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News Coverage of the Gulf Crisis in the Turkish Mediascape: Agendas, Frames, and Manufacturing Consent.

On June 5, 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen, the Maldives, and the United Arab Emirates simultaneously broke off all ties with Qatar, setting off a massive diplomatic crisis in the region. At the same time, these countries imposed trade and travel sanctions on Qatar, leaving the country isolated in the region. Others soon followed, and by January 2018, nine countries had cut all ties with Qatar. The declared casus belli was that Qatar, by sponsoring terrorism, had violated a 2014 agreement with the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Although Qatar has repeatedly denied such allegations, the Saudi-led coalition has refused to lift sanctions. More secondary reasons put forth by the coalition include the supportive stance of Qatar-affiliated Al Jazeera Network toward the Arab Spring rebellions (Barnard & Kirkpatrick, 2017) and Qatar's nonhostile relations with Iran (Roberts, 2017). Commentators have argued that the ongoing crisis is a result of Qatar's desire to pursue a foreign policy independent from other Gulf countries ("Qatar's 'Independent' Foreign Policy," 2017). Nevertheless, it is important to note that this transformation did not occur overnight and needs to be understood within the context of Qatar's gradual departure from Saudi tutelage (Roberts, 2012).

During the initial phase of the crisis, the Turkish government attempted to keep a neutral stance, choosing to position itself as an intermediary between the Saudi-led coalition and Qatar. This position, however, was rapidly undermined when Qatar preferred Kuwait over Turkey as the crisis mediator. Soon afterward, on June 13, the Turkish government decided to side with Qatar. In a public statement, Turkish president Erdogan condemned the isolation of Qatar as "inhumane and against Islamic values," claiming that "victimizing Qatar through smear campaigns serves no purpose" ("Turkey's Erdogan Decries," 2017). After the statement, Turkey and Iran initiated talks with Qatar to secure the country's food and water supplies while the Turkish military renewed its pledge to continue troop deployment at the Tariq bin Ziyad military base. This later move in particular was considered to be a response to the Saudi-led coalition's demand that Qatar shut down the Turkish army base in the country. In the meantime, Turkey, along with Russia and Iran, led the call to negotiate a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

Turkey has chosen to side with Qatar in the international arena for several reasons. In the past decade, because of Turkey's growing interest in the Middle East (Ehteshami & Elik, 2011), Neo-Ottoman foreign policy ideals (Cagaptay, 2009) and the economic ties generated by Qatari overseas investment have brought Turkey and Qatar close together as strategic partners (Baskan, 2016). These ties, however, have been cultivated during the past decade of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) rule. In other words, the strategic partnership with Qatar is a direct product of the AKP's foreign policy objectives. Accordingly, our base assumption was that the Turkish opposition press would provide negative coverage in regard to the AKP's decision to side with Qatar, or at least to voice some hostility.

To test this hypothesis, we decided to develop a computational methodology that could measure the degree of semantic similarity among newspapers in terms of output. This would allow us to see if there was any difference in how news publications in Turkey covered the Gulf Crisis. Such an approach would also allow us to check whether categorical variables such as affiliation, ownership, or political leanings had any impact on how the crisis was covered. Accordingly, this article uses a data set of 2,968 articles from 22 newspapers to explore how the Gulf Crisis was covered in the Turkish mediascape while looking to find answers to the following hypotheses:

H1: Affiliation (progovernment, opposition, neutral) makes a difference in coverage of the Gulf Crisis.

H2: Ownership (private, corporate, and nonprofit) makes a difference in coverage of the Gulf Crisis.

H3: Political leaning (left, Islamic, conservative, mainstream, independent, and Kemalist) makes a difference in the coverage of the Gulf Crisis.

Literature Review

Before proceeding any further, it is worthwhile to devote some space to describing the Turkish mediascape. One can say that the primary fault line dividing the mediascape in Turkey is opposition to the AKP and president Erdogan. A more careful examination, however, indicates that newspapers on both sides of the fault line are not homogenous in terms of political orientation; the opposition press tends to lean toward Kemalist and leftist ideologies, whereas publications with apolitical, conservative, and hardline Islamic ideologies dominate the pro-AKP press. Moreover, the ownership structures of newspapers on both sides of the fault line are not entirely uniform. Because ownership structures of newspapers in Turkey can be quite varied and complex, we chose to simplify these structures into three principal categories: corporate, private, and nonprofit. Here, it is important to note that there is a significant correlation between specific categories of ownership and the political affiliation of the publication. For instance, Turkish newspapers owned by corporations are predominantly progovernment in their political affiliations. The corporate owners of these publications also have some of the highest circulation figures and ratings in Turkey. (1)

As of 2017, the top five owners of corporate mass media in Turkey have access to around 45% of all audiences. The two largest corporations, Dogan and Kalyon Group, have investments in all categories of mass media and share 15% and 9% of the total media audience, respectively. Dogus Media (8%), Demiroren Media (7%), and Ciner Media (6%), all of which are the media divisions of their respective corporations, follow Dogan and Kalyon ("Audience Concentration," 2019). Other than the Dogan Corporation, which had occasionally been critical, the remaining corporations express open support toward the current ruling party. In April 2018, Demiroren Corporation bought out Dogan Media Group, turning Demiroren Media into the biggest and most influential media group in the country. Demiroren Media now commands a total audience market share of roughly 30%. As a result of the purchase, three daily newspapers (Hurriyet, Posta, and Fanatik), two television channels (CNN Turk, Kanal D), one satellite television provider (D-Smart), and one media distribution company (YAY-SAT) have changed hands. As of 2018, of the 26 national newspapers, 18 are owned by corporations with close ties to the AKP. A very similar scenario holds valid for television channel ownership. As numerous commentators (Baybars-Hawks & Akser, 2012; Tunc, 2015; Yesil, 2016) have noted, the corporate press is almost entirely progovernment because of the political and economic transformations that have occurred in Turkey over the past decade.

