Magyar Telekom to sell Origo

August 6, 2015

origo
Hungarian news site Népszabadság reports that Hungarian television broadcaster RTL Klub is interested in purchasing the loss-making Origo.hu news website from Magyar Telekom. A senior RTL Klub executive declined to comment.

A number of media moguls and investment groups reportedly have expressed an interest in purchasing the news portal, including András Megyeri of Brit Media Kft. (which recently invested HUF 40 million in Hungarian opposition radio station Klubrádió), Gábor Holló of Hirkereso.hu, and Hungarian historical revisionist and Fidesz apologist, Terror House managing director Mária Schmidt.

Népszabadság reports RTL Klub and its Luxembourg-based parent company see  potential in Origo, which has been a loss-making media company for years.

It is not known what agreement, if any, was struck between RTL and the Hungarian government in exchange for the latter agreeing to rescind a controversial tax introduced in 2014 targeting the television broadcaster’s advertising revenues.

RTL Group vice-president Andreas Rudas denies any agreement took place, and RTL Klub continues to run news stories that are often highly critical of the government and certain officials.

Magyar Telekom, the owner of Origo, decided to sell the news portal earlier this year. The portal has allegedly managed to rack up HUF 4 billion (USD 14 million) in losses over the past five years.

Magyar Telekom, a subsidiary of Germany’s Deutsche Telekom, says the sale of Origo is consistent with the parent company’s policy of insisting that subsidiaries operate profitably.

It is not yet known whether Magyar Telekom intends to sell only the news portal Origo.hu or whether it plans on liquidating all of Origo Zrt.’s assets, (which include Freemail and Ozone Network, Life).

Népszabadság reports that offers are being solicited from all parties expressing an interest in purchasing the news portal.

Magyar Telekom’s problem with Origo runs much deeper than its loss-making operations. Last year, Origo’s Editor-In-Chief and a number of senior journalists left after a scandal in which, the journalists claim, the government put pressure on Origo’s owners (from Deutsche Telekom to Magyar Telekom, and Magyar Telekom to Origo Zrt.) to stop the news site from publishing articles about personal trips abroad taken by now-Minister Overseeing the Office of the Prime Minister János Lázár at taxpayer expense.

The sudden departure of Origo’s news staff hurt both the portal’s reputation and the quality of its news.