Insiders speculate Netflix could leave Turkey over increasing gov’t censorship: report

After Netflix was forced to end a Turkish drama series because it had a gay leading character, industry insiders are speculating the world-dominating streaming service might completely withdraw from Turkey, the Turkish Minute news website reported, citing the Reclaim the Net website.

On July 18 reports from Turkish media indicated that Netflix was canceling the popular drama “Aşk 101” (Love 101). RTÜK, the country’s broadcasting regulator, demanded that the streaming platform censor the character in the series.

The director of the series, Ece Yörenç, told Fasikül, a Turkish entertainment website, that it was “very scary” that the production of series can be halted because of a gay character. The director argued that RTUK was unreasonable because no gay intimacy even takes place in the show.

Television shows have become one of Turkey’s most profitable exports in the past decade. The country has sold hundreds of series to media companies in more than 100 countries all over the globe. This report estimated that the export of television shows reached $500 million in 2018.

However, increased censorship by RTÜK might discourage producers as cancelation of the series will result in a loss of approximately $5 million.

“From now on, interest in Turkish series and productions will decline, and the loss is will be great if one considers the shows that these companies will no longer produce in Turkey,” said Fatih Altaylı, a columnist at HaberTürk.

Frustrations are growing over the government’s interference in the entertainment industry. The government, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, continues to empower RTÜK to increase censorship.

Netflix has yet to release an official statement regarding “Love 101” or whether they will continue their service in Turkey despite the increasingly strict censorship laws.

In 2018 CEO Reed Hastings responded to similar speculation by saying: “We’re in Saudi Arabia. We’re in Pakistan. If there are no problems there, will we have problems in Turkey? I can’t imagine that.”

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