Since their arrival into power in 2001, successive AKP governments have invested heavily in building a progovernment mass media, often using a carrot-and-stick strategy to entice media owners into alliances with them. Much has been written about the consolidation of AKP hegemony over Turkey's mass media (Kaya & Cakmur, 2010) and the hybrid ownership structure that has emerged in the wake of the 1980 coup in Turkey (Kurban & Sozeri, 2012). Accordingly, it suffices to say that the corporate mediascape is dominated by forces whose interests are deeply vested in maintaining clientelist relationships with the AKP government and president Erdogan (Tunc, 2015). Within such a landscape, accumulating and preserving political capital has become a crucial factor in determining the future of a media organization. This dynamic, when combined with the lack of a legal framework that could guarantee the autonomy of the newsroom from the boardroom (Elmas & Kurban, 2011), creates a scenario wherein special interests between the government and media owners tend to play an overdetermining role in defining editorial policies and output. In other words, those working in corporate media have little to no chance of retaining an editorial policy that is independent of corporate interests or critical of the government.

In this context, corporate media aims for increasing profits and ratings with products that can be broadly classified as apolitical, mainstream, and consumerist. For instance, we see that the production (and export) of Turkish television serials into the global arena has become a primary policy objective for corporate media television organizations (Berg & Zia, 2017). Television series not only are immensely popular with the national audience but also create space for brands (usually owned by the same corporations) to advertise particular products or lifestyles. The content produced by corporate media pushes one to assume that consumerism rather than politics is the dominant political leaning common among these organizations. Accordingly, an emphasis on consumerism, Turkish popular culture, and tabloid journalism is the primary agenda of newspapers owned by corporate organizations (Bek, 2004).

In contrast to the corporate mediascape, privately owned newspapers are situated on both sides of the political fault line and have heterogeneous political leanings. The ownership structures of these publications are also varied; some are joint-stock companies with multiple partners, whereas others are limited liability enterprises with just one owner. Nevertheless, all these publications depend on advertising and hybrid revenue generation practices similar to those commonly encountered in the corporate mediascape.

Newspapers such as Milat, Karar, and Yeni Akit are examples of privately owned publications whose agendas are not necessarily directly aligned with corporate interests. Whereas Milat and Yeni Akit tend to have hardline Islamist ideological leanings, Karar is a liberal Islamist publication. Regardless of their different ideological leanings within the framework of political Islam, all three have progovernment affiliations. On the other hand, BirGun (2004) and Gunluk Evrensel (1995) are publications with joint-stock ownership structures and left-wing political leanings. The origins of both are in the radical student and union movements of the 1970s, and both have ties to socialist parties such as the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ODP) and the Turkish Labour Party (EMEP). Another privately owned opposition publication is Sozcu (2007). The daily newspaper has become one of the country's top-selling newspapers through its antigovernment stance. Sozcu has a more nationalist and Kemalist political orientation than the rest of the opposition press. Having an even more hardline nationalist and Kemalist political orientation is Aydinlik (2011).

In the opposition press, one also encounters some privately owned, online-only publications. These include Arti Gercek, Diken, and Gazete Duvar. The origins of these publications can be traced to the 2013 Gezi Park protests, wherein the use of the Internet as a medium to express political dissent led to the birth of an alternative public sphere (Ataman & Coban, 2018; Coban & Ataman, 2015). Although it is debatable as to whether the Internet has solved the structural problems of the Turkish media landscape (Cevikel, 2004; Sozeri, 2011; Tunc, 2016) or can be used to create sustainable revenue models (Saka, Gorgulu, & Sayan, 2017), the broadcasting opportunities offered by the medium have led to the creation of several different private initiatives that operate outside the typical environment of the Turkish mediascape. Although such initiatives do not enjoy the reach of the corporate press, they nevertheless enjoy quite a bit of autonomy to pursue an independent (and quite often critical) editorial policy.

On the other end of the ownership spectrum, there is a strong correlation between publications with nonprofit ownership structures and the opposition press. Because such publications depend on neither advertising revenues nor government patronage, they are relatively free to have a critical agenda. Instead, such publications tend to be linked to various charitable foundations (vakif) that withhold the right to determine editorial principles and publishing policies. These foundations sponsor their publications in a variety of ways, including with donations from individual donors or foundations, sponsorships from corporations or supranational institutions (for example, the European Union), income from programs, services, or merchandise sales, and income from investments. Nonprofit publications can be broadly divided into two subcategories: online and offline. Belonging in the offline category is Cumhuriyet (founded in 1924), which has a historical lineage that can be traced to the early years of the Turkish Republic.

Both Bianet (2000) and T24 (2009) are nonprofit, online-only publications. The Bianet foundation is a nonprofit press agency based in Istanbul, established by journalist Nadire Mater (former representative of Reporters Without Borders) and left-wing activist Ertugrul Kurkcu. Since November 2003, the Bianet foundation has become a partner of the Inter Press Service and is funded mostly by the European Commission through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights. The T24 foundation was founded by a veteran journalist, Dogan Akin, who had worked in mainstream media publications such as Milliyet before establishing the online news site. For the sake of maximizing the range of viewpoints on the Gulf Crisis, these publications, as well as both corporate and private ones, are included in our study.

