New independent Turkish TV channel shuts down after less than a month

New independent Turkish TV channel shuts down after less than a month
Olay TV, owned by businessman and former minister Cavit Caglar, began broadcasting on November 30 but was pulled off the air on Friday. (File/Getty Images)
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Updated 26 December 2020

New independent Turkish TV channel shuts down after less than a month

New independent Turkish TV channel shuts down after less than a month
  • Olay TV is a casualty of deteriorating press freedom in Turkey
  • The station’s executive editor claimed Caglar had bowed to government pressure

ANKARA: An independent TV channel in Turkey that opened 26 days ago shut down abruptly on Friday evening, allegedly under pressure from government circles.

Olay TV, which is owned by Turkish businessman and former right-wing minister Cavit Caglar, stood out in the country’s media landscape by not being pro-government or being owned by companies affiliated with the government. 

Opposition lawmaker and investigative journalist Ahmet Sik said that the presidency had drawn up a list of people who would be fired from the channel. They included female anchor Nevsin Mengu, who went viral several times for being outspoken with her criticism.

The channel was criticised by governmental circles for broadcasting the weekly parliamentary meeting of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in full, something all other channels have been avoiding for years.

Caglar is alleged to have told the channel’s manager that he could not withstand mounting government pressure over Olay TV’s critical editorial line.

Berk Esen, a political scientist from Sabanci University in Istanbul, said the government’s move against Olay TV had once again demonstrated that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration had little tolerance for critical voices in Turkey’s media sector.

“Despite being established only one month ago, Olay TV has quickly gained status as an independent media organ and gained a huge following thanks to its high-quality staff and bold stance against the government's de facto ban on critical stories,” he told Arab News. “They paid the ultimate price for their independence. In an environment of heightened opposition against the ruling party, pro-government media controls nearly 90 percent of Turkish TV stations and newspapers.”

He added that Olay TV’s closure meant there was only space for a few satellite channels close to the opposition party, like Halk TV, KRT TV and the foreign-owned FOX TV, as Turkish air waves were generally off-limits to the government’s critics.

Turkey’s Association of Contemporary Journalists called the channel’s closure “a day of shame for the media freedom.” Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said: “Turkey doesn't deserve this darkness.”

The country’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK), is imposing sanctions against the few remaining dissident TV and radio channels, including days-long broadcasting bans and levying heavy fines.   

“The closure of Olay TV in less than a month as a result of government pressure is a shame for our democracy!” Ahmet Davutoglu, leader of the breakaway Future Party and former Erdogan ally, tweeted. “Why are you afraid of independent journalists? Do not forget that only those who have dubious jobs, get involved in dirty relationships and deceive people with lies, are afraid of the media.”

Experts said that sanctions on critical media that pushed journalists to avoid “sensitive topics” for coverage directly violated people’s right to free speech and to be informed through media pluralism.

RTUK has been criticized for losing its impartiality and serving as a censorship instrument to intimidate the media. It recently imposed a five-day broadcasting suspension on Halk TV, which is affiliated with the CHP, and Tele 1.

“The government’s strong control and censorship over the media has prevented voters from having access to different viewpoints and allowed the ruling elites to frame and even manipulate the public debate in an attempt to protect themselves from criticism,” Esen added.

RTUK fined Haberturk TV station for airing remarks from an opposition politician criticizing a Qatari investment in Turkish military tank production. The fine was justified on the basis of “preserving the integrity of the state.”

A TV channel risks losing its broadcasting license if it is sanctioned three times for the same provision within a year.

“The media's subordination to pro-government actors was a consequence of the breakdown of Turkish democracy and the transition to a competitive authoritarian regime under the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) rule,” Esen said. “A lack of independent media organs make the transition to a democratic regime all the more difficult.”

The leader of the breakaway DEVA Party Ali Babacan, who was Erdogan’s former economy tsar, also criticized the Olay TV shutdown.

He was a guest of the channel a day before it closed. Other outlets remain hesitant about inviting leaders of breakaway parties for fear of drawing government ire.

“This is the reflection of how press freedom is restricted in Turkey. Don't be afraid of talking, Turkey,” Babacan tweeted.

No government official has responded to the allegations of censorship.


ABG leads first global diversity, inclusion census in GCC

ABG leads first global diversity, inclusion census in GCC
Photo/Supplied
Updated 23 June 2021

ABG leads first global diversity, inclusion census in GCC

ABG leads first global diversity, inclusion census in GCC
  • Census represents biggest global cross-industry collaboration across 27 markets

DUBAI: In a move to assess the scale of the diversity challenge facing the marketing and advertising industry, the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has launched the first-ever global diversity, equity and inclusion census.

The census is a collaboration between the WFA, VoxComm, the European Association of Communication Agencies (EACA), Campaign, Kantar, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and The Effies, with the goal of generating the largest and most representative sample possible.

“This is an unprecedented act of unity by the global marketing industry. With over a hundred participating organisations, this is the biggest industry collaboration ever,” WFA CEO Stephan Loerke said in a statement.

