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Media accused of biased coverage

April 3rd, 2014

A pro-government analyst rejects an OSCE report according to which the media is biased in favour of governing Fidesz. A left-liberal daily complains that its election panel discussion was banned because the Kúria (or Supreme Court) and the National Election Comittee (NEC) found them in violation of the principle of balanced coverage by excluding Jobbik.

An OSCE pre-election country report released a week ago, quotes opposition claims that Fidesz created an uneven playing field by using government advertisements supporting its own slogans. A complaint by opposition candidates against TV2, the second largest nationwide commercial TV channel, was rejected by the NEC, but its decision was overturned by the Supreme Court, which ruled that TV2 violated the law because the government ads were in fact campaign messages that TV stations are not entitled to accept payment for. The report accepts opposition claims that the public media unilaterally supports Fidesz in the run-up to the elections.

Magyar Nemzet publishes a rebuttal by political analyst Dániel Deák who remarks that the OSCE did not present any data to prove that Hungarian public media is biased (the Report says the OSCE is currently conducting a quantitative analysis the results of which are not yet available). Deák quotes the findings of Nézőpont Institute, a centre-right think-tank, claiming that while during the campaign commercial stations do not dedicate more airtime to political news than usual, public television provided balanced coverage to all parties, including Attila Mesterházy, Jobbik, Andor Schmuck (leader of a tiny Social Democratic Party) and Katalin Szili (a former MSZP MP who launched her new splinter party late Summer). As to the commercial media, the OSCE is deeply mistaken in accusing them of avoiding political issues, Deák believes, as commercial channels “did broadcast critical reports daily when the government tried to impose a special tax on television commercials” nor can they be presumed to be close to Fidesz as the report alleges, quoting opposition sources.  The OSCE also failed to notice that ATV, the only left-leaning channel, is far less balanced, he adds, providing scant coverage to extreme right Jobbik while they extensively showed party banners in their report on the Sunday opposition rally. (The very same day NEC fined ATV for violating campaign rules with this report.)

Népszabadság accuses the NEC of overreach for it banned a panel debate organized by Népszabadság and ATV “for democratic parties”, inviting Fidesz (who declined), the opposition alliance and LMP, but not Jobbik (arguing that it is not a democratic party). The NEC ruled that the organizers discriminated against Jobbik. Népszabadság tried to argue before the Supreme Court that the panel discussion was not a case of political advertisement, therefore NEC had no jurisdiction over it, but their appeal was rejected. Such an extension of the concept of political advertising, Népszabadság complains, would entail that no politician could be interviewed and no event reported. However, the left-wing daily adheres to the ruling (and ATV airs interviews with politicians one by one, rather than staging debates between them).


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