Methodological Approach

To detect patterns in the media coverage of the Gulf Crisis and test our three hypotheses, we decided to compile a sample that included 22 newspapers (see Table 1). We classified our selected publications according to three categories of ownership (corporate, private, nonprofit), six categories of ideological leanings (Kemalist, leftist, mainstream, (2) conservative, Islamist, independent) and three positions of political affiliation (pro, anti, neutral). Whereas determining the ownership structure of a newspaper was relatively straightforward, determining the political affiliation and ideological leaning proved to be quite challenging. Shifts in ownership or external social dynamics can radically alter the political affiliation and the ideological leaning of a newspaper in Turkey. For instance, Cumhuriyet is historically known to be a Kemalist and staunchly secular daily (Yesil, 2016) but has, in recent years, evolved into a center-left publication. On the other hand, the Milliyet newspaper used to be a highly respected center-left daily. However, after Dogan Media sold it to a progovernment corporation, the newspaper switched affiliations and became a progovernment publication. Nevertheless, despite being progovernment, Milliyet's output is mainstream and not Islamist. As noted previously, the Dogan Corporation sold off both Hurriyet and Posta to the progovernment-affiliated Demiroren Corporation in July 2018. This effectively means that both publications now belong in the progovernment cluster; however, the sale had not yet taken place during the sample collection phase of this study. Accordingly, both publications have been categorized as having neutral political affiliations.

After determining the newspapers to be included in our study, the next step was to collect content relevant to the Gulf Crisis. For this, we used a simple inclusion technique based on the keywords "Qatar Crisis" (Katar Krizi) or "Gulf Crisis" (Korfez Krizi). These keywords were queried using search engines on the website of each publication included in the study. Articles from opinion columns were also included. This selection method was applied to all articles from the beginning of the crisis (June 5, 2017) until the present (January 15, 2018). We also manually checked each individual article and eliminated any irrelevant to the topic of investigation. This resulted in a data set of 2,910 articles consisting of news texts, articles, and opinion columns from 22 different newspapers. All the content collected for each publication was stored in a text file. This process was repeated for all newspapers, leading to the creation of 22 text files. At the same time, a catalog file containing all the metadata related to the sample was created.

As a final step, we built three categorical variables with 12 subcategories by combining the text files assigned to each newspaper according to three main criteria (political affiliation, ownership, and ideology). Thus, 22 separate files consisting of 2,910 articles collected from each publication were transformed into 12 files. After this process was completed, textual data obtained from the selected articles became suitable for the application of algorithms derived from natural language processing (NLP).

Computational Methodology

The computational methodology developed for this study was derived from NLP (Bird, Klein, & Loper, 2009; Jurafsky & Martin, 2009; Manning & Schutze, 1999) and correspondence analysis (Greenacre, 1999) and has previously been applied in communications research to map media responses to the refugee crisis in Croatia (Bilic, Furman, & Yildirim 2018). Most typically, NLP methods are used to classify linguistic units into separate categories, correct misspelled words in a corpus, or detect the grammatical roles of words such as subject, object, or predicate. The algorithms used in this study were coded in the Python programming language and relied on the NLTK helper library during the preparatory phase of the analysis.

The first step in an NLP-driven methodology is tokenization. Here, textual elements of the collected articles were converted into their linguistic components. Words, punctuation, dates, URLs, currency, and emoticons are captured with simple string-matching algorithms called regular expressions. Regular expressions cut the formulated string from a given text. The second step was to remove (annotate) stop-words. Stop-words are functional words, such as "the" or "of," that connect the syntactic structure of a sentence. These terms were eliminated from the corpus because they do not have any analytical value for our study. Once eliminated, Ngram collocation techniques were applied to capture noun phrases remaining within the annotated corpus of collected articles. The rationale for applying Ngram collocation techniques was as follows: Counting each word as an individual token would be an incorrect approach because terms such as "Saudi Arabia" would appear as two separate units ("Saudi" and "Arabia"). Accordingly, we modified our collocation technique to compile lists of unigrams (one-word noun phrases), bigrams (two-word noun phrases), trigrams (three-word noun phrases), and quad grams (four-word noun phrases).

In the next step of the methodology, we manually selected the terms that were meaningful within the context of the Gulf Crisis. Starting with an initial list of more than 1,500 terms, we narrowed down the number of terms down to 591. When doing so, we eliminated terms that were commonly used by all publications with high frequency because they did not carry any analytical value within the framework of the study. Accordingly, we eliminated terms such as "Qatar" (Katar) and "Crisis" (Kriz).

For the analysis phase of our methodology, each newspaper was represented as a vector comprising the terms it used to cover the Gulf Crisis. This representation method--called the bag-of-words technique--creates a matrix in which rows and columns represent the publication and the terms, respectively. To disclose the hidden relation between the terms and newspapers, we applied correspondence analysis (CA). This method reduces dimensionality and can represent the publications and terms using only two dimensions. In the resulting scatterplots, publications with incongruous profiles are positioned at the extremes of the plane of projection while ones with similar semantic profiles are located near the center.

Another important characteristic of CA is that distance between the terms and the newspaper can be measured. Moreover, we can measure the distances between two terms, between two publications, and also between a term and a publication. These distances became the basis of our cluster-building strategy. Deploying a k-means algorithm built with the R programming language, we used proximity between terms and newspapers as a measure to determine the total number of clusters.


