution to a development strategy based on exports enabled capitalist sectors, which were suffocated by such oppositions like strikes and occupations at least since the resistance of June 15-16, to be grateful to the generals of the junta[2]. A novel hegemony project, which was put into practice in order to overcome the economic and political deadlock of the system (Tünay, 1993), was characterized by the “Turkish-Islamic synthesis” in Turkey.

The military regime adopts the “Turkish-Islamic synthesis” which feeds on the whole intellectual atmosphere of the 1960s and 70s but is especially inspired by thinker Seyyid Ahmed Arvasi’s (1932-1988) work. According to Arvasi, “Christian Rome, Red Moscow, vindictive France, cunning Israel, and patient Greece have joined forces to destroy the Turkish-Muslim world and to colonize Islam (Bozarslan, 2015: 316).

Such a deep-seated right-wing ideology like Arvasi’s gained prominence in all stages of the oppressive politics particularly towards anti-system groups and in cultural policies in general in the 80s in spite of all its nonsense and inconsistency. The signs of such political reactionism in the social field ranging from national education curricula to obscene publications can be seen during this period. Islamic media enterprises, which would become more active and visible in the future, also became widespread during this period.

The change in the ideological atmosphere went hand in hand with another change. The traditional media groups involved in newspaper and magazine publications up until that time became integrated with other media. In addition to this, actors from outside the sector entered into the field and these formations assumed vital roles in materializing the mentioned hegemony project.

It should, however, be stressed that, even if this was the case once upon a time, the media was carried on to this process not as an “ideological state apparatus” but as an essential constituent of the economic and political system. As we will demonstrate in the following parts, Turkish media utilized its power of manipulation in its hand not as an external “apparatus” to the system but as a constituent of the hegemonic block. Although it is possible for the political actors, the military, capital, media bosses to put an “individual” stamp on the practices, the structural character of the capitalist regime of accumulation should be noted. For instance, for a media boss to bid in public tenders in the 1970s was out of the question because public property or institutions had not been transformed into commercial goods, as was the case in the 80s and 90s, and owners of newspapers always maintained a specific distance between themselves and those holding political power, hiding direct relationships from the public although they enjoyed close relationships with them.

Media groups certainly assumed an active position as dominant content producers when attempts at consent production were at stake during the post-coup d’état process but this reflected the specific position of a constituent of capital that had a say in the new regime of accumulation and cast its lot with the political power beyond being a pure apparatus of ideological manipulation. When the import substitution model was left behind and the macro-economic policy orienting towards exports was put into practice fundamentally as devaluation and decreasing labor costs (domestic demand is restricted and the surplus obtained from there flows into exports) (see Yeldan, 2001: 44; Taymaz, 2003), large media groups confronted the working classes with their hostile attitudes and headlines towards labor, prominently with their hostility towards unions, and actively supported current policies.

Within all this process, the working classes became radicalized with the 1989 Spring Protests in the face of radical interventions carried out in favor of the capitalist sector. Although real wages relatively increased under these circumstances, the economy fell into crisis at the beginning of the 90s. The Turkish society, which continuously had to live in conditions of crisis beginning with this date, correlatively faced with political crises as well. The single-party governments of ANAP, which owed its existence and survival to the conditions of the coup d’état, were replaced by coalitions at the beginning of the 90s. While the political power rendered membership to the European Union on one hand and the Kurdish question on the other hand an agenda through jingoistic reflexes, it made the working classes pay the price for the crisis. Finally another dire crisis that led the Turkish economy to shrink by 9.4% in 2001 gave way to the unemployment of thousands of workers and to the ever-increasing subordination of the political sphere to nationalism and Islamism gradually.

Within this context, we analyze the transformation of the media from the 1980s to the beginning of the 2000s when AKP seized power[3]. Within the framework drawn in the first part, we will try to tell the construction story of the “novel hegemony project” under which the media was assigned a specific role in the post-coup d’état period of September 12. In the second part, we will cover the radical alterations seen in the form of ownership, the strategic and tactical orientations of the new actors regarding such subjects as privatization, financialization, horizontal-transversal-vertical monopolization, and competition by examining the media more closely. In the third part, we will explain the ways in which new communication technologies like the internet and mobile phones that have become available by the technological convergence of the 1990s and the new contents and services offered through these were shaped as the new investment fields of capital.

The construction of neoliberal architecture (1980-2002)

The September 12 regime and, by extension, ANAP led by Turgut Özal, which were fundamentally inclined towards oppressing the rising left-wing opposition and the working class, also attempted to control not only the unions and the political parties but also all types of journalistic activity that might have rendered the regime vulnerable regardless of their publishing policies.

A few legislative activities bear special significance in the institutionalization of censorship. The first one of these is the new Press Act which went into effect in 1982. One of the most pressing restrictions imposed upon freedom of expression by this act was the ban on bringing material published abroad into the country without having to resort to getting any adjudication. Another one was the obstruction of the distribution and confiscation of certain publications by incrimination and the expropriation of material and paraphernalia used in their publication. The provision that the institution which published the article could be closed up to a month in case of a conviction because of being “against national security and general morality” –a statement that would be heard often afterwards— reflected the repressive content of the new act.

Although certain improvements were carried out in the Press Act at the beginning of the 1990s, these improvements did not essentially have an impact on freedom of expression and communication thanks to the 1982 Constitution, the Turkish Criminal Act and other oppressive penal provisions. The Counter-Terrorism Act which was enacted in 1991 proved to be a legal basis for the fact that the 1990s became the darkest era in the history of Turkey by taking all kinds of statements regarding the low-intensity war waged in the Southeastern Anatolia Region into the scope of “terrorist propaganda.” While “terror” became the principal administrative pattern of the Turkish dominant classes, freedom of expression was curtailed especially in the Kurdish regions by obstructing journalists by direct violence and sometimes by murder itself. While the unidentified murder cases counted to the state’s credit expanded, the existence of a media, which relayed the events within a framework shaped by and to the extent permitted by the state, was essential.

August 20, 1992- Tercüman March 21, 1995- Takvim

[Tercüman– The audacity of cowards: About a thousand PKK militants attacked Şırnak from directions with mortars and rocket launchers]

[Takvim– 35,000 Turkish soldiers advancing in Northern Iraq. Turkish soldiers entering into Northern Iraq from four directions are determined: No turning back without clearing out the PKK]

The second legal instrument utilized for censorship is the Obscenity Committee. One of the most controversial subjects about which the most intensive discussions and controls are held with regards to media contents, including the prominent liberal democracies of the world, proves to be the mental states of children and young people. This issue, which can easily be put off track, probably offers the most “legitimate” framework to restrict freedom of expression, especially in countries like Turkey. One of the most interesting examples of the oppression imposed upon instruments of expression during the coup d’état atmosphere of the 1980s was applied within this framework. The Protection of Minors from Sexually Explicit Materials Act numbered 1117, which in fact had been passed in 1927 but was waiting for the 80s to become a genuine instrument of social control, was radically “renewed” by the ANAP government in 1986. Under this act an ample number of the contents of publications were regarded to be obscene; some were even sentenced to recall or closure (Belge, 2003; Onur, 2011) [4]. What was at stake here was not a simple conservative intervention into sexually explicit publications but was a comprehensive attempt to control the whole publishing field and, more generally, the society.

25 April 1086, Milliyet 5 March 1986; 31 May 1986, Milliyet

[Milliyet, April 25, 1986, p. 2: “The first decision by the ‘Obscenity Board’ is due today”—Playboy and Tan are in the firing line]

[Milliyet, March 5, 1986, p. 8: “Özal will silence the press whenever he wants]

[Milliyet, May 31, 1986, p. 2: “6 criteria for obscenity”]

Society in Turkey never extended its unmitigated support to the IMF and World Bank-guided policies materialized in the 1980s; it was suffocated by “belt tightening” as it was called in everyday language and was dissatisfied by those clothes forced upon it. The march of coal miners commencing in Zonguldak on November 30, 1990 can be regarded as the precursor and great convulsion of such discontent[5].

