Legacies Lost Easily, Perhaps Not Forgotten
Media barons hold an outsized standing in public consciousness. If the journalistic pen is powerful, television is almighty. That would make the web and social media omnipotent, as they believe. Well-known media barons are fading away; some by choice, some not. Climbing without a tether can be dicey but hanging is forever.
Turkey’s Dogan Media Group, the country’s largest media holding group, is being sold to conglomerate Demirören Holding, reported Reuters (March 21). Dogan Group publishes daily newspapers Hurriyet, tabloid Posta, sports newspaper Fanatic, English-language Hurriyet Daily News, all with websites, and dozens of magazines, operates television channels Kanal D, CNNTürk and others, radio channels Slow Türk, Radyo D and CNN Türk Radyo and digital platform D-Smart. It also owns the Dogan News Agency, printing plants, TV and music production houses and advertising companies. Several are joint ventures with foreign media houses; Burda, Egmont and Time Warner. The company also owns two radio stations in Romania.
Demirören Holding is an industrial conglomerate, primarily in the energy and construction sectors. It also owns newspapers Milliyet and Vatan, both acquired earlier from Dogan Media. The transaction has been variously estimated at between €750 million and €890 million.
“I am more than 80 years old now and at this point I have willingly decided to end my publishing career,” said Dogan Group honorary chairman Aydin Dogan in a statement published by Hurriyet (March 22). “During the transition period we will be taking care of our work. I also fully believe that my co-workers in the media sector will look after their organization with the same devotion as they have always done.”
Media watchers near and far raised doubts about Aydin Dogan simply retiring from the media group he founded in 1979. Most point to his early support for a secularist Turkey and more recent conflicts with nationalist/Islamist president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In 2009 Turkish tax authorities levied a US$2.5 billion fine on Dogan Medya for “irregularities,” after which its news outlets moderated coverage of president Erdogan and the official Justice and Development (AKP) party. A telephone conversation leaked in 2014 between then prime minister Erdogan and then Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin appeared to confirm the officials using the tax fine to apply “pressure against the company,” recalled Turkish media watcher bianet.org (March 22).
Erdogan Demirören, owner of Demirören Group, is a supporter of president Erdogan. When he acquired the widely-read Milliyet from Dogan Medya in 2011 its editorial position shifted. In another famous leaked phone call, which made its way to YouTube in 2014, Mr. Demirören was “reduced to tears” by then prime minister Erdogan, reported Hurriyet (March 7, 2014), complaining about news coverage of embarrassing leaks. “Why did I get into this business,” Mr. Demirören was heard saying between sobs.
"It's a historic moment for the Turkish media,” said an anonymous Dogan Group official, quoted by the Financial Times (FT) (March 21). “It's hard times. Everyone's upset. But I think people knew it was inevitable.” The FT observed one of the few media owners not counted in president Erdogan’s inner circle “is going.”
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