Netflix has applied for a licence to continue operating in Turkey under new online broadcasting rules that have raised fears over potential censorship.
Turkey last month granted its radio and television watchdog sweeping oversight over all online content, including streaming platforms and news outlets, a move that raised concerns that the state was tightening its control over the media. The new license conditions include paying the government 0.5 per cent of revenue generated in the countryy.
“We’re applying for a local licence — a requirement for streaming services in Turkey,” a Netflix spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter. “Our loyal Turkish fan base — 1.5 million members and growing — values both the diversity of titles on Netflix and local storytelling. It’s why we’re investing more in Turkish programmes and also discussing with the regulator how to further strengthen our parental controls. Our goal is to protect children from content that may be inappropriate for their age, while ensuring our members can continue to watch the shows and films of their choice.”
Ebubekir Sahin, president of Turkey’s television watchdog RTUK, announced Netflix’s application on September 9th, and tweeted that over 600 institutions, including local streaming platforms Puhu TV and Blu TV, had also applied for licences.
It is currently unknown if Amazon has also applied for a new licence for its Prime Video streaming service in the country.
Netflix serves some 1.5 million subscribers in Turkey, currently reaching just 10 per cent of the country’s broadband households, making the Turkish market a lucrative source of new subscribers.
Turkey’s new regulation stipulates that content providers should get a renewed licence to continue operating in Turkey, and comply with RTUK guidelines. If they don’t respect the guidelines, they will be given 30 days to change their content, or face having their licences suspended for three months and then potentially axed altogether.
Critics have said the move will allow the government to tighten its grip on Turkish media, which is largely owned or controlled by supporters of President Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK Party.