The government, which fended off coal miners’ protests with some compromises, instrumentalized another dynamics of discontent, the uprising initiated by Kurds in the east, ideologically and politically. Although the prosecurity approach regarding the Kurdish problem was generally dominant beginning with the second half of the 80s, political Kurdish movement organized under the title People’s Labor Party [Halkın Emek Partisi] grasped the opportunity to be represented in the national assembly with 22 members of parliament in the October 20, 1991 General Elections. On the other hand, Özal’s previous eccentric attitude towards the Kurdish issue followed by Demirel’s statement that “We acknowledge Kurdish reality” signified an important moderation and a democratic initiative against the army’s approach. As we know, however, the outcome was nothing of the kind:

Tansu Çiller’s ascension to the office of the prime minister, following Özal’s death and Demirel’s election to the presidency brings about a process during which illegal state practices that were openly supported by the government intensified. When the fact that the period between 1993 and 1995 were the bloodiest era of Turkish politics is taken into consideration from this point of view, it shall not be surprising that DEP[6], as a legal Kurdish party, had its great share of this oppression and violence (Aydınoğlu, 2014: 86).

November 7, 1991- Cumhuriyet

[Cumhuriyet: “Kurdish crisis: Trouble as some [MPs] of HEP origin took a ‘different oath’ at the opening ceremony of the new parliament]

The special operations team, formed within the Directorate General of Security’s Department of Public Order in 1983 in order to conduct such operations as intervention into plane hijackings and hostage taking, was transferred to the Counter-terrorism and Operations Department in 1988 and later on was entrusted to the newly founded Department of Special Operations in 1993. These teams were used in such horrific operations as de facto oppression on Kurdish citizens, still unsolved political murders, torture, burning down and evacuation of villages in Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia behind the façade of counter-terrorism[7].

HEP Diyarbakır Provincial Chairperson Vedat Aydın was taken from his home by people identifying themselves as police officers on July 5, 1991, his dead body was found 4 days later; when it was understood that he was killed by torture the people flocked in to his funeral. 3 people lost their lives during the turmoil at the funeral. Ministry of the Interior and Regional Governorship of the State of Emergency had stated that the people who had taken Aydın from his home were not state officials. Years later it was revealed that among those who had taken Vedat Aydın from home was Major Cem Ersever who had been working for Gendarmerie Intelligence and Counter-terror Unit (Jandarma İstihbarat ve Terörle Mücadele-JİTEM). Later on Ersever, who was identified as the central figure of many operations in Southeastern Anatolia, was killed together with his two friends in November 1993.

State violence against the Kurdish people was recorded in its most blatant form during the 1992 Newroz celebrations. Sabah newspaper’s reporter İzzet Kezer was killed by state forces during the turmoil. Journalist-author Musa Anter was killed in 1992; lawyer Yusuf Ekinci, businessman Behçet Cantürk (January 15, 1994), lawyer Medet Serhat who was also Cantürk’s representative, businessman Savaş Buldan, former HEP Ankara District Chairperson and lawyer Faik Candan and many more Kurdish citizens were killed ensuingly in 1994 but the perpetrators were not tried and convicted (Durukan, 1999; Bortaçina, 1999; Radikal, 9 July 2015).

After many years the state acknowledged the existence of JİTEM at which especially the Kurdish media had continuously pointed out but had had no official record anywhere and had housed special teams, informants for the state, and mafia leaders (Radikal, July 9, 2011). Public prosecutor Mithat Özcan ascertained in an indictment filed in 2005 that 8 counts of murder in Diyarbakır between 1992 and 1994 were committed by JİTEM (Tahincioğlu, 2005). This, however, was not sufficient on its own. The fact that no effective investigation was conducted regarding the political murders involving the names of high-ranking state officials rendered it possible to commit similar assassinations in the future with its effects still felt today (Hür, 2015).

Indeed “the investigation was so weak that the public prosecutor’s office was not even able to file an indictment” regarding the murder of HEP Diyarbakır Provincial Chairperson Vedat Aydın in 1991; “Yet, those mentioned in the murder of Vedat Aydın were the same people who were put on Turkey’s agenda following the Susurluk Accident years after” (İşleyen, 1999).

Within all this process that witnessed the most intensive state violence in the history of Turkey, an original Kurdish media in the East began to take shape against the dominant press striving only to consolidate the state’s perception of “reactionism” and “terror” in the West. Correspondents, regional distributers, and readers of Özgür Gündem, whose first issue was published on May 30, 1992, became the bearers of a journalistic tradition that lost the largest number of lives to unidentified murders. The newspaper whose 37 employees were killed between 1992 and 1994 continued to be printed under different titles and became a part of the Kurdish liberation movement with the title Özgür Gündem again in 2011.
Özgür Gündem daily that started its publication on May 30, 1992 in İstanbul, that was closed down on April 14, 1994, whose 76 employees -of which 36 were correspondents- were killed all throughout its publishing life”, Bianet, April 4, 2011.

The “dirty war” waged in Southeastern Anatolia was scarcely ever reflected as it really was in Western Turkey. Some details of the events could only be made public years after, during the very short-lived periods of normalization. Political characters were successively assassinated in Western Turkey in 1990. Law professor Muammer Aksoy (1990) who was one of the founding members of Association of Ataturkist Thought (Atatürkçü Düşünce Derneği), author Turan Dursun (1990) who had worked as an imam and mufti before becoming an atheist and wrote books critical of Islam, Hiram Abas (1990) former member of the National Intelligence Agency, editor in chief of Hürriyet daily Çetin Emeç, associate professor of theology Bahriye Üçok who was one of the founding members of Association of Ataturkist Thought and a member of SHP caucus are among those who lost their lives because of these assassinations. Journalist Uğur Mumcu, known for his investigations on Islamic reactionism, was assassinated in a bombing attack on January 24, 1993. The same year on July 2, 35 citizens, most of whom were Alevis, were burnt to death as a result of the lynching attempt by a crowd leaving the Friday prayer. The perpetrators of these assassinations could not be found; those responsible for the massacre were not convicted or new pieces of questionable evidence were unearthed all the time. The facts that people known for their Kemalist, secular identities were assassinated and tens of people who were known for their Alevi identities were burnt alive enabled the threat of reactionism to be kept alive.

October 22, 1999- Sabah: The daily while targeting the government for not being able to solve the assassinations of secular, Kemalist intellectuals supports the army the day after Ahmet Taner Kışlalı’s murder. [Headline: Ankara cannot solve it]

Indeed, dissident voices escalating with the Susurluk Accident on November 3, 1996 and “a minute of darkness for perpetual enlightenment” protests were of service to the army to pave the way for the February 28 intervention.[8] The National Security Council convening on February 28, 1997 made the political Islamists, targeted by a text which would undermine the WelfarePath [RefahYol] coalition (June 28, 1996-June 30, 1997) formed by the Welfare Party [Refah Partisi] and True Path Party [Doğru Yol Partisi], to sign the very text.

The army’s rooms for maneuver are enlarged by the construction of a hegemonic block comprising of a part of the political class, the media, and the public opinion in order to create a strong social demand which would keep the nation, the homeland, and the “secular regime” alive. A new political syntax and a nationalistic or “secularist” mobilization, which are structured around the themes of hostility and treason and which the media disseminates in so wide a space that would fill up the whole communication field, are sufficient enough to gain importance as a significant actor in the system by ascending up to the zenith of gigantic shows… In this way the army is shown to take to the stage by the active demand of the people, not on its own accord. As different from the attempt that was tried and failed during the presidential elections in 2007 with Republican Meetings [Cumhuriyet Mitingleri] and similar actions, February 28 achieved its goal and the threat of “reactionism” was supposed to be eliminated! (Bozarslan, 2015: 327-328).

