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Turkey orders censorship of Netflix over gay character, causes doubts over the company’s future in the country

Netflix has canceled the hit Turkish series Aşk 101 after censorship demands from regulators.
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Netflix was forced to end a Turkish drama series because it had a gay leading character. If such a level of censorship continues, industry insiders are speculating Netflix might completely withdraw from Turkey.

On July 18, reports from Turkish media indicated that Netflix was canceling the popular drama Aşk 101 (Love 101). RTUK, the country’s broadcasting regulator, demanded that the streaming platform should censor the character in the series.

The director of the series, Ece Yörenç, told Fasikül, a Turkish entertainment website, that it was “very scary” that the production of series can be halted because of a gay character. The director argued that RTUK was unreasonable because no gay intimacy even takes place in the show.

Television shows have become one of Turkey’s most profitable exports in the past decade. The country has sold hundreds of series to media companies in more than 100 countries all over the globe. This report estimated that the export of television shows reached $500 million in 2018.

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However, increased censorship by RTUK might discourage producers as canceling of the series will result in a loss of approximately $5 million.

“From now on, interest in Turkish series and productions will increasingly decline, and one considers the shows that these companies will no longer have produced in Turkey, the loss is great,” said Fatih Altayli, a columnist at Haber Turk.

Frustrations are growing over the government’s interference in the entertainment industry. The government, led by President Recep Erdoğan, continues to empower RTUK to increase censorship.

Netflix is yet to release an official statement regarding Love 101 or whether they will continue their service in Turkey despite the increasingly strict censorship laws.

In 2018, CEO Reed Hastings responded to similar speculations by saying: “We’re in Saudi Arabia. We’re in Pakistan. If there are no problems there, will we have problems in Turkey? I can’t imagine that.”

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