RTL programming director and vice-CEO Péter Kolosi gave an interview to 168ora.hu about whether the 20-year-old commercial television station should be considered opposed to the government merely for failing to toe the government line, and about the “fake news” that the station is loss-making and up for sale.
Kolosi is one of the few managers at RTL who has been working there from the start. When Figyelő, the weekly publication that has become a pillar of Fidesz propaganda since being acquired last year by House of Terror executive director and pro-Fidesz historian Mária Schmidt, reported recently that RTL was for sale, Kolosi wrote on his Facebook page that RTL was being attacked with lies in a coordinated manner.
“Figyelő wrote this lie,” he told 168ora.hu. “Origo also published it and further published a misleading, non-professional ratings analysis the same day. The goal was easily discernible: to spread and support the fake news about the sale.”
Kolosi admits that the story was quickly forgotten but insists that RTL was attacked, even if in a ridiculous manner.
When asked about the proposed graduated advertising tax in 2014 that would have stripped the commercial broadcaster of much of its advertising revenue, he said the German-owned TVF channel had been the target of various political attacks over the past few years but he declined to cite any specific examples, claiming such “attempts at intervention are natural in some way.”
“If one is proud of being independent in that neither their operations nor their news service depend on any of the sides, then whoever happens to be in power will not like this. The other side will have much less trouble. Believe me, this has been my experience for over twenty years. And my statement stands true not only in the case of news programs but for entertainment as well.”
Considering the fate of TV2 (which was bought by government film commissioner and casino magnate Andy Vajna using a large loan from a state-owned bank), Kolosi explains how RTL Klub was able to ward off every political attack for twenty years by saying:
“It mostly depends on the expertise and ethical stance of the colleagues who work here. Moreover, an owner is necessary that lets one work with professional expertise, and for whom principles of ethics and independence are important.”
Regarding RTL Klub’s newscast, Kolosi denied that it had turned more oppositional in 2014 and later dealt more with tabloid news. When asked how interested people are in politics right now, he said: “Very much, as the ratings show. There was a period when people were much more apathetic.”
The vice-CEO said he “strongly disagrees” with the characterizations of RTL Klub being an “opposition station.”
“But everyone likes to categorize others, especially journalists. Fortunately, in the opinion of the majority, RTL is the most independent news source in Hungary,” he said.
While many claim that recent shifts in media ownership into the hands of government-tied oligarchs merely serve to offset the ‘liberal predominance’ in the media environment, Kolosi disagrees that the “oppositional” RTL Klub is able to act as a balance to the pro-government TV2.
“The whole theory is untrue. Just because more and more media are working along partisan or ideological lines, that doesn’t make the rest gravitate automatically to the other side. This is merely an optical illusion,” he said.
When asked about the events at Őcsény and whether the media was responsible for the local residents’ inability to assess the situation realistically, Kolosi said that “it is the responsibility of the press to always tell the truth in news reports. You must show the world and its diversity of opinions as they are. We can only be responsible for our own programming.”
While to his knowledge RTL Klub is not boycotted by Fidesz politicians, Kolosi raised questions about why his station does not receive government advertisements.
“The size of state advertisements increased five-fold in the last five years, with the state becoming one of the biggest advertisers. But these advertisements go in a certain direction and mostly end up at TV2. It is not at all logical that the state advertisements go to TV2 while RTL is still the market leader.”