Editors-in-chief call for greater transparency in media ownership

May 11, 2016

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The Forum of Chief Editors (Főszerkesztők Fóruma) is encouraging Hungary’s National Assembly to adopt legislation that would make the national media market more transparent.

According to a statement released by the forum, the recent VS.hu scandal has shaken Hungary’s media market. Information made public about the amount of funding received by the website’s publisher and the sudden mass resignation of the website’s staff have caused quite the stir.

“The information made public highlights a problem in Hungary’s media market that has only been getting worse over the years,” writes the forum.

Lack of transparency and market distortion is bad for everyone in the business, including journalists and readers.

According to the forum, the coupling of journalists not knowing who the owners of the publication are and the non-transparent manner in which revenues are drawn from state sources present the media market with continuous ethical problems.

It is for this reason that the Forum of Chief Editors recommends that the National Assembly adopt legislation to make more transparent the ownership structure and state-derived revenues of Hungarian media products.

According to the forum, there are two ways to do this:

  • require owners of media products to make their interests public and to inform their audience when any changes to the ownership structure changes,
  • require all media products to make annual disclosures regarding all revenues derived from the state (not just the government but every single state institution, municipality, state-owned enterprise and so on).

There are some Hungarian media outlets who offer information regarding their revenues from state sources. But the recent scandals involving Hungary’s media sector (and its over-dependence on advertising revenues from the government and state-owned companies such as MVM and Szerencséjáték Zrt.) certainly warrant an effort on behalf of lawmakers to make ownership of media outlets more transparent.