Our methodology allowed us to test whether any of the categorical variables in our hypotheses had an impact on how a news organization covered the Gulf Crisis. Our results were visualized as scatterplots (see the appendix, Figures A1a and A1b).


Figures A1a and A1b (see the appendix) indicate that progovernment and opposition news publications are distanced from one another. Publications with neutral political affiliations are close to progovernment news ones. Although Hurriyet and Posta (formerly Dogan Holding) have been at times critical of the AKP's policies and antagonistic toward president Erdogan, (3) the output of both publications seems to be converging with progovernment ones within the context of our sample. Naturally, this brings up questions regarding the validity of the political affiliations associated with Hurriyet and Posta. Although both are quintessentially opportunistic newspapers seeking to cash in on emerging social or political trends, our findings suggest that there is more to this than meets the eye. It is a striking coincidence that within the context of the Gulf Crisis, both publications pursued an editorial policy that aligned closely with the progovernment press. One might tentatively argue that such editorial policies foreshadowed the sale of both newspapers to the progovernment Demiroren Holding two months after the end of our study. It seems that both newspapers had already shifted their editorial policies to accommodate the political agenda of Demiroren Holding before the sale that occurred in March 2018.

Given these results, we can keep our first hypothesis (H1) and assert that affiliation (pro, opposition, and neutral) causes a divergence in how an publication covered the Gulf Crisis. Newspapers with similar affiliations used similar language to cover the crisis.


Our results show that the output of publications classified as leftist (BirGun, Diken, Gunluk Evrensel), and independent (Arti Gercek, Bianet, Gazete Duvar, and T24) strongly resemble one another (Figure A1b). This might be interpreted as a blurring of ideological distinctions within the context of Gulf Crisis. Moreover, the terms exclusively associated with the leftist and independent press are relatively few. In comparison with the wealth of terms associated with mainstream/Islamist/conservative or Kemalist clusters, only 31 terms are exclusively associated with publications categorized as left or independent (see Tables A1 and A2 in the appendix). The only evidence of an agenda divergent from the mainstream is to be found in the use of the term "HDP," an abbreviation of Turkey's pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party. Articles with this term feature news wherein HDP politicians criticize the relationship between Qatar and the government ("Kemalbay'dan Erdogan'a [From Kemalbay to Erdogan]," 2017). In other words, by giving space to the views of HDP spokespeople, these publications are indirectly criticizing the Turkish government's embrace of Qatar during the Gulf Crisis. The small number of concepts associated with this cluster suggests that within the context of the Gulf Crisis, newspapers categorized as left and independent were unable to form an independent vocabulary when covering the Gulf Crisis.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, publications labeled as Kemalist (Aydinlik, Cumhuriyet, Sozcu) constitute a grouping distinct from both the leftist/independent and the conservative/Islamic/mainstream clusters. (4) The uniqueness of this cluster is reflected in the politicized language used by these publications (see Table A2 in the appendix). For instance, the Syrian premier is referred to with the proper spelling of his name ("Esad"), in comparison with "Esed," which is used by the main cluster. The organization referred to as "Daesh" in the mainstream/Islamic/conservative cluster is referred to as "ISID" here. The term "Musluman Kardesler" (Muslim Brotherhood) is used in contrast to "Ihvan," the term preferred by the main cluster. The embargo is referred to as a siege ("kusatma"). There are also references to "Adalet Yuruyusu," an event that was widely derided in progovernment circles. Finally, there are references to "OHAL" (state of emergency) rather than terms related to the actual coup attempt.

Although the language used by the Kemalist cluster is almost diametrically opposed to the language used by newspapers belonging in the mainstream, conservative, and Islamist clusters, it is questionable as to whether Kemalist publications can challenge the frame set by progovernment ones. In terms of volume, the output of publications labeled as Kemalist only constitute 13.44% (including the controversial Aydinlik) of total content. This is relatively minor in comparison with the primary conservative/Islamic/mainstream cluster, which produces around 70.59% of the total coverage on the Gulf Crisis.

Finally, as the scatterplots demonstrate (see Figures A1b, A2, A3a, A3b, and A4 in the appendix), there is a high level of similarity in the language used by publications classified as mainstream (Haberturk, Milliyet, Sabah, Vatan, Hurriyet, Posta), conservative (Karar, Turkiye, Star), and islamist (Milat, Yeni Akit, Yeni Safak). Given the results, we can retain our second hypothesis (H2) and assert that ideology (conservative, left, Kemalist, independent, Islamic, mainstream) causes a divergence in how a publication covered the Gulf Crisis. The three identified clusters are (a) conservative, mainstream, and Islamist, (b) leftist and independent, and (c) Kemalist.


The scatterplots (Figures A1a and A1b in the appendix) show that there is a higher degree of similarity between private and nonprofit newspapers. This is remarkable given that the ownership structures of publications such as Karar, Milat, and Yeni Akit are all private. Paradoxically, when we look at the data on the level of individual publications and not categorical variables (Figure A2 in the appendix), there is a high level of convergence in the language used by publications classified as mainstream (Haberturk, Milliyet, Sabah, Vatan, Hurriyet, Posta), conservative (Karar, Turkiye, Star), and islamist (Milat, Yeni Akit, Yeni Safak).

