The amendments dated 27.03.2018 to Law No. 6112 on the Establishment of Radio and Television Enterprises and Their Media Services (“RTUK Law”) introduced Article 29/A to the RTUK Law, basically ruling that media service providers that make online broadcasting, and platform operators, which transmit these broadcasts via the internet, are required to obtain broadcasting licenses from the Radio and Television Supreme Council (“RTUK”). As per the same provision, media service providers and platform operators that are domiciled abroad, but make online broadcasting in Turkey, are also now obliged to comply with the above principles.
The Regulation on Online Broadcasting via Radio, Television and On-demand Services (“Regulation”), which sets forth the implementing procedure and rules for obtaining a broadcast license, was published in the Official Gazette numbered 30849 and dated 01.08.2019; this entered into force on the same date.
As per the amendments made to the RTUK Law, and as per the Regulation, online media service providers that make online broadcasting in Turkey must obtain online broadcasting licenses from the RTUK in Turkey. The online broadcasting license is only granted to joint stock companies established in accordance with the provisions of the Turkish Commercial Code for the purposes of providing radio, TV, and on-demand broadcast services. These online broadcasting licenses are valid for 10 years. Hence, online media service providers that broadcast in Turkey must have a physical presence in Turkey in order to obtain a broadcasting license and to make broadcasts in Turkey.
The Regulation sets forth the fee for obtaining an INTERNET-RADIO broadcasting license as TRL 10,000.00; whereas, the applicants are required to pay a fee of TRL 100,000.00 for INTERNET-TV or INTERNET-ON DEMAND licenses. In addition to the licensing fee, broadcasters that offer media services to their subscribers/users for a certain fee, or are subject to conditional access fees, will be required to pay 0.5% of their net annual sales to the RTUK until April of the subsequent year.
The transition period was regulated for media service providers that were making online broadcastings in Turkey at the time of the date of entry of the relevant provisions. The deadline to apply for broadcasting licenses was set as September 1, 2019. Where official applications were made, online media service providers were authorized to continue their online broadcasting services until the broadcasting licenses had been granted. Broadcasting without a proper license is subject to monetary fines and blocking orders, as well as criminal sanctions.
The amendments made in the RTUK Law extended the authority of the RTUK to online broadcasting services under same principles of the RTUK Law that apply to radio, television, and on-demand broadcasts through terrestrial, satellite, and cable platforms. In terms of advertising rules, the most important impact may be with respect to product placement. Prior to this Law, online media enjoyed a certain degree of freedom due to lack of clear rules. With the enactment of the new rules to to RTUK Law, the same rules and principles applied to TV are also applicable to online broadcasts. As per the RTUK Law, product placement is only permitted in movies made for cinema and tv, tv serials, sports and general entertainment programs; it is not permitted in news, child programs and religious programs. Product placement is forbidden for the products and services of which the advertising is prohibited. There are strong restrictions in relation to duration and quantity of the products shown and advertised via product placement. These rules are applicable to internet broadcasts that were exempted from such restrictions in the past. However, concerning the new procedure very recently entered into force, there is no decision related to supervision practice of the RTUK to date.
The new licensing obligation is not applicable to video-sharing websites and platforms, such as YouTube, Vimeo, etc. The new implementation also does not govern personal communication, and this is considered to exclude platforms, such as Twitter.