BBC suspends deal with NTV after Turkish TV censors broadcast

By Michael Daventry

The BBC dramatically suspended its deal with its Turkish broadcast partner NTV tonight after it failed to show an item on media censorship produced by the World Service’s Turkish section.

The item on the flagship Dünya Gündemi programme, which was filed by BBC Turkish correspondents Selin Girit and Göktay Koraltan, covered the atmosphere of media censorship in Turkey and included a candid interview with NTV director Ahmet Yeşiltepe.

It should have been broadcast on the channel at 7.30pm Turkish time on Friday evening but was replaced seemingly at the last minute by a repeat of a sports bulletin that was shown twenty minutes earlier.

In a statement to Londra Gazete, Peter Horrocks, World Service director, said: “The BBC is suspending its partnership with NTV in Turkey with immediate effect following NTV’s decision not to transmit the BBC programme Dunya Gundemi [World Agenda] today.

“Any interference in BBC broadcasting is totally unacceptable and at a time of considerable international concern about the situation in Turkey the BBC’s impartial service to audiences is vital.”

“Sometimes we too lose our balance,” Mr Yeşiltepe says in the BBC Turkish report, which was released in full on BBC Turkish’s website. “Perhaps we spend too much time on the government and do not extend [sufficient airtime] to the opposition.

“I agree with criticism that the mainstream media have been insufficient, that they were late, that their broadcasts were not broad enough and that they did not extend a microphone to different sections [of society].”

He adds in the report: “I do believe the Gezi incidents are an important turning point [for the media] and I believe we have learned a lesson.”

NTV’s sudden removal of the item from comes barely a week after a strongly worded statement by the BBC’s Global News Director Peter Horrocks, who claimed the BBC had “complete editorial independence over its programmes broadcast by NTV in Turkey” and had “sought and received assurances from NTV that BBC programming would continue to be broadcast in full and without interference.”

Sources at the BBC confirmed to Londra Gazete they regarded themselves as being censored by NTV and that Friday night was not the first time the flagship Dünya Gündemi programme was pulled at the last minute.

As a World Service broadcast partner, NTV pays the BBC for the Turkish section’s output, which also includes some web-based journalism. A cancellation of this contract with NTV would put at risk the jobs of as many as six broadcast journalists who work on Dünya Gündemi.

Turkish domestic media coverage of the Gezi Park protests and their aftermath has been the subject of widespread criticism in the country, with protesters gathering outside television broadcast centres, including those of NTV, to demonstrate against their allegedly partial coverage.

Originally published in Londra Gazete, Friday 14 June 2013