by FAZLI MERT and KAZIM PIYNAR. Source Sunday’s Zaman
“The Turkish TV world has been shaken by the launch of a major ratings fraud probe that raised suspicions about the manipulation of ratings for some popular Turkish series and resulted in the detention of six individuals.
The probe has received much support from politicians and figures in the TV world. On Wednesday the İstanbul Police Department’s Organized Crime Bureau raided the offices of several production and ratings-measurement companies including AGB Nielsen, the www.uçankuş.com, Ay Yapım (Productions), Med Yapım and Tims Yapım and detained six individuals in İstanbul and Ankara over claims alleging that lists with the names of families whose homes have people meters -– boxes hooked up to TVs for ratings measurements –- were leaked to several television producers.
[…] The searches were made at the ABG offices and many production companies which produce popular and record-breaking TV series such as “Fatmagül’ün Suçu Ne,” “Muhteşem Yüzyıl,” “Aşk-ı Memnu,” “Yaprak Dökümü,” “Adını Feriha Koydum,” “Ezel,” “Kavak Yelleri,” “Kuzey Güney,” “Bir İstanbul Masalı,” “Doktorlar,” “Karadağlar,” “Arka Sokaklar” and “Binbirgece.”
In İstanbul, Celal Orçun Köktuna, a finance official from TNS and a former AGB employee, and producer Selçuk Çobanoğlu were detained. In Ankara, four individuals were detained but their names were not revealed. Six other individuals, including AGB’s production manager Hilmi Berköz, were also called to testify to the prosecutor.
According to reports, the highly confidential list of the 2,500 families with people meters was leaked to the TV producers. Producers gave TL 200 monthly and expensive gifts to each of these families in order to manipulate the TV-program ratings in their favor.
It is claimed that AGB production manager Berköz is among the partners of OTS, a company that determines the list of families whose homes will have people meters.
Allegations against Çobanoğlu, the producer of the TV series “Ayrılık,” is what prompted the İstanbul probe. According to claims, Çobanoğlu obtained a list of the families with people meters to increase the ratings of the series in İzmir, and he allegedly gave money these families. A probe was launched into the allegations against Çobanoğlu after a notice at the prosecutor’s office.
Producer Erol Köse on Wednesday also lodged a criminal complaint at the İstanbul Prosecutor’s Office over allegations that some ratings-measurement and production companies manipulate the ratings to acquire money illegally.
Television Audience Research Committee (TİAK) President Hidayet Karaca late Wednesday testified at the İstanbul Police Office as a witness in the ratings probe.
Speaking later to reporters, Karaca said those leaking the lists of families with people meters and those who made use of these lists should certainly be revealed. “The ratings-measurement system needs to be trustworthy. It should work correctly based on trust. Advertisers should see the return of the money they spend for advertisements. The ratings system, which is the only measurement source for producers and TV channels, should be trustworthy. The advertisement pie will grow bigger if there is trustworthiness in this sector. Otherwise, advertisers, producers, we will all lose from this,” said Karaca.
Ratings probe welcomed
The launch of the probe into allegations of ratings fraud has received support from individuals in the TV world and politicians who said the move was welcome although belated.
Turkey’s EU Minister Egemen Bağış said Turkey is a democratic, social and secular state so if there is an offense in question, the judiciary will take necessary action.
“This [ratings probe] is a normal process,” he said.
TV critic and journalist Bekir Hazar said the ratings-fraud probe is a belated but welcome move, adding that prosecutors should have taken action about fraud allegations in ratings long ago.
He said the lists of the families with people meters were circulating by email and even singer İbrahim Tatlıses once said he had these lists.
“The ratings measurement is a very sensitive issue. Even a small manipulation could lead a TV channel to lose $100 million. There are very serious accusations in question. I raised these before but I could not make my voice heard,” said Hazar.
Samanyolu TV Group Ankara representative Abdullah Abdulkadiroğlu said he has been well aware of the manipulations in the ratings figures.
Speaking to a program on TV8, he said, “As a person working in the TV sector for 17 years, I know very well what kinds of manipulations are made in the ratings.” Abdulkadiroğlu said production companies who produce high-cost TV programs resort to ratings manipulation in order to meet the costs of the expensive programs because more ratings mean more commercials.
Allegations of ratings fraud were frequently raised by the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) beginning in 2008.
Last year, the corporation announced that its channels will no longer be included in audience measurements provided by AGB. TRT last year noted that while ratings for TRT 1, the corporation’s most-watched channel, rose from the beginning of 2008 through March 2009, they began to fall systematically in April 2009 for no apparent reason. TRT criticized the audience measurement system managed by AGB.”