28 Şubat'ın gazete manşetleri

February 27, 1997- Milliyet April 30, 1997- Sabah[9]

January 4, 1997- Hürriyet: One of the examples to include the people into the “game”

[Milliyet: Here is the report on reactionism]

[Sabah: The enemy has changed at the general staff]

[Hürriyet: Big disgrace to teachers and the police]

February 28 proves to be a period during which media corporations witnessed quite heated times with some events that are yet to be solved even today. Through the Susurluk accident the state’s relationship with the actors, used by the state in the 70s against the rising left and the working class in its clandestine operations who now became mafia, was made public[10]. Newspapers and TV stations -notably Radikal, first printed by the Doğan Group addressing the liberal left on October 13, 1996- started revealing the details of the accident and a parliamentary investigation commission was formed. On February 1, 1997 A Minute of Darkness for Perpetual Enlightenment protests were initiated as a citizens’ initiative and the presenters on the most popular TV stations of the era asked the audience to turn off and turn on the lights at their homes when the time was drawing close to 21:00.

[Radikal: Erbakan does not give in]

[ATV: Less darkness, more enlightenment]

When the Susurluk Accident which brought the state’s illegal activities into the open, the February 28 intervention, the low-intensity war that has been going on since the mid-80s, and finally the “Wiretapping scandal”[11] said to be driven by the Fethullah Gülen Sect are coupled with the conditions of a never-ending economic crisis, the ideological political theme that politics in Turkey would always rely on proved to be nationalism. Indeed, the Ecevit-Bahçeli coalition formed in 1999 swelled above the foaming nationalist wave brought about by the capture of the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in Kenya with the support of the US and brought to Turkey. Meanwhile the main thing that became much more fragile than the political powers or leadership statuses was the economy in Turkey and the deteriorating economic crisis reached its zenith hand in hand with political crises in 2001. (Adaklı, 2001; 2006: 281)

The transformation of media ownership (1980-2002)

The neoliberal policies materialized with September 12 paved the way to the process of transformation from the press to the media and to a radical change in the structure of ownership in this sector. During the era of statism and the import substitution period of World War II, the privatization or corporatization of state economic enterprises (SEE), which had grown under the wings of the state, forcing them to lose their public characteristics alongside with financialization were the fundamental operations to adapt to the new era for large capital groups that would soon incorporate the media. Following the January 24 Decisions the scope of SEE products, which were categorized as “basic goods and services,” was narrowed down, subsidies were removed, and their prices were incredibly increased. Newsprint became the champion of increases in prices with 300% as if it were predicting the future. Continuous price increases imposed on basic inputs in newspaper production during the 1980s was an important factor in the profound upsetting of the financial structure of the press (Cumhuriyet, December 24, 1987).[12]

December 5, 1987- Milliyet. Increases in newspaper prices are expected because of the increase in newsprint prices. April 19, 1988- Hürriyet. Letter of red flag from Erol Simavi to Prime Minister Turgut Özal.

Although the de facto attempts at privatization began in 1984, they failed during the 80s because of the interventions of the higher judiciary and the military mostly preserving their pro-state/pro-public reflexes and the fact that a great majority of the public was against privatizations (Boratav, 1991: 97-98). The major privatization tenders were bid in the 1990s.

Milliyet, October 28, 1994

[October 28, 1994- Milliyet. “Turkey is too late…”]

The upwardly mobile media holdings became the new owners of very valuable SEEs paying much less than what they were worth through various forms of favoritism or incentives. These included corporations in strategic sectors like electricity production and distribution and banking. 169 SEEs were handed over to the private sector by different methods until 2002.

Some privatizations related to the media sector[13]

Title of the corporation Transferred Public Share (%) Related media group Date of sale
Ray Insurance 49.65 DOĞAN (Aydın Doğan) 04.05.1992
Gaziantep Cement 99.73 UZAN (Cem Uzan) 16.11.1992
Trabzon Cement 100.00 UZAN (Cem Uzan) 16.11.1992
Ladik Cement 100.00 UZAN (Cem Uzan) 21.04.1993
Şanlıurfa Cement 100.00 UZAN (Cem Uzan) 21.04.1993
Bartın Cement 99.78 UZAN (Cem Uzan) 06.05.1993
Çukurova Electricity 11.25 UZAN (Cem Uzan) 16.02.1993
Kepez Electricity 25.39 UZAN (Cem Uzan) 16.02.1993
Çestaş 2.29 UZAN (Cem Uzan) 18.05.1994
HAVAŞ 60.00 PARK (Turgay Ciner) 17.04.1995
Van Cement 100.00 UZAN (Cem Uzan) 12.06.1996
Lalapaşa Cement 100.00 UZAN (Cem Uzan) 14.06.1996
Ergani Cement 100.00 UZAN (Cem Uzan) 03.04.1997
Etibank 100.00 BİLGİN (Dinç Bilgin) 02.03.1998
HAVAŞ 40.00 PARK (Turgay Ciner) 30.03.1998
POAŞ 51.00 DOĞAN (Aydın Doğan)[14] 03.03.2000
Source: Updated with minor changes from Adaklı, 2006: 219.

One of the most significant practices introduced by the January 24 Decisions was the liberalization of interests on time deposits and loans (Toy, 2010). By a decision taken on June 4, 1980 interest rates were to be determined by market conditions and the decision went into effect on July 1. Financial liberalization which would be maintained by dynamics of perpetual crisis after this date gave way to dire consequences. The first visible accident of the liberalization policy was the “banker disaster” in 1982. Seize of control of İstanbul Bank owned by Has Holding and Hisarbank and Odibank owned by the Çavuşoğlu-Kozanoğlu Group on March 14, 1983 and the pursuant transfer of these banks to Ziraat Bank put new interventions and/or regulations in this field on the agenda[15].

Güneş, June 7, 1983 Hürriyet, March 15, 1983

[Güneş: Interest rates are down]

[Hürriyet: (The state) seized control of two banks. Kafaoğlu: “The state is the father of banks”]

The spotty financial liberalization operations by the political power during the 80s and the 90s paved the way to an utterly unhealthy market with even worse consequences than the initial accidents. Indeed the results of the studies conducted at the beginning of the 2000s revealed that the sources of those banks handed over to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (Tasarruf Mevduatı Sigorta Fonu-TMSF) had been exploited by bank owners and the losses of the banks increased almost by their own size of assets (Toy, 2010: 78). Most of these banks are related to media holdings. Large and small capital groups flowing in to a field like banking/finance in such a fragile economy did not abstain from instrumentalizing the power of media in their hand to avoid public scrutiny, to get ahead of competing companies, and to pass legal arrangements essential for their existence.

December 23, 1999- Posta daily of the Doğan Group speaks highly of IMF policies.

The power of media, however, was not sufficient enough to save capital groups from bankruptcy that emptied the financial structures, most of which were obtained from the state, and utilized these for the financing of other fields of investment

[Milliyet, October 28, 2000: “…Two banks seized”]

The below table schematically explains the “unhappy” marriage of media corporations to banking and finance.

Private banks and financial corporations related to the media sector (1998-2003)

