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October 23, one day when tabloid journalism does not dominate

October 24th, 2012

The “distance duel” between the two heroes of the two opposing camps on the anniversary of the 1956 revolution shoots mainstream politics into the top TV news, if only for a few days.

Commercial TV stations do not appropriately cover public affairs, fact-checking blog Ténytár comments on a report by Mérték (Measure), a media analyst think-tank.

According to the survey, public affairs related reports constitute a mere 14-16 per cent of the news programmes of Hungarian commercial television stations. Commercial channel newscasts are dominated by celebrity news, criminal reports, natural catastrophes and gossip. Public affairs receive, if at all, 4-5 minutes, mostly in the second half of the 30 minute news broadcasts.

There is a similar trend in the public service stations. On the main evening news of M1, the leading public station, the percentage of public affair coverage has declined from 65 to 42 per cent since 2008.

Ténytár believes that this is a clear violation of the Basic Law and the Media Law, which highlight the strengthening of the democratic public sphere among their main values. The authors accuse the government of being the main mover behind this change, in an effort to “domesticate” the media and the public.

On October 23, however, the anniversary of the 1956 revolution dominated the news from early morning, especially because of the expected “long distance duel” between the last left-wing premier Gordon Bajnai, whose political comeback was widely billed for the anniversary, and Premier Viktor Orbán in whose support a large “peace walk” was organised.

Political analyst Gábor Török believes, on the other hand, that little is actually at stake at these rival mass rallies. In his Facebook blog, he remarks that “the war of figures” about how many supporters were mobilised by each side, will only start the day after. What is even more significant, the rival interpretations of the two events will eventually be more important than the two rallies and the two speeches.

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