The leading pro-government daily says a proposed new law would endanger media freedom without aubstantially benefiting the budget.
Fidesz MP László L. Simon has submitted a bill aimed at levying a progressive tax on advertising revenues, which is an updated version of an earlier draft that was ultimately dropped a year ago (see BudaPost, 29 May 2013 ). Media outlets with advertising revenues up to 0.5bn HUF (rather than 1 bn as envisaged last year) would be exempt, but over 20bn HUF the proposed tax rate is set at 40% (while the maximum rate suggested last year was 20 per cent). In an unprecedented move, RTL Klub, the largest commercial television company broadcast an appeal protesting against the planned tax, accusing the government of intending to penalize RTL Klub, “the largest media outlet in Hungary that has always safeguarded its political independence”) with half of the sum to be collected nationwide. A Fidesz spokesman said the ruling party’s parliamentary group has not yet made up its mind on the draft, but described it as “serious and well-argued”.
In his Magyar Nemzet editorial, deputy editor Péter Csermely protests, claiming that the projected revenue of 9bn HUF to be reaped from the ads tax is “symbolic” and not even “half the cost of a stadium”. He has always found widespread claims that the government is out to control the media ridiculous, he adds, but he cannot see the rationale behind the new proposal which “would put commercial media on a leash”. A “few years ago, when the Hungarian economy was in a much worse state, extra levies could be justified”, he says, but a new tax would yield much less than what it would costs in terms of jobs. Is this meant to be a “punishment” for commercial television stations because “people prefer them to the state-run public media?”— Csermely muses.