Deputy Prime Minister and Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government spokesperson Bülent Arınç announced on Wednesday that the government is determined to privatize and halt funding for state-run theaters, adding that it has already commissioned a team to work on a privatized model suitable for Turkey.
Speaking to reporters following a Cabinet meeting, Arınç confirmed earlier statements by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who said his government will privatize publicly funded theaters.
“We are determined to privatize publicly funded theaters. A team has been commissioned to examine the issue technically and prepare a draft proposal [for the privatization],” said Arınç, noting that by looking at examples from other countries in the world, Turkey will come up with its own model for privatized theaters.
Addressing criticism spurred by Erdoğan's statement on the privatization of the state-funded theaters, Arınç said the criticism was unjust because the number of theaters increased during the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) term and that the government has exerted much effort to promote theaters in all corners of the country.
Erdoğan's announcement last month came amid tension between theater artists and the government after İstanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş introduced new regulations governing theaters in early April. According to the new regulations, a “literary council” is to be formed and will include not only theater artists but officials appointed by the mayor as well.
The council's role will be to decide on which plays can be staged in theaters funded by the municipality. Artists have protested the new regulations as political interference in art, with the municipality claiming their decision is an attempt to pave the way for individuals other than artists to have a say in the plays that theaters put on.
Arınç said although municipalities have been running these theaters and paying the salaries of the players, neither the quality of nor the public interest in the theaters has increased significantly and artistic freedom has not been fully realized.
“In an area like arts, freedom should be maintained in a better way. Let's say there is an employer on the one side and employees on the other side: It is not possible to establish a healthy relationship between them. You see [theater artists] revolt against even a simple regulation change,” Arınç said.
The deputy prime minister also noted that the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism are working to see under which circumstances the privatization of theaters will increase their quality.
“All the studies on the issue will be presented to the Cabinet and we will make a final decision,” he added.