A geographical approach of creative industries: the case of tv production in Istanbul

Contemplating the literature on creative industries of Istanbul one seems to be largely forgotten, a creative industry representing though 87% of the time spent to cultural activities by an average turkish citizen, far ahead from cinema or museums. This industry is simply called television, which infiltration into family homes is nowadays so obvious that we sometimes tend to forget its importance, either economical or cultural.
So to say, this huge amount of audiovisual contents proposed on Turkish channels is mostly produced in or from Istanbul.
It could first appear as a paradox that being far from the political power of the capital Ankara, Istanbul is still the city concentrating most of the private media power institutions: national private TV broadcasters, most of the cinema and TV producers, actors, writers, studios, and so on. A part of the explanation of this paradox lies, in one hand, in the weight of Istanbul in every sector of the national economy of services, and in another hand in the historical heritage linking cinema industry (culminating with the “Yeşilçam” years in the 60’s) and the wide family of audiovisual production. But the slow disappearance of Istanbul’s cinema infrastructures in the last 40 years hardly explains the choice of TV companies to settle in Istanbul during the major liberalization wave for private television of the 90’s.
Due to its market-oriented organization, the TV industry is in the same time less considered as part of cultural heritage, less aimed by public cultural policies, but has nevertheless an essential and structural role to play in the urban cultural life: as an economical source of revenue, and as a symbolical/sociological pool for many other cultural disciplines likewise theatre, performing arts, cinema…The TV series’ production exemplifies this structural position: since the beginning of the 2000’s Turkish television dramas constitute more than 50% of the national TV programs, turkish dramas are also exported to more than 22 countries, so around 30 national television channels in Turkey and 300 more abroad.
The sphere of influence and the economy generated by this production so are important… and all its actors are concentrated in some very specific areas of Istanbul, in copresence and interrelation with a large spectrum of other activities, including not cultural ones.
As a contribution to the debate, I would like to propose here some geographical perspectives on creative industries studies. Bringing together the exploration of audience ratings datas, and historical or geographical analysis, the study of the industrial development of television could show how efforts of territorialization of particular cultural networks, allowing us to question again the definition and the role of the “creative industries” as an urban actor.

BIO | Julien Paris is a French PhD student at EHESS (Paris), he benefits from a CNRS research contract. After his architect diploma (2007) and a master 2 in cultural policies (2008), he worked for the Spanish cultural cooperation in Mexico (CCEMX), and for the French cultural cooperation in Cairo (CFCC). Since October 2010 he lives in Istanbul and works at the French Institute for Anatolian Research (IFEA). Beside his thesis he co-organizes in 2011-2012 a monthly seminar called “Cultures and Territories” at the IFEA.


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