Title Group Some related media corporations Corporation Transfers
Adabank UZAN[16] Star TV, Star Daily Founded in 1985. Seized on July 27, 2003 as part of a financial operation against the Uzan family. Put up for sale a few times but no buyers could be found. Still controlled by the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK)/Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF).
Bank Ekspres KORKMAZ YİĞİT Kanal 6, Genç TV Founded by İbrahim Betil in 1992. Transferred first to the Doğuş Group (Garanti Bank) and then to Korkmaz Yiğit on March 20, 1997. Handed over to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) on October 23, 1998 following the Türkbank scandal. Sold to Tekfen Holding on June 30, 2001 (Toy, 2010: 73).
Bank Kapital CEYLAN CTV Founded in 1986 with foreign capital as Bank Indosuez. Moved to Turkey on December 31, 1990 with the title Bank Indosuez Türk A.Ş. Transferred to Ceylan Holding on May 22, 1995 with the title Bank Kapital Türk T.A.Ş.; handed over to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) with Etibank on October 27, 2000. Handed over to Sümerbank on January 26, 2001.[17]
Bayındırbank BAYINDIR BRT[18] Çaybank was bought in 1997 and transformed into Bayındırbank. Handed over to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) on July 9, 2001. Was transformed into a Credit Union Bank by the fund.
Dışbank DOĞAN Hürriyet, Kanal D, CNN Türk Founded in 1964 with the title Amerikan-Türk Dış Ticaret Bankası [American-Turkish Foreign Trade Bank] was sold to Lapis Holding on June 21, 1993. Seized by the state following the January 1994 crisis, sold to Doğan Group on November 3, 1994. Sold to Fortis Bank on July 4, 2005.
Etibank SABAH Sabah, ATV Founded in 1935, bought by Cavit Çağlar and Dinç Bilgin on March 2, 1998. When Interbank owned by Çağlar was seized by the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF), the Bilgin Family became the owners of all Etibank shares through capital increase. Handed over to the TMSF on October 27, 2000. Transferred to Bayındırbank with all its active assets and liabilities.
Garanti Bank DOĞUŞ NTV, Kanal e Founded in 1946. Joined the Doğuş Group on September 6, 1983. While Koç Group’s 62% share in the bank was transferred to Doğuş, later on Sabancı Holding handed over its 35% share to Doğuş as well. Merged with the Ottoman Bank in December 2001. Partnered with Spanish BBVA in 2011. The major shareholder of the bank became Banco Bilbao VizcayaArgentaria (BBVA) in 2017.
Interbank NERGİS[19] Olay TV, Olay FM Bought from the Çukurova Group in 1996, handed over to the TMSF on January 7, 1999.[20] Handed over to Etibank on July 15, 2001.
İhlas Finance İHLAS TGRT Founded in 1994. Handed over to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) on February 10, 2001.
İktisat Bank AVRUPA VE AMERİKA H. Cine5 Founded in 1927 as Denizli İktisat Bankası, renamed İktisat Bankası in 1980. Got under Erol Aksoy’s control in 1984; handed over to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) on March 15, 2001. All its active assets and liabilities were transferred to Bayındırbank which was restructured as a Credit Union Bank by a decision taken on April 4, 2002.
İmar Bank UZAN Star TV, Star Daily Founded in 1928. Bought from Doğuş Holding at the beginning of the 1980s. Was seized with all its assets on July 4, 2003 as part of a financial operation against the Uzan family. Declared bankruptcy on July 8, 2005; Savings Deposit Insurance Fund’s (TMSF) bankruptcy process still continues.[21]
Körfezbank DOĞUŞ NTV Founded in 1987 by Doğuş Group with Qatari partnership. Merged with the Ottoman Bank on August 31, 2001. Incorporated with Garanti Bank in December 2001.
MNG Bank MNG[22] Kanal 8 The title of T-Bank bought by the Doğuş Group in 1992 was changed to Garanti Yatırım ve Ticaret Bankası [Investment and Commercial Bank]. The bank, sold to Mehmet Nazif Günal on October 1, 1997, was now entitled MNG Bank. Bought by the Lebanese Hariri family and Jordan’s Arab Bank in 2006 and became Turkland Bank (T-Bank).[23]
Osmanlı Bank DOĞUŞ NTV

Kanal e

Bought in July 1996 via CloverInvestments which was a Garanti Bank subsidiary owned by the Doğuş Group. Merged with Körfezbank of the Doğuş Group on August 31, 2001. Incorporated with the Garanti Bank which was its major shareholder on December 21, 2001.
Pamukbank ÇUKUROVA Show TV Founded in 1954 by the Çukurova Group. Handed over to the fund on July 18, 2002. Handed over to Halk Bank on November 12, 2004.
Türkbank KORKMAZ YİĞİT The tender was cancelled when it was understood that the mafia was involved in its sales tender. Handed over to the fund on November 6, 1997. A decision to liquidate the bank was taken on August 9, 2002.
Yapı ve Kredi Bank ÇUKUROVA Show TV Founded on September 9, 1944. The winner of the fight between Çukurova and Sabancı groups over the control of the bank in the 70s proved to be the former. While the debts of the group were structured with Pamukbank which was handed over to the fund on June 18, 2002, it was included in the plan. Sold to the Koç Group in 2005.
Source: Updated from Adaklı, 2006: 213-216.


One of the significant moments of the “unhappy marriage” of banking and media happens to be Türkbank’s sale to businessman Korkmaz Yiğit. The sudden and unexpected entry of businessman Korkmaz Yiğit, well-known for his luxury residence construction, into the media sector was as vociferous as his exit. Korkmaz Yiğit, who bought Bank Express from the Doğuş Group in March 1997, suddenly started to invest in the media sector in 1998 and initially bought Yeni Yüzyıl owned by Dinç Bilgin then Milliyet and AD Publishing, as well as becoming a partner of Kanal 6, Kanal E, Genç TV, and Renk TV. Later on it would be revealed that Yiğit, in relationship with members of the government, bid for the Türkbank tender and got involved with the media having given in to the threats of the mafia. The allegations that Mesut Yılmaz, who led the Anasol-D coalition, was aiming at protecting his political power by creating a new media ownership –similar to what Turgut Özal attempted to do with Asil Nadir years ago[24]— and encouraged Korkmaz Yiğit to this end would soon render the government rather fragile and the 55th government fell.


The dominant groups of the press market in the pre-September 12, 1980 period were Simavi and Karacan families. Both groups became a thing of the “past” in the 1990s and were replaced by others. The main sources of income of the new actors were their investments outside the field of press, not the traditional revenues of circulation and advertisement which were so low that they could never fund a profound enough market in Turkey. The above mentioned neoliberal market strategies’ thorough practices, privatization, and financialization assumed dominant roles in the corroboration of such investments. Large groups evolving into media from the press beginning with the 1990s used public resources without taking any risks, received incentives, owned banks, and treated like honor guests at privatization tenders. The competition among capital fractions was shaped within the framework of utterly clientalist relationships and mostly by the decisiveness of the dominant classes and structures when post-September 12 media enterprises in Turkey are taken into account. The rising media bosses of the 1990s were family-owned companies, promising high profits outside the media sector such as commerce, construction, automotive, and energy, each of whom invested in sectors directly related to the decisions and practices of the political powers like Aydın Doğan, Cem Uzan, Dinç Bilgin, Ayhan Şahenk, and Mehmet Emin Karamehmet.

The fact that Aydın Doğan, who started his commercial activities by 1958 in İstanbul, bought Milliyet daily, on which a charismatic editor like Abdi İpekçi left his mark[25] and which was once one of the significant newspapers of the country, is symbolically significant with regards to the evolution of the press capital. Although Aydın Doğan was not the first boss who was not a journalist, he became one of the typical representatives of the new era brought about by January 24 Decisions and the September 12 coup d’état. The presence of Doğan in the new media architecture was not short-lived like the Kozanoğlu-Çavuşoğlu Group that similarly entered into the sector from the “outside.” The media complex of the Doğan Group continues to incorporate the influential media of the country although it is worn out today to a great extent by the AKP Government’s vision of the media.

Aydın Doğan made his presence felt in the sector with Milliyet daily and a couple of other magazines until the beginning of the 1990s. He took firm steps forward in the sector by deunionizing the media companies he owned and buying Kanal D and Hürriyet in 1991. He acquired a power that would keep up with the politicians without upsetting the army when he incorporated such assets as Dışbank and POAŞ in Turkish economy that had now become utterly fragile. The transformation of media capital in Turkey probably revealed its most typical state during integration with international markets. Doğan Group achieved a dominant position in this area through establishing relationships with German media companies (AxelSpringer, Bertelsman, et al.)[26] in Europe and with Time Warner in the US.

