Media Studies: Turkey ‘Media Literacy’ Why it is So Critical to Democratisation Process in Turkey

Media Studies: Turkey ‘Media Literacy’ Why it is So Critical to Democratisation Process in Turkey

Media Studies: Turkey

‘Media Literacy’
Why it is So Critical to Democratisation Process in Turkey
Yasemin İnceoğlu* İnci Çınarlı**
Media Studies is an emerging discipline in Asia and is of enormous significance at a time when many of the counties in this region which is witnessing struggles, both within the state apparatus and without to establish enduring democratic institutions and processes. We begin a section on Media Studies that will explore new themes in the area. This article, the first of a series of commentaries by two media scholars from Galatasaray University, is on the critical relevance of encouraging media literacy in Turkey. *Professor, Department of Journalism, Faculty of Communication, Galatasaray University, Turkey. Email: yinceoglu@gsu.edu.tr **Assistant Professor, Department of Public Relations, Faculty of Communication, Galatasaray University, Turkey Email: icinarli@gsu.edu.tr ‘Media literacy’ as an almost unknown topic in Turkish society and in media studies. Since critical thinking and self-expression are essential skills for democracy, all citizens need to acquire the ability to decode, analyse and produce media messages. To this end, through a series of articles are discussed the changes in the Turkish media under globalization in the post-1980s— the change of media ownership structure and most striking ethical issues in Turkish media. The incomplete democratisation process in society and its reflection on the media will be evaluated. *Professor, Department of Journalism, Faculty of Communication, Galatasaray University, Turkey. yinceoglu@gsu.edu.tr **Assistant Professor, Department of Public Relations, Faculty of Communication, Galatasaray University, Turkey Email: icinarli@gsu.edu.tr Turkey, a secular state with a population of 99 per cent Muslims is of strategic importance with its geopolitical location on an intersection point of Asia, Europe and Africa. It is a member of a number of international organizations such as UN, NATO, Council of Europe, OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe), OIC (Organization of Islamic Conferences) and BSEC (Black Sea Economic Cooperation). It has had one party rule from 1923 to multi-party politics after 1950 and to the present democratization process. Following 1999, the year of its official candidature to the European Union, Turkey is currently a country at the doorstep of EU although debates on status of democratization, human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country are ongoing.

Global Information Exchange or Global Dependency?
The break of the parliamentary regime, for the third time in 20 years, by the 1980 coup d’état and the constitution of 1982 drafted and adopted during the military rule, was a turning point in Turkish media marking the beginning of depoliticisation period under the dominance of neo-liberalism. Furthermore, in 1983 when Turgut Ozal became Prime Minister, one of his liberal politic attempts was to start private broadcasting in 1990 even before the ‘Law on the Establishment of Radio and Television Enterprises and Their Broadcasts, Law No.3984 of 20 April 1994’ was passed. Subsequently, the state monopoly of the Turkish Television and Radio Corporation (TRT) was demolished and private radio stations and TV channels were ‘on-air’.

Ozal’s aim was the privatization of the state monopoly on broadcasting to expedite Turkey’s economic and cultural integration into the globalization process, which he described as ‘synchronization with the civilized world’. Thus, while the liberalization of the broadcasting system was carried out through deregulation in much of the Western world, Turkey took a short cut through what might be called delegalization.[1]

On one hand, with the rise of globalisation, the structure of media ownership in Turkey changed under the pressure of new media technologies and commerce. The traditional media owners totally disappeared from the sector. the new media moguls have started to use their newspapers and TV channels for their own benefits focusing on ‘power’ and ‘profit’. CEOs of these corporations were working for these moguls shared the same benefits since they mostly came from the elite class. This metamorphosis led to sensationalism, manipulation, disinformation and misinformation in the news media, for the very best interest of the media conglomerates instead of citizens’ interest.

