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Controversy over media job-cuts

July 9th, 2011

The decision to axe 550 jobs at four public service media is criticised as an act of ‘political cleansing’, while decision-makers say it was necessary in order to streamline the system.Népszabadság detects the scent of a political motive behind the dismissals, but adds that „the occupation of  MTV [Hungarian Television], Duna TV, MTI [the Hungarian news agency] and Hungarian Radio is actually worthless for Fidesz,” because if by 2014 people do not feel that their lives have improved, Fidesz will not be able to convince them of the contrary in the public service media.

There’s no point in buying up media [businessmen regarded as close to the governing party have a wide portfolio of newspapers, TV, radio and online services], and the    right-wing is wrong to think it can achieve a final victory in the “media war” – writes the left wing newspaper, which also accuses the governing majority of nursing antidemocratic aims:

„Democracy and free elections are impossible without a free press, but hopefully Hungary cannot be turned into Belarus in 2011.”

The spokesman of the new organization responsible for all three thousand public media employees refutes all allegations of a political showdown; the real reason is a  cheaper and more efficient media system. This explanation does not entirely satisfy a leading commentator at Heti Válasz.

MR1-Kossuth Radio is the only public service medium in Hungary which is also a market-leader – remarks András Stumpf in Heti Válasz. (Stumpf was formerly a  regular guest on the radio’s drive-time programme.)

He supports massive redundancies in principle, but only if they genuinely serve the  goal of good or better programme quality at the lowest possible cost.

“It might just be possible to produce the drive-time programme with only one third of  the staff, but I rather doubt it,” – writes Stumpf. He adds that while some may claim that the dismissed journalists were liberal-minded, this is of little account provided the programme is fair, listener-friendly, informative and sounds impartial to the audience.

Although Heti Válasz believes that the leadership of the public service media has every right to restructure the system, the moderate conservative weekly fails to find a clear concept behind the job-cuts, and requests an explanation.