By Gulsen Solaker
ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's broadcasting watchdog has fined a TV station nearly one million lira (196,368 pounds)over footage of young girls dancing in shorts in a talent competition after viewers complained of "child abuse", a board member said on Thursday.
Citing moral dangers for the children, it penalised TV8 channel for footage in the "Yetenek Sizsiniz" ("You Got Talent") programme which showed a group of girls, aged from 7 to 11, who performed in shorts and tank tops, the board member who did not want to be named told Reuters.
The move by the Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) is likely to further anger government critics, who accuse President Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted ruling AK Party of trying to roll back secularism and civil rights for minorities, gay people and women.
Last year, hundreds of Turkish women marched in Istanbul to protest against violence and threats from men demanding they dress more conservatively.
RTUK ruled that the footage had violated its ethical broadcast regulations and fined the channel 2 percent of its advertising revenues, amounting almost to 1 million lira.
The regulations state that "programmes which contain content that could harm the physical, mental and moral development of children and youth cannot be broadcast".
RTUK said in a report that it had received complaints that the channel had exploited the children in an "immoral" show.
"There were reactions from citizens for making minor children, aged 7-8, dance half-naked for ratings, amounting to child abuse," the report said.
Turkey's Family and Social Policies Ministry said the children were "dancing with clothes that were not appropriate for their age and development level."
Hurriyet newspaper said RTUK also fined several music channels for broadcasting a music video which it described as "one tick below an erotic film."
The video of the "Sifir Tolerans" ("Zero Tolerance") song by Belgium-born singer Hadise depicts the artist in intimate scenes with her male co-star. The video includes scenes of the singer in a bed with the male actor and in a bathtub.
(Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay; Editing by Dominic Evans and Richard Balmforth)