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Klubrádió endgame

May 26th, 2012

According to centrist media experts the latest amendments to the Media Act might force the opposition radio station to re-apply for the status of public content provider and thus not be compelled to pay a frequency fee. A commentator close to the government warns that all attempts to stifle Klubrádió harm the government’s reputation.

Klubrádió, the only left-liberal talk radio station, lost its frequency in a tender after its license expired, but a Budapest Court ruled that the winner should have been excluded. (See BudaPost June 2011 through May 2012) The Media Authority is now considering a new tender, while Klubrádió contends that it should be declared the winner, as it was the runner-up. In another court ruling, the Media Authority was ordered to put a public provider’s  frequency at Klubrádio’s disposal. The frequency was won by Klubrádió under the outgoing Radio and Television Board, but the new Media Authority refused to sign the contract with the winner, on the grounds that the left-wing station was already broadcasting on another frequency. The court ruling in favour of Klubrádió is under appeal.

In the meantime, the Media Act has been amended because the Constitutional Court found several  points unconstitutional. Two Fidesz MPs introduced additional amendments apparently aimed at allowing the Media Authority not to grant a frequency to Klubrádió, regardless of the court rulings. Those amendments were later withdrawn by a third Fidesz MP, Cultural Committee chairman László L. Simon. But one point in the Media Act still remains which stipulates that the status of ‘public service provider’ can only be granted by the Media Authority. The legal implications of that are still unclear. Klubrádió is now operating on a temporary license.

In an interview on Klubrádió, media expert Gábor Polyák – a staunch supporters of the left-wing radio station – warned that the new amendment may force Klubrádió to re-apply for its public content provider status. It is up to the court now to interpret the new provision, he said.

Gábor Borókai, editor-in-chief of Heti Válasz, writes in an editorial that the political pressure under which Klubrádió has been forced to operate for the last two years is a cause for concern. Klubrádió supported Ferenc Gyurcsány and his dealings throughout his years in government – says Borókai – but the station is now widely regarded as a victim (of the Fidesz government) and even as ‘the only remaining bastion of press freedom.’  Borókai thinks all this flexing of muscles is politically irrational,  and simply results in good publicity for   Klubrádió.

Media expert Ágnes Urbán warns, in an analysis published on Mérték Médiaelemző Műhely, a media watchdog website, that government spending on advertising is increasingly directed away from print and electronic media towards outdoor advertising. Following the 2010 elections, a handful of open air advertising companies she describes as being on good terms with government circles, have received major public commissions. Although, regrettably, the Hungarian media has always been dependent on direct or indirect support from governmental agencies, in the form of paid advertisements – money has recently been syphoned off from content providers, including media outlets close to or supporting the government.

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