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MASS MEDIA AND PUBLIC OPINION

The public responsibility and controlling power of the mass media are organized for the benefit of the citizens and by protecting universal rights both through the Constitution and the regulations. The right of the individual to obtain information is under constitutional guarantee. The related articles of the Constitution envisage the freedom and the privacy of the communication. The expression and dissemination of thoughts, to be able to learn and disseminate science and art freely is also a constitutional right for the citizens of Turkey. The publication and distribution of foreign publications in Turkey are organized under the control of the law. In addition to all of these, Article 28 of the Constitution has the decree, "the press is free and cannot be censored." Again Article 29 of the Constitution is related to the right of periodical or non-periodical publications, and Article 30 is related to the protection of printing facilities, and Article 32 is related to the right of reply and rectification.

The Directorate General of Press and Information. The Directorate General of Press and Information, connected to the Prime Ministry, provides services with the objective of providing a timely, accurate and informative flow of information to the public; of engaging in promotional and informative activities. The Directorate General provides the opportunity for the public to obtain information concern- ing the activities of the government. It takes measures on the subject of strengthening these organizations by establishing relations with all kinds of mass media. It engages in activities, realizes organizations aimed at facilitating the activities of the members working in domestic and foreign publication organizations for realizing the flow of information in a more effective manner. The institution which functions as a bridge between the related private or public institutions and nongovernment organizations and between the government and the press, also has important responsibilities for promoting Turkey to the world. The Directorate General, which has a significant role in the development and strengthening of the Turkish press, makes use of its up-to-date technical equipment in implementing all these activities.

The Development of Mass Media. The milestones of historical developments are realized with important changes and transformations. Information and communications, without a doubt, are what put their stamp on the period in which we live today. The capacity to think, to express what one thinks and to be able to participate in management, gains strength with the interest shown to information and communications. In this context, the mass media is trying to meet the needs of the individual to obtain information and news with their developing technological structures. The public character of the mass media envisages informing, educating and structuring the public in the direction of all the universal values. The mass media, united around the "Professional Principles of the Press" are trying to fulfill this responsibility in Turkey today.

The first Turkish newspaper was the official Takvim-i Vekayi which was first issued on 11 November 1831. After this newspaper, which continues its publication life today with the name "Official Gazette", the Ceride-i Havadis newspaper was issued and attracted interest with its private advertisements. However, it can be said that Turkish journalism, which reflected the life of the community, started with the Tercüman-ı Ahval newspaper, which was first published in 1860. Tercüman-ı Ahval was followed by Tasvir-i Efkar. The number of periodical publications in İstanbul alone reached 113 between 1867-1878.

The "Hakimiyet-i Milliye" newspaper which was published
during the National War of Independence.

There was a period when newspapers such as Basiret, İbret, Tercüman-ı Hakikat, İkdam, Sabah, Saadet andTarik were published up until the Republic period. The İrade-i Milliye, which Atatürk initiated at the time of its establishment, and the Hakimiyet-i Milliye, which was published with the name of Ulus in the Republic period, were newspapers with effective activities during the National War of Independence. Many newspapers that were published after the National War of Independence have carried with them a tradition extending up until today. The written press appears to be the representative of a tradition exceeding one hundred years. The written press from time to time exerted its controlling power on the governments and sometimes assumed the duty of defending numerous positive developments. It can be said that a very colorful and pluralist period is being witnessed in the types and numbers of newspapers published in Turkey today along with the technological and other positive conditions.

Although radio broadcasting is not as old as the written press, it started regular activities in 1927. The developing radio broadcasting gained strength and meaning with the establishment of the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT). Today it is observed that the number of radio stations broadcasting at local and national scales are over one thousand.

In Turkey, the first television broadcast was realized in 1952. The 1970s were a period of strengthening of television broadcasting. Great advances were made after 1990 with the private channels besides the state channels. Today, there are more than 250 television channels in Turkey continuing their broadcasting including national, regional and local channels.

