Netflix denies shutting down Turkish service after government forces it to cancel series over gay character

Netflix faced censorship from the Turkish government

Netflix sought to rebut claims it will end its Turkish service after production of an upcoming local drama was blocked by the country’s government over a gay character.

According to Turkish screenwriter Ece Yorenc, the streaming giant scrapped her series If Only just days before filming was due to begin.

The screenwriter said the show was cancelled after the government refused to grant a production license, citing objections to the inclusion of a gay character.

As Netflix became roiled by controversy, rumours have heaved that the company would end its service in Turkey completely. But in a statement to Financial Times, representatives of the streamer denied this.

Netflix said it remains “deeply committed to our members and the creative community in Turkey”, and that the company is “very excited about the projects that are ongoing and will soon start shooting”.

Netflix and Turkish leaders trade barbs over LGBT-inclusive programming.

Around two million Turkish citizens are subscribers of Netflix, with a roster of Turkish originals ordered earlier this year.

If Only was to revolve around an unhappily-married mother being sent back in time 30 years, to the night her husband proposed. There were no gay sex scenes or indeed any physical contact involving the show’s gay character, Yorenc said — but the show faced objections regardless.

After the show was flayed by Turkish leaders, Netflix declined to alter the script and opted to instead cancel the drama altogether.

As the streamer seeks to produce more localised programming while continuing to be a lodestar of diverse story-telling, the censoring of media by bigoted governments will no doubt be a prickly issue.

Turkey’s media censorship agency, the Radio and Television Supreme Council, previously claimed to have omitted a gay character from the Netflix show Love 101.

Netflix would go onto say that there was “never” a gay character in the series to begin with.

Overall, the censoring of queer content in Turkey captures how LGBT+ rights are being increasingly whittled away by Turkish leaders. As activist movements wane, ruling Justice and Development party lawmakers, religious leaders and even representatives of humanitarian agencies have made thorny comments against queer people.

Indeed Erdoğan, the ruling Justice and Development Party founder, accused LGBT+ people of “sneaking up on our national and spiritual values again” in and claimed queer folks “throughout human history” have been “trying to poison young people,” local media reported.