Mainstream Media in Crisis: How can we restore trust in the media sector?

Mainstream Media in Crisis: How can we restore trust in the media sector?
European sentiment in Turkey among opinion-shapers and youth leaders

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The European Neighbourhood Council (ENC) in cooperation with Eskişehir European Union Association (Eskişehir, Turkey) and with the support of the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Turkey, Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) Turkey and the Economic Development Foundation (IKV), organised a lecture entitled “Mainstream Media in Crisis: How can we restore trust in the media sector?, which took place on the 17th of February 2020 at Eskişehir European Union Association. 

The event is part of a series of lectures organised in Turkey by ENC in cooperation with local academic institutions and is the 2nd phase of a project entitled “Future values training: European sentiment in Turkey among opinion-shapers and youth leaders 2019-2020”. The project is an extension of an existing ENC training and public lecture programme, in which twelve Turkish opinion shapers successfully underwent trainings and meeting sessions in Brussels, and are currently delivering each of them a university lecture across Turkey to student audiences and academics. The project is rooted in the growing need to exchange ideas with Turkish public intellectuals, journalists, youth leaders and influential civil society members concerning Europe’s innovative policies and progressive thematic priority areas related to their own work. Thematic priority areas are defined as privacy/technology, renewable energy, foreign-policy, free media, trade, civil society (good-governance/efficient-governance/feedback-governance), European peace theory/conflict-resolution, migration/demographics, anti-corruption, the-importance-of-institutions; and how each of these thematic priority areas relate to Turkey (EU-Turkey) and the EU’s Global Strategy (GS) and the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).

Dr. Erhan Akdemir, Director of Eskişehir European Union Association chaired the lecture and opened the floor for discussion. Dr. Ronald Meinardus, Project Director at FNF Turkey delivered the keynote speech by sharing his views on the existing reality of press and media. He stressed the fact that liberalism needs free and strong media to thrive, and while the EU has had a suitable framework for its development, now both the EU integration and media freedom are challenged. Digitalisation has contributed in changing the business model. In fact, he underlined that we are now in a search of a new model which leads to the transition to online platforms, subscriptions and payments. Global decline in press freedom remains an obstacle to responsible media, but also as a threat for democracy. According to Freedom House Index 7 of 27 EU-members are “partly free” while according to Reporters without Borders ranks, Turkey is on 157 place (out of 180), Germany on 13th and the United States are on the 48th. He concluded by pointing at the fact that the borders between the truth and the untruth remain blurred thus describing the existing reality. Ms. Asli Ece Kocak – Media and Law Studies Association Editor and Project Coordinator – has delivered a lecture which encompassed an overview of how EU-Turkey relations are depicted in European and Turkish media but also discussed various EU funding opportunities for projects which could allow journalists to fund their reporting and ultimately, become self-employed.

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She started her presentation by underlining that one of the most serious problems regarding press freedom in Turkey but also around the world is media ownership. Changing forms of ownership and management in mainstream media outlets affect the independence and credibility of press to a great degree thus decreasing trust in media on a world scale. While owners of Turkish newspapers and TV channels used to be journalists, they are now mostly construction conglomerates. The greatest impact these changes have on the Turkish media scene is the decline and erosion of mainstream media. As a result of this erosion, the financial capacity, reputation, credibility, and quality of media outlets decline as well. Despite its rather pejorative connotations in today’s conjuncture, mainstream media is the headstone of the sector because it offers the widest financial resources while making it possible to have inter-generational experience sharing among journalists. Eradication of mainstream media ends up decreasing the quality of journalism and reporting since these media outlets also function as “journalism schools,” even more so than university departments. The decline of mainstream media outlets is also the number one reason of increasing unemployment in the media sector. Not being able to find work in the field therefore forces journalists to launch their own news portals and web sites.

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The second lecture is scheduled to take place at Bursa Uludağ University on the 25th of February 2020 and will focus on “Migration Management: Turkey’s Approach and Impact on EU Relations” with guest speaker Dr. Fulya Memişoğlu, Assistant Professor at the Department of International Relations, Yıldız Technical University.