One of the most valuable items Turkey can export are Turkish soap operas. They are even easier to export than tomatoes. While Turkish tomatoes are being sent back to Turkey from Russia due to their poor quality, Turkish soap operas somehow manage to get in. Turkish soap operas are being watched in the Arab world, the Middle East, the Balkans, Russia and South America. Turkish actors and actresses are being invited abroad, and the actors are treated like stars. 

One of the main producers of the soap opera sector, İzzet Pinto, the head of Global Agency, said that revenue from the Turkish industry reached 350 million dollars per year. Producers claim this makes Turkey the second-biggest soap opera exporter after the U.S. It seems to be one of the sectors that is not affected by the recent economic shrinkage. From hundreds of people working on the sets, the screenplay writers, make-up artists to actor’s coaches, it is a huge job-providing sector. 

However, the Turkish soap opera sector has again become the target of the Turkish president, Mr. Erdoğan. He stated again that he is disturbed by some of the Turkish soap operas. We know that Mr. Erdoğan is extra sensitive about how the Ottoman sultans are depicted. A few years ago, he complained that Ottoman sultans were being portrayed as men who were only dealing matters of love within their palaces. However, according to Erdoğan, this was not historically accurate. He claimed that most sultans spent their lives fighting in the battle fields, and this is how they should be depicted. At one point, Turkish TV channels were flooded with series about several different periods of the Ottoman Empire. Now, they are kind of extinct. One exception is the latest Netflix production, Rise of the Ottomans. 

These days, the popular Turkish soap operas are instead about modern life and the complex relationships that arise from modern life. One of the most-watched Turkish soap operas is the show Forbidden Apple, which airs on Fox. It is about the relationship between two twin sisters and a high-society family. Another popular series is Babylon, which runs on Star TV. Babylon tells us the story behind a Ponzi scheme through a professor expelled from university due to a presidential decree. 

In a meeting between Mr Erdoğan and his party’s MPs, some MPs voiced their concerns about Turkish soap operas that they found to be not suitable for Turkish values and culture. According to the reports, Mr. Erdoğan agreed with the MPs and told them he was disturbed as well.

When the President voices a concern about a matter, a new decree or law usually follows. Or sometimes, people close to Erdoğan contact the TV channels that air such soap operas and voice their concerns directly to the network owners. Then, the networks ask producers to change the theme or they just simply stop airing the show. This is pretty much how the media business is run in Turkey. 

One thing that makes Turkish soap opera sector lucky these days is the fact that it is highly likely that the President is far too busy to think about new laws and regulations. In an odd way, the chaos in Syria might be saving Turkish soap operas.