New Marriage Trend in Turkey: “Screen Marriage”

Gozde Demirel

Rovira I Virgili University, Tarragona (Spain)

In Turkey, television plays a fundamental role as a mass medium as it is the main source of information and entertainment in society. The appearance of private channels in the 1990s has led to an astonishing proliferation of programmes that seek to pair off contestants. The objective is, in theory, to find someone to marry, but in fact most men and women who participate in these programmes only want to exhibit themselves and have a few minutes of on-screen glory. Most Turkish families enthusiastically follow these reality shows and do not question the good intentions of the television channels. However, these channels simply wish to continue the farce to maintain their audiences.


Television is the most important mass communication tool of our age because it brings the world to our houses. In television, images and sound work together to create programs and commercials (Butler, 2009: 5). And the most important point of its success is broadcasting with the harmony of sound and images. This action attracts and fascinates audiences. Therefore, it is not important the subject that television concentrate on, because, all the way, it attracts audiences. After all technological and marketing developments, in our age, television becomes the most important source of entertainment. Especially, in the countries where this tool is new, like Turkey, time that pass in front of the TV, will be the time which is taken from the other activities. For example in Turkey 20% of the population watch TV, more than five hours per day. That’s why, we can say that, the general knowledge of people is acquired through the television. So, because of the superficial knowledge level of media, acquired information does not reflect the reality.

Television in Turkey was introduced in 1968 by the government media power Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT). A full national television schedule, which at that time linked the areas in and around Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir started in December 1971 (Mutlu, 2008: 181). Turkish Radio and Television Corporation as a public administration continued its monopoly broadcasting, with its own policies until 1990’s. TRT’s broadcasting policy, in general, founded on the values of the West and it was not really possible to find any programs which carry the values of public. Since the creation of modern Republic in Turkey, the elitist culture of the West has shown itself as a popular culture. The representative of this culture in front of the stage was TRT. And for the peripheries that are not aware of these values, these programs have been so difficult to understand and to interpret. The people, who lives the period of transition between old and new traditions, this transition concerns the modification of traditional values to modern values, often found themselves between values of superstructure and their own values. People who lived in the rural area were still the guardians of their values and they were looking for the programs related to their taste. In this context, the people were unfamiliar with the programs which were broadcasting in the monopoly of TRT. And this gap has been launched in early 1990 by the private channels.

The first private channel Star TV started broadcasting in 1990. This newness gave a birth the duality between TRT and private channels. This distinction is also reflected to the policy of broadcasting. Despite the official artists and musicians who have got a high music education and who are employed by state as a civil servant, the private channels began to cast arabesques and popular music programs under the name of entertainment programs. This situation, drive the interests of the audiences to the private channels and they turned towards the popular artists (Yildiz, 2004: 174). People began to be closer and started to show interest to the private channels which are telecasting with their own values. When we want to observe this program, we can see that they have got arabesque basis and they are closer to the folk culture. A short time later in 1994, the telecasting of private channels become legal and their numbers began to increase so fast.

Day by day the line between the boundaries of private intimate life and official public life began to disappear

At first glance, this rapid alteration in the field of media was one of the most important factors which affected the relationship between television and family, but, the significant changes lived in the structure of Turkish family. Basically after Turgut Özal who was a Turkish political leader, 19th prime minister in 1983 and 8th president of Turkey in 1989 and his expansion of Liberalization, in Turkey, a lot of things were changed and increasing of migration from rural to urban, urban distortions, were the results of these emerging elements. As a result suburban culture and arabesque music became the most important representatives of media market. The channels which closely monitor this changes, established the contents of programs on the properties of arabesque and popular culture, by this way they made a huge success in a short period. In brief, while the family structure is changing, the technology and media have served as an agent of these changes.

Turkish Society and Entertainment Programs

The effects of mass media on social change have been the subject of several investigations. It is clear to say that television shaped and influence social culture. In the last twenty years, especially in the cultural field, the velocity of social change increased even further. The television as the most common and cheapest mass media appliance becomes the main carrier of popular culture in the terms of cultural changes.

Popular culture is a common public culture and means the common beliefs and practices shared by the society. On the other hand the mass culture is a process which uses the manipulation techniques to maintain the power and do not allow the creativity. In Turkey, especially in 90s, with the spread of private channels, the changes in cultural fields increased and the carriage of popular culture has gained intensity (Yildiz, 2004: 175). In recent years, the media magazines become increasing in all the TV channels. And we can say that they are the product of this popular culture. These programs which have been running at almost every channel cause cultural corruption under the name of cultural function. As a result, day by day the line between the boundaries of private, intimate life and official, public life began to disappear.