In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the effort is being led by the Advertising Business Group (ABG), a non-profit organization advocating for responsible advertising and communication​.

People from across the marketing industry — including brands, agencies, media, tech, consultancies and marketing services providers in 27 countries — can fill in the survey until July 2 by providing socio-demographic data about themselves and perceptions of their workplace.

“The data from so many markets will be incredibly powerful in helping the industry focus its efforts on where they are most needed, helping us become a better, more diverse and more inclusive industry,” said Tamara Daltroff, director general of EACA and president of VoxComm.

The survey will assess where the global advertising and marketing industry stands in relation to diversity, equity and inclusion by investigating workforce composition across the industry as well as people’s perception of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

The findings will be presented at leading global industry events in October this year, and published publicly for the benefit of global, regional and local groups.

The results will also be used to inform an action plan devised and led by the WFA’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, which is a global platform of the world’s top marketers.

A follow-up survey will be conducted after 18 months to track progress.


Facebook expands Shops to WhatsApp, Marketplace in commerce push

Facebook said it would introduce personalized ads in its Shops service based on users' shopping behavior. (File/AFP)
Facebook said it would introduce personalized ads in its Shops service based on users' shopping behavior. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 June 2021

Facebook expands Shops to WhatsApp, Marketplace in commerce push

Facebook said it would introduce personalized ads in its Shops service based on users' shopping behavior. (File/AFP)
  • Facebook Inc (FB.O) is expanding its "Shops" feature to its messaging app WhatsApp in several countries.
  • Users will be able to use this search from content on the app or on photos on their own camera rolls.

Facebook Inc (FB.O) is expanding its "Shops" feature to its messaging app WhatsApp in several countries and to Facebook Marketplace in the United States, the company said on Tuesday as it announced changes to its commerce tools.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said it would also introduce personalized ads in its Shops service based on users' shopping behavior.

The social media giant, which launched Shops last year as a way for people to find and buy products on Facebook and Instagram as part of its push into ecommerce, said it has more than 300 million monthly Shops visitors and about 1.2 million monthly active Shops.

Zuckerberg said during Facebook's last earnings release that e-commerce is one of the company's three key areas of focus, along with working on augmented and virtual reality and helping content creators earn money on Facebook's platforms.

The company said it would in the coming months test an artificial intelligence tool called 'visual search' so users shopping on its photo-sharing site Instagram can click on items and find similar products in Shops.

Users will be able to use this search from content on the app or on photos on their own camera rolls, Zuckerberg said.

Facebook is also working on ways using augmented reality that shoppers can try on items, including from ads, Zuckerberg said, speaking in a live audio room on Facebook.


Twitter opens applications to test new content subscription features

Twitter will focus on individuals who apply for the features, but will also consider brands, publishers and nonprofit organizations. (File/AFP)
Twitter will focus on individuals who apply for the features, but will also consider brands, publishers and nonprofit organizations. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 June 2021

Twitter opens applications to test new content subscription features

Twitter will focus on individuals who apply for the features, but will also consider brands, publishers and nonprofit organizations. (File/AFP)
  • Twitter users can apply to get first access to "Super Follows," which will let them sell exclusive content to paying subscribers.

Twitter Inc said Tuesday it will seek applications from users who want to be the first to test new content subscription and ticketing features, as the social platform works to build more ways for users to earn money. 

Twitter users can apply to get first access to "Super Follows," which will let them sell exclusive content to paying subscribers, and "Ticketed Spaces," to charge for entry into audio chat rooms they host on the platform.

Both features are part of Twitter's plan to compete with other social media companies to attract more influential content creators by letting them earn money from fan followings.

Users must have at least 10,000 followers on Twitter to be eligible to apply for Super Follows, and at least 1,000 followers to apply for first access to Ticketed Spaces.

The company aims to select "a diverse set of voices," from the applications, said Esther Crawford, senior product manager at Twitter.

The company will take a 3% cut of a creator's revenue until the user hits $50,000 in earnings, after which Twitter will keep 20%, in order to help up-and-coming creators earn more money at the start, Twitter said.

Crawford added that Twitter will focus on individuals who apply for the features, but will also consider brands, publishers and nonprofit organizations which have built an audience on Twitter.


British minister urges same rules for streaming services, broadcasters -Times

British minister urges same rules for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Disney+. (File/AFP)
British minister urges same rules for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Disney+. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 June 2021

British minister urges same rules for streaming services, broadcasters -Times

British minister urges same rules for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Disney+. (File/AFP)
  • British government draw plans to make streaming services follow the code of British regulator Ofcom, says Culture Secretary.
  • The government will consult on whether it is time to set the same basic rules for video-on-demand services as is done for traditional broadcasters

