Hungary state media to replace private media as gov’t mouthpiece

February 6, 2015

Orban

In January Prime Minister Viktor Orbán privately informed representatives of privately owned pro-government media outlets that in the future he will “use public media to promote government interests” and that the government would no longer place advertising with them, according to vs.hu.

News of this meeting came on the heels of an official announcement that Hungary’s already extensive public television profile will be expanded to include a 24-hour, bilingual news channel.  MTVA recently announced the dismissal of 177 employees, while appointing new ones.

According to vs.hu, among those invited to the meeting were Gábor Borókai, editor-in-chief of weekly Heti Válasz, Gábor Liszkay the leader of Magyar Nemzet’s  editorial office, András Bencsik from Demokrata, Ottó Gajdics from Lánchíd Rádió as well as Gábor Élő who is responsible for publishing Magyar Nemzet Online (mno.hu). Some of the participants, like Borókai, confirmed the meeting took place but declined to elaborate on what was discussed.   Others denied such discussions took place.

Borókai,  Liszkay, Gajdics and Élő were among those who announced today that they were resigning their positions, presumably tojoin the new, expanded state media.

Borókai informed vs.hu that the amount of state advertising – a traditional way to ensure loyalty to the government – had visibly and significantly diminished since autumn of 2014.  During this time there was a notable change in media content as well, with certain government members such as Miklós Seszták, Minister of National Development, and Fidesz caucus leader Antal Rogán being singled out for criticism for alleged corrupt practices.

Meanwhile Hungary’s state media company, MTVA, received a growing slice of the state media budget, which amounted to as much as HUF 79 billion (USD 350 million) in 2014. Even though MTVA is regulated by the Media Law and supervised by Hungary’s Media Authority, its programming is generally considered to have a strong pro-government bias.