The discrepancy between the results may be explained by the ratio of privately owned progovernment publications versus oppositional ones. Karar, Milat, and Yeni Akit, the three privately owned progovernment publications, are a relative minority in terms of their political affiliation. The remaining publications (7) in the privately owned newspapers category are all oppositional. Furthermore, if one looks at the relative coverage of all privately owned newspapers in the data set, we see that Karar, Milat, and Yeni Akit make up 40.86% of the entire output (Table 2).

The remaining publications constitute the remaining 59.14%. These two factors cause the categorical variable of ownership to be aligned to the nonprofit variable, which itself is made up of only oppositional publications.

Despite the described discrepancy, we can still safely confirm the third hypothesis (H3) and assert that ownership (corporate, private, and nonprofit) causes a divergence in how a publication covered the Gulf Crisis.


When we look at the data on the level of individual publications and not categorical variables (Figures A2, A3a, A3b, and A4), one can observe a high degree of similarity in the language used by Haberturk, Milliyet, Sabah, Vatan, Hurriyet, Posta, Karar, Turkiye, Star, Milat, Yeni Akit, and Yeni Safak to cover the crisis. Not only do these publications occupy the center of the scatterplot, but they are also very closely aligned with one another (Figures A3a and A3b in the appendix).

There are two possible explanations for the similarity exhibited by publications of diverse ideologies and ownership structures. The first explanation is that, other than Hurriyet and Posta, all the publications mentioned in the previous paragraph have progovernment affiliations. Building on this, one can argue that these publications are merely conforming to the "party line" or, in other words, to the official position of the government. Nevertheless, it would be overly deterministic to explain the complex relationship among ownership, ideology, and coverage with just one categorical variable. Although political affiliation is indisputably crucial in determining the language used by media organizations to cover the Gulf Crisis, we would like to propose an alternative explanation.

As one can observe, all nine corporate publications are located within the central cluster. Moreover, when we look at the combined volume of coverage generated by these publications, the output of all nine makes up more than 49% of the entire corpus (Table 3). This means that these publications are responsible for the bulk of the news coverage produced on the Gulf Crisis.

Considering the dominance of corporate media organizations in terms of both total volume of coverage and total market share for audiences, one can argue that they are the principal actors setting the agenda on how the Gulf Crisis was covered in the Turkish mediascape.

McCombs and Shaw (1972) argue that although mass media has little sway on the direction or intensity of attitudes, it can set the public agenda and influence the salience of attitudes toward social issues. By providing coverage of events, mass media ends up defining the range of issues pertinent to the public agenda. Ghanem (1997) argues that while mass media sets the public agenda, individual news organizations provide a frame for the public to think about specific issues. Framing can be an extremely effective method for emphasizing certain aspects of social reality and activating certain opinions for audience members (Iyengar & Simon, 1993; Price, Tewksbury, & Powers, 1997). Framing plays a role in telling the audience about what to focus on or what to leave behind when thinking about a particular issue (Entman, 1993).

According to framing theory, news organizations influence public opinion by building a narrative wherein editorial policies curate facts to underscore certain angles (Valkenburg, Peter, & Walther, 2016). Entman (2007) describes framing as "the process of culling a few elements of perceived reality and assembling a narrative that highlights connections among them to promote a particular interpretation" (p. 164). Not only does the media identify supposed "causes of problems," but it also can "encourage moral judgments" and "promote favored policies" (pp. 164-165). One of the long-term implications of framing is that it naturalizes and legitimizes certain ideologies or worldviews (Budd, Craig, & Steinman, 1999). Accordingly, being able to set the frame constitutes the basis of media power insofar as it creates the setting through which social relations are imagined, discussed, and, most important, naturalized (Reese, 2007). The capacity of mass media to present (and manipulate) a mediated frame of reality brings us to what has been described as the manufacturing consent paradigm.

In their seminal text, Herman and Chomsky (1988) define mass media as "effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion" (p. 306). In other words, mass media supports the status quo of political systems by producing propaganda. (5) Robinson (2001) argues that within the abounding literature on the manufacturing consent paradigm, two implicit versions can be discerned--an executive version and an elite one. In the former version, news organizations conform with the official framings of the government or state, whereas in the latter, news organizations conform to the political interests of elites in general. Evidence from our case study suggests that the executive version of the manufacturing consent paradigm can be applied to describe Turkish media responses to the Gulf Crisis.

Accordingly, one can propose a tentative scenario wherein progovernment news organizations made the editorial decision to follow the government's official position during the crisis. As soon as the Turkish government abandoned its initial position as mediator and chose to side with Qatar, the progovernment press embarked on a public relations campaign to justify and legitimize this decision. By providing coverage, the goal of progovernment press was to put the crisis on the public agenda. On the level of framing, the goal of individual publications was to emphasize aspects of the crisis that would justify the government's decision to side with Qatar. Such a strategy strongly resembles an executive act of manufacturing consent, with corporate news organizations being the key actors. Accordingly, when the coverage of publications such as Haberturk, Milliyet, Sabah, Star, Vatan, and Yeni Safak are combined (Figure A4), their common frame emphasizes the following themes:

* Solidarity with Qatar

** Emphasis on aid sent from Turkey (Katar'a destek, Katar'a gida, Turk urunleri, sut urunleri, gida urunleri, ihtiyac, dayanisma, yardim, muhtac)

** The alleged solidarity shown by Qatar during the July 15 coup attempt (15 temmuz darbe girisimi, 15 temmuz gecesi, Gulen, FETO)

