Turkey's media watchdog RTÜK dishes out penalties to popular TV show, opposition programs

Turkey’s media watchdog RTÜK on Dec. 28 fined the popular TV series about religious cults “Kızıl Goncalar” (Crimson Buds) and various opposition channels for violating “national and spiritual values” and “broadcasting principles.” 

Frame from the "Kızıl Goncalar" (Crimson Buds) series

Duvar English

Turkish government’s media watchdog Radio and Television High Council (RTÜK) on Dec. 28 penalized ten networks for 16 counts of violations during its last weekly meeting of the year.

On the Council’s agenda was the popular TV series “Kızıl Goncalar” (Red Buds), which received a two-episode ban and a fine. Opposition channels such as Fox TV, Halk TV, SZC, Tele 1, and KRT also incurred penalties for statements violating “Turkish values” and “broadcasting principles” during live programming. 

The “Kızıl Goncalar” series features a mother and daughter trying to flee a fictional religious cult. The show has garnered popularity since its recent premiere and received backlash for misrepresenting religious organizations. 

RTÜK investigated the series during its weekly meeting upon receiving over 31,000 complaints. The Council found that the show violated “broadcasting principles” for airing certain dialogues that used adjectives for pious characters unbecoming of Islam and Muslims, and some scenes insulting to segments of society with religious sensitivities. 

The Council ruled that the broadcaster Fox TV violated Article 8 of the Law on Radio and Television Establishments which states, “Broadcast services,... cannot violate the society’s national and spiritual values, general morality, or the protection of family principle.”

The show faced other obstacles in production upon criticism from religious organizations. On Dec. 25, journalist Birsen Altuntaş reported that Turkey’s Family and Social Services and Culture Ministries revoked filming permits for several of the historical locations of the series, forcing the production team to relocate. 

Oppositional channel Tele 1 was among the penalized networks for three of its programs. The Council fined the channel for remarks during the live discussion program “Forum Weekend” that described conservatives as “hypocrites.”

Another Tele 1 show “Docket Special” was penalized for columnist Nedim Şener’s remarks describing Turkey as an “epicenter of the drug trade” and “dirty money hub” while discussing the social media influencers’ money laundering scandal. 

The “Public Arena” program on the oppositional Halk TV was penalized as the Council found host İrfan Değirmenci’s remarks “I am sure the Gen-Z LGBT+ watching me are very happy now, and not feeling alone” to violate national and spiritual values.  

“Money Politics” on SZC was penalized for host Ebru Baki’s criticism of Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) employees. The KRT Network incurred fines for criticizing Health and Social Security Ministers in the “Mediatherapy with Zafer Arapkirli” program.

RTÜK also fined online streaming platform Netflix for the brothel scenes in the Spanish show “Pieles,” and removed the show from the Turkish catalog.  

The penalties came in addition to the 570 fines RTÜK issued on several broadcasters in 2023 as stated by Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy.