Firms owned by friends of government officials make billions on government propaganda campaigns

March 20, 2017

Laughing all the way to the bank: Antal Rogán and Csaba Csetényi

The Hungarian government continues to forward substantial sums of public funds to communications campaigns through the National Communications Office, most of which are awarded to companies controlled by businessmen associated with prominent Fidesz members. 24.hu reports that of the three consortia tasked with carrying out the government’s propaganda activities, two of them win the lion’s share of contracts: the United Advertising Consortium owned by Csaba Csetényi, friend and exclusive Pasa Park neighbor of the government’s propaganda minister Antal Rogán, and Trinity-Sprint Consortium, owned by Tibor Kuna, personal friend of Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó.

The government was relatively frugal on communications during the final quarter of 2016, spending only a little over HUF 3 billion (USD 10.4 million) between October and December. Nearly half of that quarter’s communications expenditures were directed to the third consortium via a single contract: the Government Debt Management Center (ÁKK) directed HUF 1.44 billion to the consortium to promote the sale of government securities. Still, Csetényi’s consortium managed to bag HUF 1.15 billion in the fourth quarter for promoting government decisions on behalf of the so-called propaganda ministry led by Rogán.

But Kuna and Csetényi’s firms won out easily over the underdog third consortium in the year’s previous quarters. HUF 8.5 billion (USD 29.6 million) was spent on communications in the second quarter of the year, more than half of which was won by Kuna’s consortium, and HUF 6.6 billion (USD 23 million) in the third quarter, 80 percent of which was pocketed by Csetényi’s United Advertising Consortium.

Csetényi has overseen numerous lucrative communications campaigns for the Fidesz government, often winning no-bid contracts for jobs including the campaign for the “National Consultation on Migration and Terrorism” in 2015 and last year’s major propaganda campaign for the anti-EU refugee resettlement quota referendum. A new “public information” campaign has been announced ahead of general elections in 2018, and Csetényi’s firms have been entrusted with rolling out the ads countrywide in local newspapers, radio stations, television stations, on the internet and in public areas.