** Social media campaign of Qatari citizens showing gratitude to Turkey for sending aid (sosyal medya, Twitter)

** The military alliance between Turkey and Qatar (turkiyenin katardaki askeri ussu, askeri ussunun kapatilmasi, ortak tatbikat, genelkurmay baskani hulusi, turk askerleri, turk silahli kuvvetleri)

* The connection of the Gulf Crisis to wider geopolitical conflicts

** Palestinian-Israeli conflict (Filistin, Israil, Hamas, Gazze, Kudus, Mescid-i Aksa)

** Syrian civil war, Islamic State and Kurdish insurgency (Suriye, OSO, Esed, (6) Esad, deas, nusra, pkk, pyd, rakka operasyonu, ypg, kuzey irak, daes)

** Arab Spring aftermath (Arap Bahari, ihvan, libya, sisi, arap_bahari, misir, mursi, tunus)

* Emphasis on a peaceful diplomatic solution involving international institutions and the Islamic world (baris, bariscil, birlesmis milletler, g20, islam dunyasi, siyasi cozum, arap birligi, diyalog cagrisi, uzlasi, islam isbirligi teskilati)

One may argue that this common frame is dominant enough to force privately owned publications such as Karar, Milat, and Yeni Akit to follow suit. Privately owned progovernment publications provide framing support but cannot alter the agenda set by corporations. On the other hand, oppositional publications provide critical commentary but are unable to establish a counterframe that can contest the one established by progovernment ones. In such a scenario, oppositional publications provide criticism but do not have the capacity to shift public opinion.

Other than Hurriyet and Posta, the remaining anomaly to our proposed scenario is Aydinlik. The unofficial mouthpiece of the Kemalist Eurasianist (Akcali & Perincek, 2009) Vatan Party and its leader Dogu Perincek, a possible explanation for the proximity of Aydinlik to progovernment clusters lies in political developments that have put the publication's owners in a possible alliance with the government. Although the Vatan Party has never won any notable electoral successes, some of the party sympathizers are allegedly well positioned in the Turkish army and judiciary. After the coup attempt, allegedly by Gulen movement followers in 2016, there seems to be a rapprochement between Erdogan's cadres and Eurasianists. Perincek himself has begun to be regularly featured on the news of Islamist media. Again, one may tentatively argue that the rapprochement between Erdogan and Perincek has led Aydinlik to adopt a progovernment stance on specific issues. This shift can be proffered as a possible explanation for Aydinlik's association with Milliyet, Karar, Vatan, Yeni Safak, Yeni Akit, Sabah, and Star.


Using a data set of 2,968 articles collected from 22 different newspapers in Turkey, this article mapped media responses to the ongoing Gulf Crisis. In doing so, we deployed a pioneering methodology derived from NLP and CA to test whether categorical variables such as political affiliation, ownership, and ideological outlook had any impact on how a publication covered the Gulf Crisis. Our results show that all three variables had unique effects on how a newspaper covered the crisis.

Our first conclusion is that there is a high level of convergence in the coverage of publications classified as mainstream, conservative, and islamist, as well as those classified as leftist and independent. The former cluster was dominant in terms of both total output and the number of unique terms deployed when covering the crisis. Evidence suggests that a third Kemalist cluster employed a divergent vocabulary to cover the Gulf Crisis. This language seems to be diametrically opposed to the one used by progovernment publications, proving our base assumption to be correct. Kemalist publications provided most of the critical commentary on the government's decision to side with Qatar. Leftist or independent newspapers were more secondary actors in this regard.

Yet at the same time, the volume of output from both Kemalist and leftist/independent publications was much smaller in comparison with progovernment ones. This made them unable to establish a counterframe that could contest the one put forth by progovernment newspapers. Aydinlik was an anomaly insofar as it is a Kemalist opposition publication but displays high levels of similarity to progovernment ones in terms of coverage.

Our second conclusion is that the progovernment news organizations made the editorial decision to follow the government's official position throughout the crisis. By providing coverage, the goal of progovernment news organizations was to put the crisis on the public agenda. On the level of framing, the goal of individual publications was to emphasize aspects of the crisis that would justify the government's decision to side with Qatar. The dimensions of this public relations campaign strongly resembled an executive act of consent manufacturing.

Accordingly, our third conclusion is that corporate-owned news organizations were the driving force shaping both the public agenda and the framing of the Gulf Crisis in the Turkish mediascape. Corporate organizations dominate the data set in terms of output and are at the center of all measurements. Depending on their political affiliation, noncorporate organizations were only able to criticize or support the frame put forth by corporate ones. Neither had the capacity to either alter the agenda or shift public opinion.

Last, it is worthwhile to note that this study has some methodological limitations. Most important, it only focuses on semantic content and not visual content. Although images play significant roles in setting media agendas and frames, further innovation in our computational methodology would be required to include images in our study. The other significant limitation is regarding the number of publications in our data set. Rather than taking all the content from all 39 national newspapers cited in the News Advertising Authority (Basin ilan Kurumu), we were only able to capture content from 17 national newspapers. Luckily enough, the 17 publications used for this study were also the ones with the highest circulation and readership. Nevertheless, for future research, one would need to develop a solution for capturing content from the remaining 22 news organizations. Finally, a framing study (McLeod & Detenber, 1999; Prat & Stromberg, 2013) is needed to assess if the scenario proposed in this article had any impact on shaping public perception in a positive manner.


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Table A1. Terms Associated With BirGun, Diken, Gunluk Evrensel, Arti
Gercek, Bianet, Gazete Duvar, and T24.