Sebnem Soyguder expresses very well the cause of it: “especially in Turkey the popularism climbed in the period 1970-1980 because of the military coups” and this programs are the product of this general social trend (2003: 89). And also in this period the private channels have increased their numbers and the Turkish society has begun to enter a liberation period after the military repressive environment. Again, as stated by Soyguder: “In this period society meet with the entertainment industry and started to move away from the products of superstructure” (2003: 90).

In Turkey, marriage shows always attract a huge percentage of the television audience

As a result, people are close to the products of popular culture. Already, the concept of popular, as a general, examined in two terms, “public ownership” and “widely accepted and consumed”. While the first definition of this concept accepted positive; its second sense seems negative because of bringing cultural distortion and banality (Yildiz, 2004: 175). As it is known, the reasons of this negative point of view, are the values which were produced by media, those are “success”, “glorification of the good”, “get-rich-quick scam”, “be famous” and “the competitiveness of praise”. When all of these values combined with entertainment, we make birth to a new visual ideology (Kose, 2006: 64).

Turkey was just one more stop on the march of American and European reality shows toward global domination, with station importing formats—Big Brother, Survivor, Pop Idol and audiences watching in numbers that ensured the shows kept coming (Vick, 2005). Then Pelin Akat had her revelation. Pelin Akat is the person who imported these programs to Turkey. Her success was especially on the Weeding Programs, named as Will you be my Bridge and she sold her format to the entire world. It was the new dimension on girl-meets-boys to girl-meets-boy and boy’s –mother reality show. These reality shows aimed to show the importance of family decisions on the marriage of children. The season final drew 74% of the television audience (Vick, 2005). In Turkey, weeding programs always keep it’s actually, and they have a huge percent of television audiences. Since 2003 until now, they had so different formats on this subject but the new age started with Esra Erol, who is the presenter of weeding reality shows.

New Marriage Trend in Turkey: Matrimony Reality Shows and Incurability of Participants

A short time ago, we can find four different programs on various private channels. In ATV, Esra Erol’da Evlen Benimle [Marry with me in Esra Erol], everyday on weekdays start at 15:00 continues up to 18:30. The broadcast takes place more than 3 hours in a day and per week it makes 17 hours. The other one is in Star TV, S’Zuhal Topal’la İzdivaç [Marriage with Zuhal Topal] between 11:10 and 15:00. Its broadcasting takes four hours in a day and twenty hours in a week. FOX also has a wedding program: Songül Karli and Uğur Arslan introduce the program Su Gibi [Like water], everyday on weekdays 12:15 to 15:00. Fox’s daily broadcast schedule devotes two hours and 45 minutes for the marriage program. It is approximately 12 hours per week.

Star TV, ATV and FOX separating 50 hours per week for marriage programs. As we see, they take hold a huge place on television. Normally, television is an appliance which consumes everything. Despite this, the three channels have got live broadcast, every day a total of 10 hours. Isn’t, it interesting that, they did not live any trouble to find persons who are looking for a couple?1I mean, there are a lot of people, who want to marry in my country!!

Anyone aged 18-90 can participate to these programs. The conditions that they are looking for: not to be married or not to be paralyzed and have a job (It is needed for the male candidates). Every day, only for two of these programs, four-thousand people waiting for their turn. About the half of four-thousand people cannot be taken into consideration for the reasons such as being “unemployed” or “not officially divorced”. Everyday 14 person who is evaluated between two-thousand person, have got chance to introduce themselves on the screen. Each week 70 people introduce themselves in the live broadcast. Sometimes, television announcer went to ask for family’s hand in marriage and the weddings are being done in studio. 59% of those peoples who applying for marriage are male, 41% are women. 20% of applicants aged between 18 and 25, 35% aged between 26 and 40 and 45% of participants are over then 40 years old. We can easily say that marriage programs in television, present a serious social problem. None of them aim to marry the candidates, they want to use them such an element of entertainment.

We can say that marriage programmes on television represent a serious social problem. None of them aim to marry the candidates; they want to use them as an element of entertainment

Almost all of them have got the same content: The studio is filled by men and women from various parts of the country. They introduce themselves and explain their conditions and what are they looking for, after if someone from audiences like those, producers invited him/her to studio and they start to talk with a screen between them after the screen is opened. Esra Erol ask:

-Did you get electricity? It means that did you like him/her?

-I did not get, my sister! (It means that he/she cannot took any electricity, she/he does not like).

-Well, then we’ll find somebody else!!

And while all of them are happening, someone is singing a song, someone is crying, the grandfathers and grandmothers are dancing on the stage2. After, screen again , and the senseless talking’s with a Turkish poor in quality, and talking on electricity , starts again:

-And, from this one, did you get electricity?

