State-run TRT denies allocating majority of airtime to ruling AKP

Turkey’s main opposition CHP has met with the director general of the state-run broadcaster TRT, Mehmet Zahid Sobacı, to discuss the disproportionate airtimes the channel allocates to the ruling AKP and opposition parties. Sobacı denied the party's analysis and deemed it inaccurate.

CHP deputy chair Gökhan Günaydın speaks with journalists after the meeting at TRT's Ankara headquarters.

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Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) on Feb. 29 met the state-run broadcaster TRT’s director general Mehmet Zahid Sobacı in Ankara to discuss their complaints about the channel’s preferential treatment to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its allies. 

The director stated that the channel believed the airtime report that drew criticism recently was inaccurate. They were individual and unofficial analyses by the CHP’s member of the media watchdog Radio and Television High Council (RTÜK), he added.

“I would not want to bring the TRT into a discussion where the airtimes are analyzed without a clear scientific methodology,” the director said. 

Sobacı suggested that comparing the total airtimes for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and CHP leader Özgür Özel would be misleading. He believed that Erdoğan’s appearances as president and as the leader of the AKP should be disaggregated for an accurate analysis. 

In response, the CHP urged the state-run channel to implement an official tally system wherein hours allocated to each political party were transparently published each month. Sobacı said the TRT would consider the suggestion. 

CHP deputy chair Gökhan Günaydın added that RTÜK and the Supreme Election Council (YSK) were in charge of ensuring TRT’s equal treatment to all political parties. “It is clear to us that the RTÜK will not undertake its responsibility, from the standing of its chair,” complained Günaydın. 

The YSK on Jan. 20 published a notice for the upcoming local elections, that required “equitable time sharing for political parties in broadcasting channels.” The CHP representation asked TRT to abide by the notice.

“We will surely stop an institution that was established with our tax liras to act as if it is the government’s mouthpiece,” Günaydın concluded. 

The broadcaster’s preferential treatment had drawn criticism in the previous weeks as the March 31 local elections approach and airtime becomes critical for party candidates. 

TRT News channel allocated a mere 0 minutes to Istanbul, Ankara, and İzmir mayoral candidates from the CHP over a two-day period. Meanwhile, the channel presented 28 news regarding AKP’s candidates for these provinces in those days, according to reporting by the daily BirGün.