TERMS                             SIZE   TRANSLATION OF THE TERM

Almanya_Disisleri_Bakani_Sigmar   67     Sigmar Gabriel minister of
                                         foreign affairs of Germany
asirilikci                        26     extremist
asker_gonderme                    36     sending troops
askeri_ussunun_kapatilmasi        29     shutdown of military base
Askerimiz                         22     our soldier
bagimsizlik_referandumu           33     referendum of independence
Barcelona                         25     Barcelona
Basin_Ozgurlugu                   27     Freedom of Press
boykot                            78     boycott
Chp_Genel_Baskan_Yardimcisi       23     Vice President of CHP (secular
                                         opposition political party in
CNN                               25     CNN
hava_sahasi                       31     air space
HDP                               43     HDP
Izolasyon                         34     isolation
Katar_hukumeti                    36     Qatar government
Katar_merkezli_Al_Jazeera         41     Qatar Al Jazeera
Katara_gida                       53     aid to Qatar
Kuzey_Irak                        26     Northern Iraq
Maldivler                         62     Maldives
mezhepcilik                       22     sectarianism
Misir_ve_Birlesik_Arap            31     Egypt and United Arab Emirates
muttefik                          55     Alliance
Qatar_Airways                     28     Qatar Airways
Ruhani                            45     Hassan Rouhani (President of
savas_ucagi                       54     fighter aircraft
stratejik_isbirligi               29     strategic alliance
terorizme_destek                  46     support to terrorism
tim                               34     task force
TSK                               65     Turkish Armed Forces
Turkiye_iran                      66     Turkey Iran
uluslararasi_kanunlar             21     international laws

Table A2. Terms Associated With Aydinlik, Cumhuriyet, and Sozcu.

TERM                               FREQUENCY   TRANSLATION OF THE TERM

Adalet_Yuruyusu                     34         2017 March for Justice
Adana                               41         Adana
akil                                60         wise
anayasa                             39         constitution
Arap_Dunyasi                        28         Arab world
askeri_mudahale                     33         military intervention
Asya                                63         Asia
Ataturk                             50         Ataturk
Barzani                             49         Masoud Barzani (Iraqi
                                               Kurdish politician)
Basra_Korfezi                       33         Arabian Gulf
bedel                               32         price
boru_hatti                          34         pipeline
catisma                            104         conflict
cihatci                             39         jihadist
Davutoglu                           58         Ahmet Davutoglu (former
                                               AKP foreign minister and
                                               prime minister)
demokrasi                          102         democracy
Devlet_Bahceli                      30         Devlet Bahceli (leader
                                               of ultra nationalist
                                               Turkish political party,
dogal_gaz                           66         natural gas
dolar                              240         United States Dollar
Dunya_Kupasi                        45         World Cup
El_Cezire                          198         Al Jazeera
El_Cezire_televizyonunun_kapatil    23         Shutdown of Al Jazeera
emperyalist                         37         imperialist
Esad                                80         Bashar Hafez al-Assad
                                               (President of Syria)
FBI                                 21         FBI
felaket                             23         disaster
fidye                               38         ransom
Finansbank                          21         Finansbank
futbol                              43         football
garip                               21         weird
Gazze                               54         Gaza
gerginlik                           51         tension
gida_yardimi                        24         food aid
guven                               27         trust
hakli                               45         right
halife                              62         caliph
Hamas                              222         Hamas
hisse                               25         share
Hizbullah                          106         Hezbollah
hukumet_sozcusu_Numan_Kurtul        23         Numan Kurtulmus Turkish
                                               government spokesman
ihtilaf                             29         controversy
iktidar                             96         power
ilimli                              32         moderate
Irak                               311         Iraq
Iran_a_karsi                        27         against Iran
Iran_destekli                       36         Iran assisted
Irana_karsi                         70         against Iran
isci                                31         worker
ISID                               185         ISIS
ISIDe_karsi                         32         against ISIS
issizlik                            35         unemployment
istihbarat                          93         intelligence service
Isvicre                             21         Switzerland
itham                               32         accusation
itiraf                              33         confession
itiraz                              43         objection
ittifak                             82         alliance
ittifaklar                          25         alliances
kadim                               27         ancient
kardesimiz                          26         our sibling
Katar_a_karsi                       23         against Qatar
Katar_a_yonelik                     41         to Qatar
Katar_Krizi                        386         Qatar Crisis
Katar_Yatirim_Otoritesi             24         Qatar Investment
kavga                               52         fight
koalisyon                           65         coalition
konut                               31         housing
korkunc                             27         terrifying
Kuran                               40         Quran
kurban                              24         victim
Kurdistan                           27         Kurdistan
Kurt                                86         Kurdish
kusatma                             67         blockade
laik                                28         secular
Libya                              165         Libya
Lubnan                              66         Lebanon
mali                               102         financial
mesnetsiz                           23         unwarranted
MHP                                 46         MHP (ultra nationalist
                                               Turkish political party)
mudahil                             31         involved
Musluman_Kardesler                 268         Muslim Brotherhood
Musul                               29         Mosul
muteahhitlik                        25         construction business
muzakere                           106         negotiation
NATO                               135         NATO
OHAL                                42         state of emergency
OPEC                                30         OPEC
OSO                                 22         Free Syrian Army
oy                                  51         vote
oyun                                38         play
ozgurluk                            32         freedom
problem                             28         problem
protesto                            25         protest
QNB                                 38         QATAR NATIONAL BANK
rabia                               52         Rabia Sign
Recep_Tayyip_Erdogan                40         Recep Tayyip Erdogan
rekabet                             39         competition
Saddam                              38         Saddam
sermaye                             50         capital
sii                                146         Shia
sikinti                             61         trouble
sok                                 30         shock
Sudan                               57         Sudan
sulh                                27         peace
sunni                              147         Sunni
sunni_arap                          26         Sunni Arab
Suriye                             545         Syria
Suriyeli                            54         Syrian
talepler_listesi                    30         list of demands
tarafsiz                            44         neutral
tartisma                            39         discussion
taviz                               27         compromise
tehdit                             183         threat
tek_basina                          26         alone
terbiye                             21         education
toprak                              28         land
Tunus                               48         Tunisia
Turkiye_karsiti                     21         against Turkey
Turkiye-Katar                       37         Turkey Qatar
Turkiyeye_karsi                     46         against Turkey
Turkiyeye_yonelik                   26         directed to Turkey
Udeid                               24         Al Udeid Airbase
uluslararasi_iliskiler              27         international relations
ummet                               22         Ummah
varlik_fonu                         28         Turkey Wealth Fund
yaptirim                           135         Sanction
Yemen                              309         Yemen
yerel                               76         local
Yunanistan                          25         Greece
zengin                              56         wealthy





