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Klub Rádió fears losing its licence

September 14th, 2020

As the Hungarian Media Authority refuses to renew Klub Rádió’s licence for another 7 years, its president announces a battle on several fronts to keep its frequency. The main pro-government daily rejects claims that the authority’s intention is to stifle opposition voices.

On Friday, the Media Authority rejected a request by Klub Rádió to automatically extend its licence, due to what it calls repeated infringements of the Media Law. These included the late reporting of how compulsory quotas (mainly of Hungarian music) were met in its programmes. The Authority listed 6 such cases over the past 7 years and wrote that the law leaves them with no other option than to launch a new tender. Klub Rádió may re-apply for its frequency after its current licence expires in February next year. (For the history of earlier conflicts between the left-liberal radio station and the Media Authority see BudaPost 2011 through 2014)

On Klub Rádió itself, main shareholder and president András Arató said there were no serious infringements justifying the refusal by the authorities to extend the radio’s licence. He attributed the authority’s decision to what he called the government’s intention to silence “the last independent and critical radio station”.  The decision was taken ‘by scoundrels’, he said. Arató recalled that when in 2014 Klub Rádió lost its nationwide frequency, a huge international uproar followed, including a statement by the US Secretary of State (John Kerry). Eventually, the radio won a local Budapest frequency and can only be listened to elsewhere on the internet. Arató promised his listeners that Klub Rádió ‘would not stop short of that’ again but would first seek legal remedy. He also hinted that protests over Klub Rádió‘s fate might be paired with the movement of the students of the Theatre and Film University. If in the end Klub Radio were to remain without a radio frequency, it would continue to broadcast on the Internet, to reach as many listeners as it can, he added.

In Magyar Nemzet, Soma Vizvári rejects claims of a political clamp-down on ‘the flagship of the left wing’ as well as the ‘usual dictatorship-narrative’ behind it, as the result of ‘intentional distortions and misinterpretations’. He produces a list of six fines imposed on Klub Rádió over the past 7 years, and remarks that the radio did not object to any of them. Vizvári also warns that Klub Rádió’s case is not exceptional, as four radio stations have lost their licenses recently on similar grounds without the Authority being accused of political bias (one of the losing radio stations, Civil Rádió has taken its case to court, however). He mentions that for the past ten years, Klub Rádió has been allowed to use a public frequency free of charge, without paying a concession fee, which in Vizvári’s view disproves the claim that it is a victim of political persecution. Furthermore, he writes, Klub Rádió can re-apply for the license but will have to compete for it with other potential competitors.

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