Dinç Bilgin, on the other hand, who comes from a family of journalists, started printing Sabah daily with an unprecedented state-of-the-art advanced technology equipment in Babıali until that day and became one of the most characteristic media constituents of the era. Dinç Bilgin, who did not let the union in to the daily ab initio, did his best to make the actors he supported achieve political power or to lead those in power to make regulations in his favor by playing with the language of politics, just like his rival Aydın Doğan, during the 80s and the 90s and actively participated in the construction of a consumer society basically foreseen by neoliberalism. Bilgin, who moved to İkitelli in 1990 as “Medigrup”, made use of the economy of scale by printing dailies like Bugün, Yeni Yüzyıl, Fotomaç, Sabah Yıldızı with many other magazines alongside with Sabah in order to use high-capacity equipment more efficiently. Bilgin Group entered into the world of broadcasting with ATV in September 1993. The next year they founded advertising marketing company Mepaş with Show TV’s owner Erol Aksoy and started printing Yeni Yüzyıl Daily over this company.

Dinç Bilgin founded Medya-İpek Holding with Nergis Holding owned by Cavit Çağlar, who was then a member of the parliament representing Bursa, on March 2, 1998 and bought Etibank through block booking for 155 million and 500 thousand dollars having bid for the tender. The facts that Etibank was handed over to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) on October 27, 2000 and that Dinç Bilgin was imprisoned on charges of siphoning off the bank’s assets paved the way to an alteration in the capital composition of the sector[27].

One of those who progressed in the sector rapidly proved to be the Uzan Family. Although Uzan Group’s first enterprises in the media dated back to the 1960s (Adaklı, 2006: 180), their major breakthrough began with private television broadcasting which they virtually started in the 90s. Private radio and television broadcasting which was virtually started with a channel called Star1 over Germany on May 7, 1990 as a joint-venture of the Uzan and Özal families, is a significant moment in the transformations seen in the relations of ownership in the media. Certain major radios and televisions that are still in existence today followed the path of Star1 one by one at the beginning of the 90s even before the drawing up of a legal framework.

Teleon which started broadcasting on January 27, 1992 by the Uzan Group became the second private TV channel of Turkey. Show TV was founded in partnership with Erol Aksoy (50%), who switched to the media sector from banking and who was considered to be the “shining star” of the banking sector in the 80s, Hürriyet (20%) which was still owned by the Simavi Family back then, and Dinç Bilgin (20%) and began its regular broadcasts on March 1, 1992 (Adaklı, 2001). Within the same year, Kemal Has, who was the brother of Kadir Has -a businessman from Kayseri, founded HBB (Has Bilgi Birikim) and started broadcasting (October 9, 1992) and Ahmet Özal, who got disconnected from Star as a result of a disagreement with the Uzans at the end of the 1990s, started broadcasting with Kanal 6[28]. The first encrypted channel of Turkey, Cine 5, started its broadcasts in 1993. Enver Ören (İhlas Group), the owner of Türkiye Daily, entered the sector with TGRT on April 22, 1993. Kanal D, founded in partnership with Aydın Doğan and Ayhan Şahenk; Dinç Bilgin’s ATV, and Fethullah Gülen Sect’s Samanyolu Television (STV) started broadcasting in 1993.

The media adventure of the Karamehmet family, just like the others, is typical enough to be set as an example on its own with regards to such issues as the transfer of capital and transfer of funds to the capital in Turkey. The more important enterprises of the Karamehmet family, whose past dates back to the Ottoman era as a family-owned company, in the 90s happened in the field of telecommunication and digital broadcasting than their investments in traditional media, in other words, in the field of distribution rather than production. The group, which embarked on a big enterprise with Turkcell in the telecom field in 1993, founded Digiturk in March 1999 in partnership with the Doğan Group but the latter withdrew from the partnership later on (Cumhuriyet, April 17 and 22, 2000). The platform that got gradually got larger with more channels almost remained as a monopoly for a long time in Turkey. The 2000s for Karamehmet, who had bought Show TV from Erol Aksoy in 1999, would be shaped by his negotiations with the AKP Government with the seizure of Pamukbank in the group.

The de facto situation, created by the private channels involving in the broadcasting market and more importantly in the everyday lives of the people during the 90s one by one, achieved a legal framework with the removal of the Constitutional barrier in 1993 and the enactment of the Radio and Television Founding and Broadcasting Activities Act numbered 3984 on April 13, 1994. The act left the control of the field to the so-called independent Higher Board of Radio and Television. Firstly the tender through which local frequencies would have been distributed was cancelled upon a warning issued by the Office of the Prime Minister in 1997. It was stated that the broadcasting companies bidding for the tender would be asked to hand in a “national security document.” What lies behind this decision is the fact that local broadcasters bidding for the tender, especially from the Kurdish regions, were considered to be threats against the regime. The tender which would have been opened for national frequencies instead of local ones in 2001 was also cancelled pursuant to Doğan Group’s filing of a lawsuit against the limit put on the number of broadcasters that would win the right to use a frequency to 11. The tender was cancelled in 2013 as well because Yumurcak TV, which was mainly broadcasting cartoons for children and connected to the Fethullah Gülen sect, was disqualified as there was a limit to the number of thematic channels bidding for the tender in the specifications.

Beyond the dissatisfaction of the capital groups, which usurped public frequencies one by one at the beginning of the 1990s and their dissatisfaction created by the fact that the field was being opened to other players, were the institutions of military or civilian guardianship that breathed down on politics in Turkey in each era which were decisive in all tender processes. The fact that all 3 tenders, opened up to today for the allotment of appropriate terrestrial and then numeric terrestrial frequencies for radio-television broadcasting, was cancelled can be written as an important part of Turkish political history on its own. [29]

At the beginning of the 1990s TRT, which was being financed by the electricity shares paid by the people unbeknownst to them that they were actually paying for it for years and did not have any responsibility towards the people but irresponsibly used the advantages of a state monopoly, lost its share of audience to Star 1, which again started broadcasting through the deceitful acts of those at the top of the state, but probably the more significant thing is that TRT lost its skilled staff to this channel. Tunca Toskay, who was one of the former general managers of TRT, became the Chairperson of the Executive Board of Magic Box and recruited Adem Gürses, Gülgün Feyman, Ekrem Çatay, and Mehmet Turan Akköprülü who were among the experienced staff at TRT. The pursuant story of TRT proves to be a story of the deactivation of the visual-auditory pool which was the bearer of a very significant tradition and the esteemed staff who made all those possible in spite of the entire attack by the state and its gradual “ascension” to a poor market actor (Sümer ve Adaklı, 2010).

The media groups, which tried to make use of the advantages offered by development strategies continuously triggering conditions of crisis, have to be on good terms with the political power in order to gain strength and avoid heavy conditions of weakness. It is impossible for a company that founded an oil distribution company in Northern Iraq (Genel Energy) to have a view of its own regarding the Kurdish issue or to defend this against the political power. Similarly, when one has billions of dollars in debt to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (state), the way to ease this burden can be handing over a part of the media assets in his hands to businessmen close to the ruling party (Mehmet Emin Karamehmet Ethem Sancak).

Some of the media groups, which have grown by making use of the advantages of the neoliberal accumulation strategy and attempt to mould the society both in actual processes and over their broadcasting content in order to overcome legal and political obstacles or those emanating from their competitors, succeeded in weathering the 2001 crisis without experiencing great losses. The media bosses who attempted to shuffle the cards with the AKP government were the following: Aydın Doğan, Ayhan Şahenk, Mehmet Emin Karamehmet, and Turgay Ciner. The stories of these bosses will be analyzed in detail in the following part within the framework of an utterly original media architecture.