Istanbul Bilgi University, Turkey

Ivo Ozan Furman:

Erkan Saka:

Savag Yildirim:

Semahat Ece Elbeyi:

Date submitted: 2018-02-26

(1) This site provides daily Turkish TV ratings that can be extended back to 2014:

(2) What constitutes mainstream deserves a separate discussion. Here we attribute being mainstream to repeated labeling as such in academic publications, including Gorvett (2004), Sezgin and Wall (2005), Sunbuloglu (2017), and Yaylaci and Karakug (2015). Mainstream is used to signify the consumerist, pop-cultural, tabloidesque output of organizations such as Hurriyet, Milliyet, and Haberturk.

(3) For instance, after Erdogan's imprisonment in April 1998, Hurriyet (in)famously ran the headline "Muhtar bile olamayacak" ("Now, he [Erdogan] will not be able to even become a neighborhood head").

(4) One could speculate that this is perhaps caused by the historical legacy of Kemalist indifference and distanciation from the Middle East (Kardas, 2010; Krueger & Kruger, 2016; Robins, 2007).

(5) Yet it is important to note that the original model put forth by Herman and Chomsky has evolved over the years to include some major differences. For example, the model supposes a targeted object such as anticommunism, which would later be replaced by other targets such as "war on terror" (Falcous & Silk, 2005). In another case, Isakhan (2009) focuses on the post-Saddam Iraq media sector and finds (international) competing powers for setting media agendas.

(6) Pronunciation and transliteration of Syria leader Bashar al-Assad's last name in Turkish had become an issue of political stance against the Syrian leadership. Before the civil war in Syria began, President Erdogan and all the Turkish media used "Esad." However, following the Turkish leadership's explicit opposition to the Assad regime, "Esed" was used to imply opposition. In the meantime, antigovernment media continues to use "Esad."
Table 1. Selected Newspapers.

Newspaper          Political Affiliation   Ownership   Ideology

Arti Gercek        Anti                    Private     Independent
Aydinlik           Anti                    Private     Kemalist
Bianet             Anti                    Nonprofit   Independent
Birgun             Anti                    Private     Leftist
Cumhuriyet         Anti                    Nonprofit   Kemalist
Diken              Anti                    Private     Independent
Gazete Duvar       Anti                    Private     Independent
Gunluk Evrensel    Anti                    Private     Leftist
Haberturk          Pro                     Corporate   Mainstream
Hurriyet           Neutral                 Corporate   Mainstream
Karar              Pro                     Private     Conservative
Milat              Pro                     Private     Islamist
Millliyet          Pro                     Corporate   Mainstream
Posta              Neutral                 Corporate   Mainstream
Sabah              Pro                     Corporate   Mainstream
Sozcu              Anti                    Private     Kemalist
Star               Pro                     Corporate   Conservative
T24                Anti                    Nonprofit   Independent
Turkiye Gazetesi   Pro                     Corporate   Conservative
Vatan              Pro                     Corporate   Mainstream
Yeni Akit          Pro                     Private     Islamist
Yeni Safak         Pro                     Corporate   Islamist

Table 2. Newspapers' Article Numbers and Distributions According to

Newspaper         Affiliation   Ownership   Number of   % of Category

ARTI GERCEK       Anti          Private      184        13.24
AYDINLIK          Anti          Private       97         6.98
BIRGUN            Anti          Private      124         8.92
DiKEN             Anti          Private       56         4.03
GAZETE DUVAR      Anti          Private       76         5.46
GUNLUK EVRENSEL   Anti          Private       72         5.18
KARAR             Pro           Private      374        26.91
MiLAT             Pro           Private      156        11.22
SOZCII            Anti          Private      213        15.33
YENI AKIT         Pro           Private       38         2.73
                                Total       1390

Table 3. Outlet Versus Output.

Newspaper    Articles   % of Corpus (n= 2,910)

HABERTURK      313      11
HURRIYET       330      11
SABAH          276       9
MILLIYET       123       4
POSTA          129       4
STAR            80       3
VATAN           71       3
YENI SAFAK      59       2
TURKIYE         38       1
Total        1,419      49
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Author:Furman, Ivo; Saka, Erkan; Yildirim, Savas; Elbeyi, Ece
Publication:International journal of communication (Online)
Geographic Code:70MID
Date:Mar 1, 2019
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