Newspapers and magazines were forbidden in Turkey until the mid-nineteenth century; now there are over forty titles, representing the full gamut of public tastes. The airwaves were government-controlled until the late 1980s, but the advent of satellite dishes and overseas transmitters has seen a huge growth in tv and radio stations of variable quality.
Three titles – Sabah, Hürriyet and Milliyet – dominate the newspaper market. Politically left of these stands Radikal, although another title, Taraf, is far more radical than Radikal and frequently incurs establishment ire. Cumhuriyet, founded as the mouthpiece of the Turkish republic in 1924, mixes conservative nationalism with old-style socialism. Turkey’s liberal-Islamist papers, Yeni Şafak and Zaman, give generally intelligent and thoughtful coverage. Satirical weekly comic strips have a long history in Turkey. Look out for the distinctive artwork of L-Manyak, Le Man, Penguen and Uykusuz.
The longest-running English-language newspaper, available in major cities and resorts, is the Hürriyet Daily News. Poor translation sometimes makes it a turgid read though it’s useful for its daily listings – mainly for İstanbul, Ankara and İzmir. Today’s Zaman is backed by the controversial Islamic scholar/businessman Fetullah Gülen. It’s more professional, glossier and reads better than the HDN. The Daily News follows the secular/nationalist line and Today’s Zaman is liberal/Islamic. Both have online versions at http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/ and wwww.todayszaman.com respectively.
Time Out Istanbul, the local imprint of the London listings magazine, with an eighty-page English edition (5TL), is by far the best what’s-on listings magazine available. Bimonthly Cornucopia (20TL) is an upmarket glossy, covering everything from history and travel to carpets and property renovation.
Turkish channels include the four state-owned TRT (Turkish Radio and Television) channels, with a mix of films, panel discussions, classical Turkish music shows and soaps. TRT-6, launched in 2009, broke a long-held Republican taboo by broadcasting in Kurdish. The most watched private channels include Show, Star, ATV and Kanal D. For Turkish pop the MTV-style Kral and Power Turk lead the way, whilst Dream has a mix of Turkish and Western sounds.
The nation’s leading digital company, Digiturk, has a number of English-language channels including CNBC-e and E2, both of which concentrate on re-runs of US TV shows and films. BBC Entertainment offers a mix of BBC comedies, dramas and soaps, whilst CNN, BBC World and Al Jazeera are best for news. Most high-end hotels subscribe to the Digiturk package screening these channels.
Digiturk also shows Turkish Premier League football on its Lig TV channel. English Premier League matches are shown on Spormax – many bars, and cafés subscribe to these and often have big screens.
Frequency-crowding means even popular channels are almost impossible to pick up without interference. Of the four public radio stations, Radyo Üç (The Third Programme or TRT-3), most commonly found at 88.2, 94 and 99MHz, broadcasts the highest proportion of Western music. NTV Radiyo (102.8) has the news in English at 6pm daily.
For Western music try Açık Radyo (FM 94.9) for rock, jazz and soul. Alternatively search out FM (99.5), Kiss FM (90.3) and Metro FM (97.2). For Turkish music, the best stations are Kral (92.0) and Best FM (98.4).
With the exception of İstanbul’s Beyoğlu district, which has some period-pieces dating back to the 1920s, most cinemas are in shopping malls. Films are shown in the original language with Turkish subtitles, though kid-orientated films are dubbed into Turkish. There are often five screenings daily, generally at 11.30am or noon, then at around 3pm, 6pm, 9pm and usually midnight. Tickets in provincial cities cost between 7–10TL, with reduced prices (5TL) one or more days midweek; some of the plusher İstanbul cinemas charge up to 15TL. Films have a fifteen-minute interval.Read More
Don’t bank on watching YouTube while you’re here. It was first closed in 2007 for featuring a clip insulting to the nation’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a crime (along with the rather vague offence of “insulting Turkishness”) under Turkish law. Although soon back online, it was blocked again in January 2008 and was still blocked at the time of writing. Many other sites have been banned by the courts for the same reasons. So if the website you’re after comes up with the message “Bu siteye erişim engellenmiştir” (“This site has been disabled”), you’ll know why.