On the other hand the current Turkish media, in particular popular TV has a very big influence on the daily life of citizens. According to a study by UNESCO in 2005, Turkey is the second country in the world watching TV on an average 3.5 hours per day. Turkey has directly passed to the audio-visual culture without completing the transition process from the oral to the written culture. As a result, the circulation of newspapers is quite low (4-4.5 million per day) for a population of 75 million. Even though the population of the country has doubled since 1960, this rate has stood still. Although more than 300 private TV stations (24 of them are nation-wide), more than 1000 private radio stations and 700 newspapers exist,[2] this does not signify that there is pluralism within the media. There are mainly four big groups controlling the mainstream media, which do not give any chance for local ones to survive. Furthermore, due to joint ventures with global giants such as AOL-Time Warner and NBC Universal, as an inevitable consequence of the globalisation has been a dependency on global news agencies. As a matter of fact global information exchange is a one-way unbalanced flow of information from the North to the South. Consequently 83.5 per cent of foreign news is AP, AFP, Reuter and UPI sourced and yet the proportion of foreign news by interior source is 17.5 per cent. Turkish media is over-dependent on technology and importation is required to replace by investing on qualified human resources and productivity.[3]

Key Element for Democratisation
Albeit the absence of a clear and commonly agreed definition of ‘media literacy’, it can be referred to as the ability to critically consume and create media by which individuals will be able to decode the complex and constructed messages they receive. Media literacy skills can help one understand not only the surface content of media messages but also the deeper and more important meanings beneath the surface.

Media literacy education seeks to give the media consumer greater freedom by teaching them to analyse, access, evaluate and produce media.[4] Literate individuals have the ability to use literacy tools and records to their advantage including the ability to confront and resist media messages that work against their interests.[5]

Turkish citizens are predictably in need of critical approach in such above media environment. However, they do not have knowledge about the new media ownership structure, the close relationships between the media-politics-business world and the deconstruction of the messages.

Even though Ethical Codes of Conduct of the Turkish Press Council (1996) and the Declaration of Journalists’ Rights and Responsibilities (1998) of Turkish Journalism Association exist, there is a lack of self-control in the Turkish media. Among the most striking ethical issues, the violation of individual rights, objectivity, use of the hidden camera can be cited. The media frequently confront serious problems as well while debating taboo subjects such as Kurdish and military issues.

Since Turkey is still a developing country with a high degree of dependency on the global media, Turkish citizens’ increasing level of critical thinking and self-expression through the media literacy would be the core element to expand the culture of democracy.

The steps made in recent days by The Turkish Ministry of National Education and Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) for introducing media education into the high school curriculum are encouraging efforts toward a “media literate society” and a robust democracy.

Notes ——————————————————————————– [1] Haluk Şahin and Asu Aksoy, “Global Media and Cultural Identity in Turkey”, Journal of Communication, Spring 1993:2, 31-41. [2] “Country Profile: Turkey”, 24 January 2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/1022222.stm (03.03.2006). and Turkey Interactive CD-ROM, http://www.byegm.gov.tr/YAYINLARIMIZ/ kitaplar/turkey2005/content/english/434-435.htm : 434-435, (20.02.2006) [3] Yasemin Inceoğlu, Uluslararası Medya. (Istanbul: Der Yayınları, 2004): 325. [4] New Mexico Media Literacy Project”, 2001, http://www.nolimitsnebraska.com/pdfs/resources/4Media%20Literacy.pdf, (12.02.2006) 5 Gretchen Schwarz, “Obstacles, Challenges and Potential: Envisioning the Future”, Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education. April 2005:104, 239. References Country Profile: Turkey”, 24 January 2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/1022222.stm(03.03.2006). Inceoğlu, Yasemin, Uluslararası Medya, Istanbul: Der Yayınları, 2004. “New Mexico Media Literacy Project”, 2001, http://www.nolimitsnebraska.com/pdfs/resources/4Media%20Literacy.pdf(12.02.2006). Schwarz Gretchen, “Obstacles, Challenges and Potential: Envisioning the Future”, Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education. April 2005:104. Şahin Haluk and Aksoy Asu. “Global Media and Cultural Identity in Turkey”, Journal of Communication, Spring 1993:2. Turkey Interactive CD-ROM, http://www.byegm.gov.tr/YAYINLARIMIZ/ kitaplar/turkey2005/content/english/434-435.htm (20.02.2006).

02.09.2007

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