Streaming platforms to pay 1.5 percent of annual revenue to Turkey’s media watchdog

In yet another move tightening its grip on digital media, Turkey’s broadcasting and streaming regulator, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), has made it compulsory for online streaming platforms operating in the country to pay 1.5 percent of their annual net revenue to the council, Turkish Minute reported.

According to a new regulation published in the Official Gazette on Wednesday, media platforms offering their services on the internet and cable and satellite systems and via paid subscription will pay 1.5 percent of their annual net revenue to RTÜK.

The payments will be made by July of the following year. If the platforms fail to make the payments on time, they will be levied sanctions that include a fine and even a suspension of their services.

The media platforms will have to present all the documents to RTÜK regarding their annual sales upon the council’s demand within a period of 15 days. If they request extra time before the end of the 15-day period, they will be given another 15 days to submit the relevant paperwork showing their annual sales and profits.

According to JustWatch, a website that provides information on the availability of films and TV shows on various legal streaming platforms, local streaming platform BluTV was the most widespread platform used in Turkey in the fourth quarter of 2023, dominating 38 percent of the market. It was followed by Netflix with 27 percent, Amazon Prime Video with 19 percent and Disney+ with 7 percent.

It is not yet known how the new requirement will affect the subscription fees of these platforms, which have been operating under the supervision of RTÜK since 2019.

In a controversial move in August 2019, Turkey granted RTÜK sweeping oversight over all online content, including streaming platforms and online news outlets, in a move that raised concerns about possible censorship.

A new regulation stipulated that content providers secure a new license to continue operating in Turkey and comply with RTÜK guidelines.

If they fail to respect the guidelines, they will be given 30 days to change their content or face having their licenses suspended for three months or possibly canceled.

Critics said the move would allow the government to tighten its grip on digital media in addition to mainstream media, which is largely owned or controlled by supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling party.

Following the move, various streaming platforms including Netflix and Amazon Prime applied for and received licenses to continue operating in Turkey under the new online broadcasting rules.

Some outlets refused to obtain licenses, which they said would amount to censorship. German broadcaster Deutsche Welle’s (DW) Turkish edition along with the Turkish edition of the US state-owned international multimedia broadcaster Voice of America (VOA) were blocked in June 2022 when they refused to obtain broadcasting licenses. The outlets described RTÜK’s demand as an attempt at censorship and at an expansion of the Turkish government’s control of domestic media to foreign outlets, which are the only source of free and independent journalism for some people in Turkey, where the majority of the media is controlled by the government.

These outlets were asked to get a broadcasting license by RTÜK in February 2022 due to their video content.

RTÜK is a controversial agency that is accused of contributing to increasing censorship in the country by imposing punitive and disproportionate sanctions on independent television and radio stations critical of the Turkish government.

According to a report from the US-based nonprofit Freedom House last October, Turkey is ranked among the “not free” countries concerning online freedoms.

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