The Technical Infrastructure of Neoliberal Architecture; the Telecommunications and the Internet Front

Up to this point mainly the political and economic data concerning the rupture in the 1980s have been covered. In this part we will look into infrastructure components in the media and the evolution of Telecom and the internet industries in Turkey, as one of the reference points in the account of transformation we have been trying to present. We hope to demonstrate that it is no mere coincidence that actual and legal interventions removed the state monopoly into the field of communication, narrowed down the scope for self-expression, turned the media into a capital component, normalized the practices of surveillance and control, and deprived workers of their rights to have a say on their own lives, and rendered content production into a market oriented issue …

Overview of the Telecommunication Field between 1980-2000

The major issues concerning telecommunication in Turkey between the 1980’s and the early 2000’s include attempts to privatize the sector, digitalisation of the infrastructure, diversification of the services provided via telecommunication infrastructure and authorization of Directorate General of Postal And Telegraphic Agency (PTT), which is responsible for the provision of telecommunications services, in the tasks concerning communication. Factors determining these changes are liberalisation and privatization policies and technological developments introduced within the framework of neoliberal policies. Development goals and security concerns were other determining factors in this period. As major purchasers of telecommunication services and communication networks, multinational corporations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and (International Telecommunications Union) (ITU) have been international factors in the liberalisation and privatization of telecommunication infrastructure in the world as well as in Turkey. Provided as a public service within the body of Directorate General of Postal And Telegraphic Agency (PTT), telecommunication infrastructure, mainly due to this fact, was managed until the late 1980s within the process of policy making in which such actors as State Planning Organization, Ministry of Communications, public institutions relevant to this field, the army and domestic telecommunication industry were actively involved. (Başaran, 2010: 236-237). Economic reconstruction policies, the military coup in 1980 and the goal of “maintaining public order” in the South-eastern part of the country influenced telecommunication policies; within a framework taking NATO’s priorities into consideration, the plan of digitalisation of the infrastructure was activated. Among the main outcomes of the conventional telecommunication policies adopted during this era were developments such as the attention paid to penetration of land phone and the dramatic increase in the number of registered telephone users, expansion of cable and wireless telecommunication network, satellite technology rapid growth of state television broadcast by means of satellite technology (Geray, 2016a: 30-31).

The importance attached to digital telecommunication in the 983-1993 Main Communication Plan, prepared and distributed to relevant public offices by the government led by Bülent Ulusu in the wake of the 1980 coup, led to the treatment of services related to mass communication within this context and authorization of Directorate General of Postal And Telegraphic Agency (PTT) in tasks concerning mass communication. Such a tendency that appeared with this document (Geray, 1994: 173) became a reality first with Act No. 3517 that was enacted on January 12, 1989. With this act the radio and television transmitters owned by Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) and the 1,354 employees working there were transferred to Directorate General of Postal and Telegraphic Agency (PTT)[30] (Yıldız, 2003: 31).

Another development that shows the connection between telecommunication and radio-television broadcasting in Turkey was the launching of the cable TV. In the mid 1980’s satellite technology facilitated the viewing of channels other than Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) via satellite dishes (Pekman, 1996: 1025). This was, on one hand, the first sign of the process in which the TRT monopoly would end and commercialisation would begin, and on the other provided the technological environment conducive to satellite broadcasting by some institutions such as municipalities. Cable TV broadcasting came to existence in such an environment, and PTT launched initiatives so that satellite broadcast could be view via cable TV (Yıldız, 2003: 31). The first step being taken in 1988, Directorate General of PTT of that time announced that they have developed the fiber optic cable project. In December 1988 first pilot Cable TV broadcast began in Çankaya district of Ankara which was designated pilot region; shortly it was extended to Bahçelievler district. Later Directorate General of PTT agreed with TRT on Cable TV broadcast and a tender was initiated in 1990 with a view to extend broadcast all over Turkey. As a result of these endeavours Cable TV broadcast was improved so as to cater for 10 cities (Özçağlayan, 2000: 44-45).

It was during the 1990’s that attempts to privatize telecommunication infrastructure were initiated. The privatization of telecommunication hardware industries preceded infrastructure of telecommunication. In 1988 Directorate General of PTT announced that handset market has been liberalized; with the privatization of the companies TELETAŞ and NETAŞ, the first privatizations in Turkey in telecommunication sector were done. In 1993 the first steps were taken regarding privatization of the privatization of infrastructure; PTT’s telecom section was separated and incorporated. In fact, the first attempts to this end were seen in 1983 and determining factors in this process in Turkey were World Bank and IMF just like in other countries. These institutions’ suggestion that privatization be implemented so as to balance budget deficits was not welcomed by the public and up until 1993 no attempt came to fruition. Attempts of privatization of telecommunication once again became a current issue when in 1992 a report on Turkey produced by World Bank that suggested “abolishing of the monopoly in telecommunication, separation of postal and telegram services from telecommunication, incorporation of telecommunication operator, the establishment of an independent regulatory institution, liberalisation of value added services, improvement of human resources and informatization in public administration”. In 1993 with the set up and management of postal and telegram services being handed over to Directorate General of Republic of Turkey Postal Services, and telecommunication services being handed over to Türk Telecommunication AŞ, incorporation and separation of telecommunication and postal services was completed. Later on, time and again, attempts were made for the privatization of Telecom and selling its shares; however, process of privatization failed to be completed since regulations pertaining to legislative framework of privatization were either cancelled by Constitutional Court or share sales were met with insufficient biddings, or the prices bid were not high enough (Geray, 2016a: 32-34; Geray, 2016b: 207-208; Başaran, 2010: 246).

The integration of telecommunication infrastructure into the privatization plan created a favourable climate in which both cable broadcasting and mobile phone companies such as Turkcell owned by the Çukurova Group and Telsim founded by the Uzan family could grow with media companies in an integrated fashion. Turkcell, Turkey’s first GSM operator launched in February 1994, became in a short period the most lucrative business of the Çukurova Group. Soon after, its rival Telsim was launched in February 1994 after obtaining its GSM licence and started providing service in May. After the 2001 crisis, with the expropriation of Pamukbank Çukurova’s dominance in Turkcell waned and Karamehmet lost his majority shares, though still surviving his conflicting existence. Telsim, on the other hand was handed over due to its debts to TMSF (Saving Deposit Insurance Fund) on February 13, 2004.

In addition to mobile phones which are one of value added services provided via telecommunication infrastructure in Turkey, the internet too became available in this period. These services which came as a result of the developments in digitalization and computer technology in the wake of the 1970’s both became the areas where technological developments concretize after they have gained popularity and appeared as major components sectoral reconstruction in media industry. Thanks to developments in digitalization and computer technology, communication technologies improved in terms of their competency and capacity, and at the same time various forms of communications such as data transmission, mass communication and point to point communication merged on the same platform, the differences between mass communication and point to point communication being eroded. This change called technological convergence led to the birth of new communication technologies. In addition, services provided via telecommunication network which were previously limited to point to point communication diversified and telecommunication infrastructure itself has become a new communication technology (Aydoğan, 2016: 273-274; Geray, 1994: 225).

Since the 1990’s technological convergence has been the most frequently used term to explain changes in the field of communication, and to legitimize the attempts of liberalization and commercialisation. It was hoped that digital communication, multimedia content and services facilitated by technological convergence would create economic gain and employment; it was also asserted that the realization of this expectation depended on designing the communication sector as an open market for the free movement of capital (Winseck, 2008; Mansell and Javary, 2004). Within the framework of debates on global information, this viewpoint concerning infrastructure communication and network policies in favour of capital has been reciprocated in Turkey. The section covers the introduction of the internet into Turkey and investments of the media industry within the sector, since it both reveals such a transformation and has been one of the major components of commercialisation in media sector since the 1990s.

The introduction of the internet into Turkey and the growth of the internet market

The history of the internet, as the network interconnecting global computer networks, dates back as early as to wide area network. Founded in 1986, Universities and Research Institutions Network of Turkey (TÜVAKA) has been used and funded by universities and research institutions. When TÜVAKA fell short in the face of technological developments an initiative to establish a new infrastructure was launched. In 1992 Turkey’s internet connection was established within the framework of a joint-partnership project between Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) and Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK); and in 1993 international internet connection was put into practice. (Başaran, 2010: 176-177). A new organisation called TR-NET was set up by ODTÜ and TÜBİTAK to manage this new backbone in the same year. In Turkey this organisation which aimed at the availability of the internet for all segments of society had nonofficial status; the cost of means needed for the technical infrastructure of TR-NET such line hire, router, modem, hardwere indrustrie were paid by ODTÜ and TÜBİTAK. The overseas PTT line hire between ODTÜ and Washington for the TR-NET backbone was also paid by TÜBİTAK (TR-Net Ağ Bilgi Group, 1995: 1-2). Though there existed commercial ISPs during the TR-NET period, they were few. During the TR-NET period the internet was under the sway of the academy; however, the questioning of this sway and the rise of the commercial and administrative actors was also experienced in this very period (Başaran, 2010: 178).

