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Info Turkey closes 11 Dogan channels - 31-October-2008, 15:30

Turkey closes 11 Dogan channels

Turkey's TV regulator has reportedly closed 11 channels being broadcast on the Dogan Group's digital TV system.

BBC Monitoring, in a Oct 30 report, states that Turkey's Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTUK) president, Zahid Akman, decided to close down 11 channels belonging to the Dogan Media Corporation's D-Smart, along with several other channels, for failing to acquire the necessary broadcasting licenses.

Saban Sevinc, an RTUK member who voted against the closures, said RTUK had ignored license requests from these channels for two years and that the decision was linked to the Deniz Feneri affair (which alleges that a German fraud case involving Deniz Feneri (and the Lighthouse charity), has been mounted in retaliation for an investigation into Ergenekon, an alleged criminal network accused of plotting to overthrow the government). "Akman deliberately left the applications pending so that he could have leverage over the channel's owner," Sevinc told the Turkish Daily News (TDN).

A lawyer for D-Smart, which is a digital television provider, said RTUK was eschewing its responsibilities, having denied them an explanation about the license applications while continuing to ignore both the license requests and the unlicensed broadcasts.

As part of the board's decision, RTUK will send a criminal complaint against the channels and their managers to the Prosecutor's Office. Every television or radio station must acquire RTUK permission to broadcast.

Hurriyet editor-in-chief Ertugrul Ozkok noted the suspicious nature of the RTUK decision and pointed out a recent frequency change by Turksat. Turksat is responsible for satellite broadcasting and recently set about rearranging the order of television channels, burying Dogan Media Corporation's flagship Channel D at 41st in line, says the report.

"Do you think these two developments are coincidental?" asked Ozkok in his article, according to the BBC Monitoring report. Sevinc said RTUK members from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) have almost completed their complaint against Akman in the administrative courts. "Akman's commercial activities are a reason for the automatic abrogation of his post. We will apply to the court in a few days to reverse the decision that Akman can stay in office," Sevinc said.

Reportedly, CHP members of RTUK tried to remove Akman from his post by a board vote, but the members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on the board turned them down. RTUK presidents cannot have commercial activities or their presidency becomes automatically void.

A German court convicted three Turkish men last month accused of funnelling $26 million in charitable contributions raised by Deniz Feneri to conservative companies in Turkey. The case sparked a bitter argument between Prime Minister Erdoğan and some Turkish newspapers after news reports were published implicating Erdoğan in the case.

Mr Akman is implicated in the embezzlement scheme of the Deniz Feneri e.V. charity in Germany, which misappropriated millions of euros of donated funds. German jurists portray Akman as a courier for the foundation, a claim that received widespread media coverage in Turkey.
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