OBG talks to Nuri Çolakoğlu, President, Doğan Media International

Nuri Çolakoğlu, President, Doğan Media International

Interview: Nuri Çolakoğlu

How has Turkey’s media sector helped to strengthen trade ties with new markets?

NURI ÇOLAKOĞLU: The soft power created by Turkish drama series is a natural development of the evolution of the country’s media sector. The first breakthrough came in 1992, when private channels were launched and more dynamic programming emerged. The real turning point came in 1997-98, when competition over market share intensified among the four leading channels – Show TV, Kanal D, ATV and Star. This led to an improvement in the quality of local dramas, reaching a zenith with historical series such as “Muhteflem Yüzy›l”, a hugely popular soap opera based on the life of Suleiman the Magnificent. Like many other Turkish series, the show has been broadcast across Eastern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, improving the country’s image internationally and reinforcing its status as a major entertainment producer.

Perhaps most importantly, Turkey’s soft power has brought benefits to the domestic economy. Trade and investment relationships, particularly with the Gulf states, have flourished as a result of increased interest in Turkey generated by our captivating media content. Another positive effect has been observed in the tourism sector, which has seen a dramatic increase in the number of Middle Eastern visitors, many of who come on “television pilgrimages” to visit sites where our more famous programmes were filmed.

To what extent have changing cultural and competitive dynamics affected the news coverage?

ÇOLAKOĞLU: Until the early 2000s, reckless spending by media moguls, who sought to benefit from the muscle of their resources, meant an extravagant era in the television sector. The 2001 crisis, however, was a major turning point as the sector was completely reorganised. Changes in ownership triggered new relationships between the media and the government. While newspapers remained focused on in-depth coverage of political and economic events, TV channels changed their programmes significantly, changing from opinion-shapers to entertainment providers. Today, political talk shows are still popular and televised debates are freely organised on a variety of topics. But they are not as passionate as they used to be, people look to TV for a soothing effect rather than information, and TV stations have adapted by being more politically neutral.

How would you describe the current state of media freedoms in Turkey?

ÇOLAKOĞLU: The government still attempts to interfere with programming from time to time and some journalists have been imprisoned for their ideas. Such archaic practices are not only unacceptable, but make no sense politically. The media is no longer as influential as it used to be, as young people increasingly turn away from politics and discard traditional media outlets. As a result, youth no longer represent a threat to the political establishment, and the media no longer has the power to influence them. On the other hand, there have been many improvements and the media has acquired more freedom in the past decades.

How is Turkish media and advertising adapting to major technological shifts in the business?

ÇOLAKOĞLU: Over the past decade, technology has considerably influenced how we consume information. Audiences are no longer under time or geographical constraints and can access content at anytime, anywhere. Thus, I believe newspapers and scheduled TV will become increasingly outdated and replaced by more flexible formats. The internet has become the preferred platform for individuals to consume, process and share information. To successfully adapt to these new preferences, media firms will have to update their marketing strategies and offer new services that combine quality programming with a more interactive experience. The greatest challenge for Turkish media and advertising in the coming years will be to invest heavily enough in new technologies to innovate.

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The Report: Turkey 2013

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