When TR-NET failed to meet the demand for the internet the first steps were taken for TURNET, Turkey’s first commercial backbone. A report was submitted to Türk Telecom (TT) by the TR-NET team that included suggestions on technical, organisational and infrastructural level. The report advised that a new infrastructure based in Ankara, İstanbul and İzmir should be built and, on the organisational level, Internet Service Provider (ISP) should sell service to institutional and individual end users. The report also included the advice that the state should provide sources for the establishment of TURNET and continue to give financial support until TURNET could finance itself. The plan proposed by the TR-NET team was adopted by TT, which decided to establish the backbone on its own. A bid was announced in September 1995 for the required finance based on a model of revenue sharing. The bid was won by the consortium formed by SATKO, Sprint and ODTÜ, and the contract was signed in March 1996. The seven-year contract included the terms that supplies investments required for the infrastructure should be provided by the consortium, that 70% of the revenue from the TURNET backbone should be allocated to TT and this percentage should be increased each year in favour of the institution. The consortium began to have problems in the spring of 1996; consequently, first ODTÜ, and then in middle of 1997 SATKO withdrew from the consortium. Later Sprint formed a new group called Global-One with German and French national telecommunication organizations. The TURNET backbone started to operate in October 1996 and end users began to have internet access either by means of ISPs or directly through TT. And ISPs connected to the TURNET backbone through nodal points they have established or through TT’s leased lines. In this period TT continued to be an important actor both as backbone operator and ISP the internet market (Wolcott, 1999: 19-21; Başaran, 2010: 274-275). Another characteristic of this period is that a dynamic ISP market came into existence and commercialization began in Turkey with ISPs providing service (Wolcott and Çağıltay, 2001: 138).

In time, though upgrades were implemented in the TURNET backbone this was technologically insufficient and in 1998 initiatives were made in order to establish a new backbone. Also influential in this decision was the fact that Global-One’ withdrew from TT-partnership on grounds that it failed to meet its financial expectations (Güngör and Evren, 2002: 53-54; Başaran, 2010: 281). In the early 1998 TT went out to the tender for a new backbone TT-NET and declared that the new backbone will be brought into service. The new backbone failed to be launched on the designated date; according to the contract signed with the Alcatel and TT the TT-NET backbone could only be put to use in the early 1999 (Ayaz, 2000: 27). After the backbone was put to the internet market in Turkey improved further both in terms of access and content investments; at the same time the conflicts amongst actors in the internet market escalated in the same period. The causes of the conflict included allegations that TT-NET’s capacity was not sufficiently upgraded, that it was mismanaged, that TT was active both in wholesale and retail internet market as an ISP and backbone operator, that it implemented a wrong pricing policy, that TT practised unfair competition and abused its dominant position in the market. Another trait of this period is that broadband access technologies ADSL and ISDN BA were introduced on a piloting basis for internet access and internet access became available via Cable TV network (Güngör and Evren, 2002: 61-62; 68-72).

Commercial actors investing on access and content in Turkey internet included media, finance and industry giants such as Doğuş Group, Çukurova Group, Doğan Group, Sabancı Group, Koç Group, İhlas Holding, İş Bankası, Rumeli Holding and Zorlu Group. The underlying motivation for the investment was to benefit from the economic gain that technological convergence would hopefully usher and, compared with conventional media, favourably lower cost of penetrating into the market by means of new communication technologies (Aydoğan, 2016: 280-281).

When the positioning of media groups within the internet market is examined, it is seen that the first investments took place right before the TURNET backbone was established. In 1995 Çukurova Group penetrated into internet access market by establishing Superonline International Electronic Information and Communication Services A.Ş.; in December 1996 Superonline’s web page was launched. It was announced that the amount of investment allocated for the establishment of Superonline was 150 million dollar. The Group’s internet content investment first included portals focusing on news, game, music and shopping. Within this framework the following portals were launched soon: (1997), Superonline Shopping (April 1998), (April 1999), a music portal and game site. Uzan Group’s internet investments started in 1998. First, Rumeli-Net was established and internet access market was penetrated. Rumeli-Net’s internet content investments were, as with other media companies, firstly based on the principle of transferring the content produced by the group’s companies. Star television and Star newspaper owned by the Group were transferred to the internet; and in 2001 the Group purchased Netbul, a content-producing company. Doğuş Group’s investment on internet access led to the birth of İxir Holding A.Ş., which at first provided individual internet access services; as of May 2000 İxir invested in internet content on areas such as news, music, entertainment, chat, shopping, game and magazine with the following portals:,,,,,, and İhlas Group entered the internet access market in 1996 with İhlas Net A.Ş.; for content investment the Group opted for the establishment in 1998 of the site called NetGazete. Another group that entered the internet market both as ISP and content supplier is Doğan Group. In the late 1999 the first steps were taken to establish “Doğan İletişim Elektronik Hizmetleri A.Ş.”, Doğan Group’s company where internet investments were brought together. The company became active in May 2000; E-Kolay brand provided the first access package and the company’s portal was launched. Doğan Group’s content investments in the internet market mainly involved the transfer of broadcast within the scope of the group into the internet. To this end and were established; other portals focusing on women, electronic commerce and entertainment were also launched. Dinç Bilgin’s umbrella organisation in communication sector, Medya Holding, became active in the internet sector in the second half of 1999 with Turkport. As the company’s first investment, Medya Holding adopted the function of transferring content from its traditional media investments into the internet. Accordingly Media Holding’s Sabah Online, Bir Numara Hearst Online and ZDNet continued to operate within the body of Turkport. The Turkport portal also included city guides. The company provided free internet access in return for the content garnered by the students living in those cities (Aydoğan, 2016: 284-289).

In Turkey media organisations that invested only in internet content were Cumhuriyet newspaper, Anadolu Ajansı (Anadolu News Agency) and ANKA news agency. Cumhuriyet’s content transferral into the internet took place on May 7 1998. What distinguishes Cumhuriyet online is the fact that the all issues along with the supplements and pages of the newspaper in print are available as they first appeared. In addition all the books and other print material the newspaper distributed to its readers can be accessed via internet. Anadolu Ajansı invested in internet content by making available daily news, photographs as well as news in English and German for a fee. ANKA’s webpage was established in 2001. The webpage, which caters for individual and institutional subscribers for a certain fee, hosts news items on the introductory basis. (Aydoğan, 2016: 290-291).

In the early 2000’s the developments in internet induced market media groups in Turkey to reshape their internet investments. The 2001 economic crisis and the high cost of computer hardware and internet connection were the main reasons why the internet use failed to become widespread. Besides, the failure to render internet content subject to a fee and to sell premium content, the incapability of internet advertising to maintain the sector, gigantic budget advertising campaigns to allure subscribers and price cutting wars in access services hindered Turkish media groups from obtaining what they desired to glean from their investments. Their hopes of making profit from the stock exchange likewise remained a dream. The plan to make profit by entering the stock exchange went to the wall because firstly, the shares of technology companies dramatically lost in value, and secondly technology companies in Turkey failed to meet the requirement of making profit in order to enter the stock exchange. Therefore, media groups were forced to downsize. First, content investments were liquidated and later staff employed for content production was dismissed. Some groups retreated from the access market; those who continued their activity in the market adopted a working model that targeted institutional, rather than individual, subscribers. However, none deserted the internet market completely; they continued their existence at least in access or content sector. For example, though Doğuş Group closed down İxir, thus leaving the access sector it continues to provide content with its portal Similarly, Turkport was also closed down; however, the group continues to invest in internet content for news (Aydoğan, 2016: 292-294).