June 23 : Britain’s streaming services and broadcasters should be on a level playing field, as traditional broadcasters now compete with “one hand tied behind their backs,” Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said on Wednesday.
Dowden is to unveil plans for a white paper on broadcasting that aims to make streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ follow the code of British regulator Ofcom, he said in the Times newspaper “Every “linear” broadcaster — BBC, Sky and so on — has to comply with stringent content and audience protection standards,” Dowden said in an article published on Wednesday.
“You might assume the same is true of video-on-demand services such as Amazon Prime and Disney+. You’d be wrong.”
The government will consult this summer on whether it is time to set the same basic rules for video-on-demand services as is done for traditional broadcasters, he added.
“The white paper will also set out proposals on how we ensure public service broadcasters are given sufficient visibility...online, and ensure viewers can continue to find and watch original and high-quality British programs.”
Separately, Britain’s Conservative government said it plans to sell Channel 4, launched 39 years ago as an alternative to the BBC and ITV, to help secure its future as a public service broadcaster.
“In summer I will consult on the sale of Channel 4,” Dowden wrote, adding that he would proceed on the lines that an alternative ownership model retaining the broadcaster’s public service remit would better serve both it and Britain.


Rights group: Facebook amplified Myanmar military propaganda

Rights group: Facebook amplified Myanmar military propaganda
Updated 23 June 2021

Rights group: Facebook amplified Myanmar military propaganda

Rights group: Facebook amplified Myanmar military propaganda
  • Facebook's algorithm amplified military propaganda in Myanmar following the military takeover, revealed report.
  • After the coup, the military junta temporarily blocked access to Facebook because it was being used to share anti-coup comments and organize protests.
Facebook’s recommendation algorithm amplifies military propaganda and other material that breaches the company’s own policies in Myanmar following a military takeover in February, a new report by the rights group Global Witness says.
A month after the military seized power in Myanmar and imprisoned elected leaders, Facebook’s algorithms were still prompting users to view and “like” pro-military pages with posts that incited and threatened violence, pushed misinformation that could lead to physical harm, praised the military and glorified its abuses, Global Witness said in the report, published late Tuesday.
That’s even though the social media giant vowed to remove such content following the coup, announcing it would remove Myanmar military and military-controlled pages from its site and from Instagram, which it also owns. It has since enacted other measures intended to reduce offline harm in the country.
Facebook said Tuesday its teams “continue to closely monitor the situation in Myanmar in real-time and take action on any posts, Pages or Groups that break our rules.”
Days after the Feb. 1 coup, the military temporarily blocked access to Facebook because it was being used to share anti-coup comments and organize protests. Access was later restored. In the following weeks, Facebook continued to tighten its policies against the military, banning all military entities from its platforms and saying it would remove praise or support for violence against citizens and their arrest.
“Once again, Facebook shows that it’s good at making broad sweeping announcements and bad at actually enforcing them. They’ve had years to improve their work in Myanmar but once again they are still failing,” said Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook data scientist and whistleblower who found evidence of political manipulation in countries such as Honduras and Azerbaijan while she worked there.
The struggle between the military regime that deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government and those opposing it has sharpened in recent months.
Soldiers and police have killed hundreds of protesters. Last week, the United Nations’ office in Myanmar expressed concern about escalating human rights abuses after reports that a group opposed to the junta may have executed 25 civilians it captured and allegations that troops had burned down a village.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, had over 22.3 million Facebook users in January 2020, more than 40 percent of its population, according to social media management platform NapoleonCat.
“What happens on Facebook matters everywhere, but in Myanmar that is doubly true,” the report says. As in many countries outside the Western Hemisphere, mobile phones in Myanmar often come pre-loaded with Facebook and many businesses do not have a website, only a Facebook page. For many people in the country, Facebook effectively is the Internet.
On March 23, just before the peak of military violence against civilians, Global Witness said it set up a new, clean Facebook account with no history of liking or following specific topics and searched for “Tatmadaw”, the Burmese name for the armed forces. It filtered the search results to show pages, and selected the top result — a military fan page whose name translates as “a gathering of military lovers.”
Older posts on this page showed sympathy for Myanmar’s soldiers and at least two advertised for young people to join the military — but none of the newer posts since the coup violated Facebook’s policies. However, when Global Witness’s account “liked” the page, Facebook began recommending related pages with material inciting violence, false claims of interference in last year’s election and support of violence against civilians.
A March 1 post, for instance, includes a death threat against protesters who vandalize surveillance cameras.
“Those who threaten female police officers from the traffic control office and violently destroy the glass and destroy CCTV, those who cut the cables, those who vandalize with color sprays, (we) have been given an order to shoot to kill them on the spot,” reads part of the post in translation, according to the report. “Saying this before Tatmadaw starts doing this. If you don’t believe and continue to do this, go ahead. If you are not afraid to die, keep going.”
Facebook said its ban of the Tatmadaw and other measures have “made it harder for people to misuse our services to spread harm. This is a highly adversarial issue and we continue to take action on content that violates our policies to help keep people safe.”
Global Witness said its findings show that Facebook fails to uphold the “very basics” of its own guidelines.
“The platform operates too much like a walled garden, its algorithms are designed, trained, and tweaked without adequate oversight or regulation,” said Naomi Hirst, head of the digital threats campaign at Global Witness. “This secrecy has to end, Facebook must be made accountable.”