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Ringier to get rid of Népszabadság

August 30th, 2012

An independent conservative blogger wonders if the left-wing audience can sustain two nationwide dailies, or if one of them is destined to disappear.

Ringier (Switzerland) and Axel Springer (Germany) are merging their subsidiaries abroad. In Hungary, however, according to the Media Authority such a merger would run against antitrust regulations, as Ringier owns Népszabadság, the number one Hungarian daily, while Springer owns most of the regional newspapers. The Swiss publisher is therefore planning to sell Népszabadság. At present there are two possible buyers: the Free Press Foundation (founded by the Socialist Party and chaired by former MSZP MP László Kránitz) and László Csintalan, who until 14 years ago was a leading Socialist party official but has since sided with Fidesz.

In Mandiner, editor Ákos Gergely Balogh quotes rumours according to which Mr Csintalan is acting as a proxy for former Fidesz treasurer Lajos Simicska, who is believed to be the main business mogul behind the ruling party. He doubts however, if either Mr Csintalan or Mr Kránitz are resourceful enough to balance the books at Népszabadság, which has been producing a growing deficit for the past four years. The main left-wing newspaper has lost about 75 per cent of its readers over the past two decades and sells a mere 63 thousand copies daily (still three times more than the other national left-wing daily, Népszava).  Balogh has serious doubts about whether there is actually room for two left-wing dailies on the market. (Neither does he believe that the two right wing dailies can survive in the long run, since Magyar Hírlap has to be heavily subsidised by its owner, industrialist Gábor Széles.) Of the two, he deems Népszabadság clearly more valuable on the basis of the quality of its journalism. In fact, Balogh thinks Népszabadság has no domestic rivals at all in terms of quality reporting (although that may say more about the competitors’ quality rather than its own, he adds). If on the other hand Népszava were to close down, Balogh would “mainly miss its name.”  (Népszava – which means ‘the People’s Word’ – was Hungary’s historic Social Democratic daily from 1890 to 1947).

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