The account of media, telecom and internet markets we present here has radically changed. In the AKP era we observe practices of convergence the likes of which have never been seen in the world. The following chapter will unravel the detailed story of what in colloquial tongue is called “havuz medyası” (literally “pool media”), an unprecedented media in Turkey, a new communication regime with its new institutions and new oppression methods.


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  1. For the use of the term“regime of accumulation” see e.g. Jessop and Sum, 2006; Sönmez, 2016.
  2. Vehbi Koç, beyond satisfaction, wrote a letter addressed to Evren, the leader of the junta, asking for directives for “the future” (October 3, 1980). See Sönmez, 1987: 346-352.
  3. Each historical narrative contains specific preferences, recollections, and instances of forgetfulness related to the times during which the writer lives. This narrative will be no exception. We hope that the readers will fill in our shortcomings, those parts that they might consider insufficiently underlined both by their own memory and by other studies which have now become a part of an important canon. Our narrative is certainly open to improvement by all kinds of criticism, opinions, and suggestions of the readers.
  4. “The Obscenity Committee, comprising of 11 members from the National Security Council, ministries of the Interior, Justice, Health, and Culture, the Board of Higher Education, Directorate of Religious Affairs, and the Turkish Journalists Association, found 497 monthly, 475 weekly journals and 668 books, 2,508 newspapers and 403 periodicals obscene in 2001” (Belge, 2003).
  5. For a source that explains media’s relation to neoliberal economic policies by focusing on the 2001 crisis with a well-prepared inventory of period-specific issues of social discontent and the related media content, please see (Zengin, 2004).
  6. People’s Labor Party, which was outlawed by the Constitutional Court in July 1993, was replaced by Democracy Party (Demokrasi Partisi, DEP) founded upon this possibility in March.
  7. Turkey Migration and Internally Displaced Population Survery, which was conducted upon contracting an engagement with the United Nations by Hacettepe University’s Institute of Population Studies under the control of the Office of the Prime Minister, reveals the state’s “denial and destruction” policies towards the Kurds through concrete data.Bülent Sarıoğlu (2006) “En az 800 bin kişi terör göçmeni” [At least 800 thousand people are terror migrants], Milliyet, July 24. For the full text of the report, please see:
  8. Academic Ferdan Ergut, who was the leader of Equality and Democracy Party during that period, underlines this relationship in a news report dated February 28, 2012: “Social consciousness shaped over the Susurluk process … was put off track and attention was distracted from the mob formations within the state over a sharia boogeyman. February 28 put a shawl on Susurluk.” Ekin Karaca (2012) “Sol 28 Şubat’a Nasıl Bakıyor?”, Bianet,
  9. The author of this news report that made to the headline, Fatih Çekirge quotes Joint Chief of Staff Domestic Security Department Head Brigadier General Kenan Deniz’s statements with admiration at a briefing held a day before at the Joint Chief of Staff Headquarters where he and other members of the media were present: “It is evident that the PKK cooperates with reactionism. This cooperation is the number one threat to the fundamental principles and qualities of the republic. In this view, reactionism has now become number one in the threat list. Iran wants to create an Algeria-like Turkey. It is after exporting a reactionary regime. We are aware of this support” (Çekirge, 1997).
  10. See e.g. for a chronology about the event: Bianet (2001) “Susurluk kazası”, November 3,
  11. Habertürk (2016) “Eski Ankara Emniyet Müdürü Saral: Ecevit bize Fethullah’ın cumhurbaşkanlığını dayatacaktı”, November 9,; İrfan Bozan (2016) “Gülen’i ABD’ye kaçıran rapor”, August 12, Al Jazeera Türk,
  12. According to the news article, the price of newsprint went up to 600 TL from 266 TL, at a rate of 225.5% in a year.
  13. This table presents only privatizations with block sales and directly related to a media group.
  14. The Doğan Group bid for the tender together with İş Bankası.
  15. The Çavuşoğlu-Kozanoğlu Group, which had bought Hisarbank and Odibank from the state and had basically been active in the construction sector, started publishing Güneş daily in 1982 with large publicity campaigns. However, following the mentioned bank disaster the daily changed hands; the bosses of the group that bankrupt Hisarbank and Odibank did not witness any losses in their personal lives but the loss undertaken by the state was reflected in the balance sheet as 547 billion TL by the end of 1991 (Vatan, January 6, 2008).
  16. The major partners of the bank: Kemal Uzan, Ayşegül Uzan, Hakan Uzan, Cem Cengiz Uzan, Yavuz Uzan.
  17. Sümerbank shares were transferred to the OYAK group (later ING Bank) on August 9, 2001. (Date of access: October 24, 2017)
  18. Bayındır Holding is the group which BRT (Bayındır Radio-Television) is related to which was owned by businessman Kamuran Çörtük who was in Süleyman Demirel’s close circle. The licence of BRT which had not been broadcasting for a while and put up for sale was revoked by the Radio and Television Higher Council (RTÜK) on January 29, 2003.
  19. Its major partners were Nergis Holding (Cavit Çağlar), the founder of NTV, and CreditIndustrial before its transfer to the fund.
  20. Subsequent investigations revealed that Interbank accredited 250 million dollars to shell companies founded by Cavit Çağlar and enabled him to pay the sales price by transferring these loans to the Çukurova Group. Cavit Çağlar, who was appointed as the “Minister of the State in Charge of the Banks” by Demirel in 1991, made both the public banks he was in charge of and the private banks which he bought or became a partner of later on work for his own account confirming what Adnan Kahveci said about him: “They let the fox guard the henhouse.” He was arrested in the US on April 18, 2001 because of the arrest warrant in absentia reached within the framework of Egebank and Etibank investigations. Çağlar, who was brought to Turkey and imprisoned on April 28, 2001, was released on February 6, 2002 (Takvim, July 4, 2010).
  21. (Date of access: October 24, 2017).
  22. MNG Holding owned a television channel called TV 8.
  23. The Hariri family, who bought Türk Telekom [Turkish Telecommunications] in 2005 bidding for the tender with OgerTelecom, is also a shareholder of the Arab Bank with 14% of its shares.
  24. Cypriot businessman Asil Nadir, who was directly introduced to the media market by Turgut Özal in the 1980s, first bought media companies owned by Haldun Simavi and Ercan Arıklı but he soon had to leave because of the corruptions in his main England-based company PollyPeck (see. Adaklı, 2006: 159-164).
  25. Abdi İpekçi was assassinated at the beginning of the same year. The assassination still remains a mystery.
  26. Doğan institutionalized his investments in the media in Germany by Doğan Media International GmbH founded in 1999.
  27. The conflicts and discrepancies among the media groups got rather heated regarding both broadcasting contents and de facto processes from time to time. For instance, the media groups ruthlessly competing against one another over promotions were able to act against another group that they selected as a rival in the future with secret cartel agreements. For a story of this rivalry directly related to political processes during the 90s see (Adaklı, 2006: 241-262).
  28. The Uzan family renamed Star1 as Interstar because of royalty issues (March 3, 1992). For details about the disagreement between Özal and the Uzans see (Yengin, 1994: 136).
  29. You can follow Özgür Başar’s blog on the issue; he regularly carries out research on the related developments in the world and the situation in Turkey and tries to inform the public especially through his speeches at meetings held by the Chamber of Electrical Engineers and the articles he writes: I was not able to achieve any results from the search I conducted at the website of the Board of Higher Education (YÖK) for dissertation searches with the keywords frequency planning, frequency tender, and frequency allotment. Furthermore, I did not limit my search to a specific field (communications, political science, engineering, etc.). Universities or other public institutions might not be convenient places for such research in the period we are living in but there is a strong need for detailed and well-documented studies on this issue (as well).
  30. SHP, main opposition party of that period, appealed to the Constitutional Court for the repeal of legislation and the Court decreed that the transfer be cancelled. However, ANAP, the ruling party, took no steps whatsoever to this end, creating a legal gap that lasted until 1999. With the Act number 4397 issued in 1999, transmitters and equipment transferred to Directorate General of PTT free of charge were restored to TRT (Yıldız, 2003: 31).

Gülseren Adaklı and Aylin Aydoğan