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Ads tax approved by Parliament

June 13th, 2014

A left-wing columnist accuses the government of introducing censorship through a selective media advertisement tax. A pro-government commentator, on the other hand, welcomes the taxation of commercial media outlets with little added social value.

On Wednesday, Parliament approved the new media advertisement tax (see BudaPost June 4). An amendment introduced before the vote stipulates that media outlets in the red may write off up to 50 per cent of the new tax. According to government estimates, the new tax will yield 7 to 9 billion Forints per annum to the budget.

“The advertising tax adopted by Parliament is a violation of press freedom,” Imre Bednárik writes in Népszabadság. The new tax will penalize profit-oriented private media outlets which are financially independent from the state and do not seek the support of the government through biased reports, the left-wing columnist argues. He accuses Fidesz of introducing the ads tax in order to further strengthen its hegemony over the media landscape. Such dominance amounts to censorship, he adds. He suspects that the tax was tailored to penalize first and foremost RTL Klub, the most popular and highly profitable commercial TV channel, while TV2, another commercial TV company recently purchased by allegedly pro-Fidesz investors will have to shoulder a much smaller extra burden, especially as a result of the last minute amendment in favour of companies running a deficit. In an aside, Bednárik speculates that the government may have a buy-out by Fidesz-allied investors in mind, and this may be why it wants to “bleed RTL Klub”. If Fidesz was really concerned about the “social wrongs” caused by commercial media outlets, it should regulate their content through the media law rather than introducing selective ads, Bednárik concludes.

In Magyar Hírlap, Péter Szentmihályi Szabó contends that left-wing critics who regard the ad tax as a threat to free speech and democracy are defending the interests of wealthy investors. The conservative columnist believes that commercial media should not enjoy preferential treatment. The dumb and shallow content they provide has no social value whatsoever, and thus such commercial media outlets should pay taxes on their advertisement revenues, just like any other profit-oriented company, Szentmihályi Szabó contends.

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