Turkey to ease media ownership rules

Turkey is to change the amount foreign companies are allowed to invest in local media companies. The rules currently in place are to be relaxed as part of Turkey’s harmonisation towards EU membership.

Reports out of Turkey suggest that the country’s Radio & Television Supreme Council (RTUK) will lift the current 25% limit to 50%. The government has reviewed a draft bill, prepared by the RTUK and sent to the Prime Ministry in January 2008, as part of its efforts to harmonize Turkish legislation with that of the EU.

Today’s Zaman, a Turkish newspaper, says the government is committed to a raft of reforms, of which changes in media ownership by non-Turkish investors is part.

According to the draft RTUK bill, foreigners will be allowed to have shares in at most two private radio and two private TV stations. Foreign capital ownership in the first radio and television stations owned will not be more than 50% of the paid capital, while it will not be more than 25% for the subsequent radio and television stations owned by foreign capital. Foreign investors will not be allowed to have shares in local radio and TV stations, which will save these institutions from a monopoly of foreign capital.

Nevertheless, the report says restrictions on foreign capital in ownership of local radio and TV stations could be changed with later amendments, as noted by the draft bill. In line with the Turkish Commercial Law, permission for radio and TV broadcasts will only be granted to limited companies established with the aim of communication, education, culture and arts services. Any such company will be allowed to establish one radio station and one TV station. In a radio or TV station that has annual ratings of more than 20% according to the rankings of the RTUK, a real person or a legal entity or capital group will not be allowed to have shares of more than 50%.

If the annual ratings of a radio or TV station with more than 50% of its shares owned by a real person, legal entity or capital group exceeds 20%, it will lower its shares to less than 50% by offering them to the public or selling some of them within 90 days after being notified by the RTUK. If the annual ratings exceed 20% due to ownership of shares in more than one radio or TV station, shares will have to be sold to lower ownership of shares to less than 50%. If this rule is violated, broadcasting permission granted to that TV or radio station will be cancelled, says the draft bill.