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Netflix and Amazon obtain Turkish broadcast licences as watchdog enforces tighter control on online content

Netflix and Amazon have obtained broadcast licences in Turkey in order to abide by new rules in the country.

The country’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) introduced new laws in August which granted the watchdog oversight over all online content. The decision was met by derision from many critics who raised concern that the state was attempting to tighten its grip on speech.

Nevertheless, 600 institutions, including local streaming platforms Puhu TV and Blu TV and international players like Netflix and Amazon, have agreed to the measure by applying for licences.

RTÜK head Ebubekir Şahin confirmed on Twitter on Thursday that Netflix and Amazon have received the licences.

The new law requires any media operation to have a base in Turkey, and Netflix confirmed in September that it would set up a local entity and pay 0.5% of revenue generated in the country to the government.

RTÜK has said that streaming companies must respect its guidelines, and that they will be given 30 days to change any conflicting content or face having their licence suspended for three months.

Turkish authorities have already threatened Netflix in the past few months. The country ruled that controversial French film Cuties – focused on a 11-year-old Muslim who rebels against her conservative family traditions by joining a dance crew – could not be shown from the country and must be blocked on the Turkish service.

That followed a July report from Turkish film website Altyazi Fasikul which claimed that Netflix cancelled a series after the country’s authorities demanded the removal of a gay character from a script. Netflix said that it would rather cancel the show than compromise the vision of creator and screenwriter Ece Yorenc.

Netflix has approximately 1.5 million subscribers in Turkey.

Four operators including Spotify have been issued a warning by the RTÜK, and have been told to comply with the new rules or else face a criminal complaint.