-You know, my sister, I want a man with blue eyes and brown hairs, of course he needs to have a job and house I do not want to pay rent.

-Ok, ok , where is the other candidate ? Come on, dance, dance.

Men and women who have not got any ideas about themselves and who never seen each other make an application to these programs. Some of them found these programs as a last resort to get marry. They came here with a pure emotions and imaginations. Unfortunately, they could not understand that they are in a reality show and then for these kind of person disappointment will follow them because, they believe them, they believe the servers. For example, public surveys showed that in Turkey people believe Seda Seyan, who is a signer and a server of a women program, nearly the same format, more than the president.

Why these people become like that? Why are they looking for their couple in front of 70 million of people, with exposing to all kinds of insults? Why the marriage which is accepted such as a respectable institution, wrapped in such a watered-down format? Now, it is so hard to understand that, why pseudo-intellectuals who described arranged marriage as an outdated form of marriage, says nothing about this “Screen Marriage”? It is sure that media does not interested about marriage; they want to earn money and increase rating percents.

The most important issue to be discussed is people’s desperation. Marrying in marriage programmes is like winning the lottery: you need luck

If we examine those programs with its positive aspect, we can say that, they are a new and modern dimension of arranged marriages which is very frequent our society. But, if we need to repeat; those programs, can correspond to the concept of an arranged marriage until a point. Because the first principle of the arranged marriage is base on the directly or indirectly knowledge between the parents of marriage candidates. In the “Screen Marriage” no one can assure the authenticity of information which are given, during the broadcast, people can lie to each other or they can expect something different and then, the image that they encounter, could be negative than they thought and they can live a huge disappointment. However, the most important issue to be discussed is the desperation of people. Marry in the marriage programs is like win the lottery, you need luck. There are some couples who met in these programs and they have a storybook ending, but it is a remote possibility.

What Purpose is Served in Wedding Programs?

Family structure of Turkish society has changed. As is known, families are divided into several types according to social, economic and local conditions. The traditional extended and nuclear families are the two common types of families in Turkey. The traditional extended family generally means that three generations live together: grandfather, adult sons and sons’ sons, their wives and their unmarried daughters a married daughter becomes a member of her husband’s family and lives there. There is a unity of production and consumption together with common property. This type of family is becoming rarer today. The nuclear family, parallel to industrialization and urbanization, replaces traditional families. The nuclear family consists of a husband, wife and unmarried children and is more suitable to modern Turkish social life today.3 But this change, also had effects, because, we are living a period where the people try to find other ways to overcome loneliness. And this new trend of wedding programs become their exit way. We must evaluate very well the purpose that has been served in these programs.

Producers really think in a well-intentioned “Let our people get marry, don’t let no one to be alone” or the pursuit of rating. Also, participants came here with simple and pure emotions. Or they set one’s sights on to be famous or to show themselves? Are people giving you accurate information about themselves, their families does support them? How much opportunity that they have to know the person that they meet in there? They are very important. Because marriage is a serious decision and when families getting into the business, many different problems can arise

The breathtaking point is, families believe them, they send their children because they found them faithful and even sometimes they accompany their children until the studio. Since time immemorial Turkey has given a closed community image but in last five years we are in a mutation period and it is incredible that we have become costumed to share everything that we live. Private lives of people can be very easily deciphered from the screen and the values such us confidentiality, privacy are eliminated from the society. Now families, without scruple, can send their children to those places to find a prince on a white horse.

On the other hand, it should not also be misused that person can be really alone, is not an environment to meet with opposite sex and really wants to marry and they are joining to this program. From this point of view, it serves a good purpose. But every way, to bring people together and tending them to take an important decision about their future, is indeed a huge responsibility. Because each person will came to the program with different expectations of marriage. These expectations can be material or the moral.

When we watch carefully these programs, many of those who participate are definitely at the end of one’s tether. Especially when women are explaining their reasons, they want a house, a good life and they are looking for a husband who can look after her children. It is not easy to be a person who is looking for a couple on the TV show. Under the circumstances it should be bethink the psychology of a person. Because this is a feat. By the way, the person is really a desperate need and may have to resort to this method. From this point of view, also, it can be considered to serve a good purpose. However, considering the other hand, decisions which are taken by hastily, without knowing each other, without knowing their families and under the influence of others’ comments, will be a wrong type of marriage. Because marriage is a matter of patience, it’s easy to step, but it is painful to continue. Therefore it is necessary to take better decisions.


[1] Eyüboglu, A., “Evlilik programları kime ne kazandırıyor?”,,

[2] Bayraktar, M.,“Evlilik Programlari Furyasi”, ,17 April 2010

[3] Yenen, S., Turkish Odyssey ,