The Diversity of Mass Media. The development of mass media which displayed a development in parallel with the development of Turkey, created an important area of choice from the point of view of the viewer-reader-listener. Even though there is not as much interest in the written press in Turkey as in the other countries, the daily average sales reached 3.8 million in 1999. According to research studies, the number of those having a television set at home as of 1999 had reached the high rate of 95 percent. The average period of viewing television is around 4.5 hours per day. Furthermore, satellite system and cable TV networks in the large cities are gradually expanding. In parallel to the rapid increase in the number of radio stations, the radio, which renovates itself continuously both as of audience profile and program make-up, has also kept its increasing trend of rate of being listened to around 3 hours per day. Recent studies show that the 73% of the population, 15-24 age group being the majority, listens to the radio.

The prevalence of television and radio clearly shows the place of the mass media in the social structure in Turkey. The ratio of newspaper readers is also improving in parallel with improvements observed in the level of education.

News Agencies. The Turkish public became acquaint-ed with news agencies through the offices established in İstanbul by the foreign news agencies prior to the Republic. Along with the interest shown to the local press during the National War of Independence, the Anatolia News Agency was established on 6 April 1920 with the directive of Atatürk, who wanted to provide a flow of news at an international dimension. The agency is an organization which benefits from a state budget. The Directorate General of Anatolia News Agency is in Ankara and it has a very wide news network with offices in all the provinces and counties of Turkey, and at the important centers of the world including the Central Asian

The post-production studio of the Turkish News Agency that also provides a visual news service to its subscribers.

Republics. The agency has agreements with the leading international news agencies such as Reuters, AP, AFP, DPA and has subscribers in many countries. The Anatolia News Agency utilizes the latest technology in the transmission of news, such as Internet, telex, telephoto, facsimile systems and the satellite system called vertical blanking interline (VBI). The agency also provides news with photographs and images for its subscribers, has an effective radio station called the "Radyo Anadolu".

In Turkey there are many domestic and foreign private news agencies. Reuters was the first company which distributed information in an international electronic environment in Turkey. The services provided for the Turkish financial, stock and commodity markets, and by the contributions it has made to the development of these markets, have made Reuters accepted in Turkey. The most important news source for the Agence France Press, Associated Press, United Press International (UPI) and many other foreign news agencies in Turkey is the Anatolia News Agency. Furthermore, the Ankara News Agency (ANKA), Turkish News Agency (THA), Hürriyet News Agency (HHA), Milliyet News Agency (MİL-HA), the İhlas News Agency (İHA), Economic News Agency (EKA), Magazine and Actual News Agency (MAK-AJANS) and Turkish Press Agency (TÜBA) are some of the important private news agencies which have proved themselves in Turkey. İstanbul University, which was the first university in Turkey to have a news agency, started to provide news to radio stations in İstanbul and Anatolia through its "Radio News Agency" as of 1997.

Besides the news agencies, various private and public organizations, official offices, political parties, professional associations, etc. transfer news to the mass media through their own press services. These activities are realized with press conferences, press bulletins, press receptions, photograph services and private interviews with journalists.

Public Opinion Polls. Public opinion polls have started to appear on the agenda of Turkey in an intensive manner in recent years. The expansion of publication and broadcasting organizations has lead to an increase in the sensitivity to these polls. The first broad scale poll was realized in 1975 in connection with the by-elections. The polls made by teaching staff of Ankara University were published in the Milliyet newspaper.

The interest in public opinion polls, which measure the pulse of the public on various subjects, are gradually increasing.

Public opinion polls gradually accelerated after 1983. The transformation observed in the social and economic structure contributed to the development of the market, media and public opinion polls. In 1988, the Association for Marketing and Public Opinion Pollers was established. The changes in the social fabric in the 1990s increased the interest of the mass media in public opinion polls. Especially, the polls taken during the election periods are met with interest by the press and receive comprehensive coverage in the news. The election poll applied on 10,000 persons in 1991 by the Academic Media and Public Opinion Poll Group of İstanbul University, is a concrete indicator of the developments in this field. In recent years, it is known that various foreign public opinion poll organizations have established partnerships in Turkey and are seeking a place in this lively market. As a result of the concerns about the reliability and validity of the polls, some regulations were envisaged, but the public interest towards these polls brought new searches onto the agenda for the press. Especially with the thought that the political polls influence the elector, the press was confronted with time limitations in the publication of the poll conclusions as a result of the amendments made in the Political Parties and Election Law.

Reference: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey

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