Independent media outlets have been one of the most contested topics in Turkey in recent years. Although they still can’t be compared to their mainstream counterparts in terms of the numbers of reach and the scope of news coverage due to their access to limited revenue sources and the political and economic constraints they are constantly facing, they constitute a significant place in the current journalistic production in Turkey. The used income models, political orientations and the legitimacy of the independent broadcasters have been questioned as a part of the government’s consolidated control over the news media for some time now. Most recently, independent media organizations have been subject to heavy criticism and lynching campaigns regarding their methods of financing, even fostering political controversy as authorities signalled that new regulation should be on the way.
Since we aim to contribute to the field of media studies and the development of independent media in Turkey, we wanted to see this study as an effort to bring about a meaningful contribution to the discussions regarding these platforms. We believe that all these criticisms aside, what distinguishes these independent media organizations from the common practices of media lies in their ability to be more inclusive and also open towards differences. For this reason, we wanted to build our research not on their organizational structures but rather on their strive towards a more representative, pluralistic and democratic media.
In this regard we chose 8 Turkish news organizations and 2 Turkish journalists that claim to be independent YouTube broadcasters, and examined their last 30 news programs where at least one guest speaker was present, in terms of the program format, moderators, profile of the guests, their professions and the political parties represented. Here are our main findings:
- In terms of the subjects being discussed with guest speakers, politics is leading followed by gender, culture/art and health.
- Among the platforms examined, the YouTube channels of Cüneyt Özdemir and Nevşin Mengü, two individual broadcasters showed a noticeably higher performance than corporate actors when it comes to average viewership.
- Of the 403 guest speakers seen in 300 videos, 313 were men whereas only 90 were women. In the independent media, male guests are predominantly preferred.
- Among the selected outlets, Medyascope TV was the one with the highest female guest speaker percentage , followed by Artı TV, Dokuz8Haber and Daktilo1984. BizimTV, Bidebunuizle and Cüneyt Özdemir scored the least. However, no correlation can be found at this point between a higher choice of female guests and the gender of the program moderator or the channel owner.
- Among the 58 politicians that were invited as guests to the total of 300 programs, only one politician was affiliated with the ruling Justice and Development Party. The remaining 57 guests are from the opposition parties. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) and People’s Democratic Party (HDP) were the most represented.
- In our analysis we identified guests from 28 different professions. While academics stand out as the most preferred professional group, journalists, politicians, civil society representatives and artists also had a considerable place among all the guest speakers.