New rules and regulations: A draft law will restructure media oversight

The media and advertising industry in Turkey has been undergoing some important regulatory changes in recent times, and this process is likely to continue in the coming year. On the one hand, the state has become more involved in the measurement of media effectiveness, thanks to an expanded role for the radio and TV authority. On the other hand, 2013 will also likely see a new draft consumer law make its way onto the books which may ease the ability of companies to engage in methods such as comparative advertising; other new measures aim to strengthen the hand of the advertising regulatory authorities.

Ratings & Results

Following the discovery of fraud at the main ratings agency in Turkey in late 2011, a new set of regulations was introduced for measuring advertising effectiveness. This gave a much more hands-on role to the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK). This body, comprised of nine members elected by parliament, has traditionally been the broadcast sector watchdog and supervisor (see overview).

According to the new regulations, the measurement firm TNS will determine ratings, under a contract with the Television Audience Research Committee (TIAK). TIAK has also contracted Marmara University (MU) in Istanbul to carry out an audit of the measurement process as an independent, outside body. Thus, the ratings will initially be determined by TNS, then checked by MU, and then finally submitted to TIAK.

Supporters argue that this multi-tiered system should provide a strong safeguard against the sort of fraud uncovered in the previous arrangement. Critics, however, argue that RTÜK’s involvement opens the door to potential state influence over the statistics.

The new rules also provide for a different method of measuring audience numbers. Previously, only towns with populations over 20,000 were considered for assessment; now, the qualifying population level has been reduced to 5000. This means a more accurate portrait, taking into account more rural audiences. However, critics also note that this will make the gathering of information a lot more expensive and potentially a lot more unwieldy, given the vastly increased number of towns to be sampled. Auditing such a widespread survey is also a much bigger task. Nonetheless, the system may produce a much more nuanced picture of Turkish audience behaviour in consequence, even if statisticians now have a challenge comparing figures from before and after the change, which came into force on September 17, 2012.

Consumer Codes

A second important likely legislative development will be a new draft consumer law. Since 2003, the Consumer Protection Law 4822 has been in force in Turkey, which establishes the Board of Advertising to ensure that the provisions of the law are followed in the advertising sector. Under the provisions of the new draft law, this board will undergo several changes in its composition and remit.

First, the number of members will fall from 29 to 11, drawn from sector representatives, academics, public officials, representatives from consumer organisations and professional chambers. If the rules as drafted in early 2013 become law, the unilateral authority to order temporary bans on advertisements will be given to the board chairman. Under the changes, the board may also examine not only commercial ads, but also commercial practices, to see if they are unfair. The law also requires broadcast channels to air at least 10 minutes a week of consumer education programmes. Finally, the law raises the limit on fines imposed by the board from TL83,000 (€35,839) to TL200,000 (€86,360).

The draft law thus strengthens the consumer protection aspects of the code, with an eye to bringing Turkish law in this area into line with EU standards. This effort forms part of the EU accession process, which continues to progress on a regulatory level despite a slowdown on the political front. At the same time, the draft law may also see a change in the rules governing competitive advertising. The final law will likely include safeguards empowering the board to protect consumers from cases of misleading advertising of this sort.

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The Report: Turkey 2013

Media & Advertising chapter from The Report: Turkey 2013

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