Media authority rejects Class FM application to renew frequency license

August 2, 2016

John Michael McNutt (Photo: Origo)
John Michael McNutt (Photo: Origo)

It appears Lajos Simicska’s sale of Advenio Zrt., the company that owns Hungarian radio station Class FM, to Sláger Rádió Zrt. and Marquard Média Hungary failed to bring about the renewal of its frequency license, reports Hungarian news site Index.hu.

In May, we reported that Advenio Zrt., a company owned by Simicska and long-time business associate Zsolt Nyerges, had been bought by Sláger Rádió Zrt. and Marquard Média Hungary. Rumors circulated at the time that the sale  of Advenio Zrt. was an attempt by Simicska to enable the radio station to retain its broadcast frequency license which was coming up for renewal in November 2016.

Simicska’s business interests have taken a serious blow since the oligarch’s very public falling out with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in 2015.

After purchasing Advenio, the new owners hoped the radio station would be able to hold on to its frequency license despite several penalties assessed by Hungary’s media authority.

According to Index.hu, Advenio Zrt. filed to renew its frequency on July 30th, 2015.  Laws governing the renewal of frequencies state that applications for renewal must be submitted 14 months before the expiry of the license.

In May a representative of Advenio Zrt.’s new owners, Árpád Túri, announced that Class FM’s nationwide audience reaches around 2.8 million listeners.

No dice

Hungary’s media authority recently announced that it would not renew Class FM’s license, which is due to expire on November 19.

The media authority’s decision comes as no surprise. Ever since Simicska’s falling out with Orbán, the government has done pretty much everything imaginable to thwart the oligarch’s many business interests, spanning from construction to media and agriculture.

Advenio’s new parent company, Sláger Rádió Zrt., is owned (directly and indirectly) by John Michael McNutt, a US citizen.

Joint bid for index?

In addition to selling Advenio Zrt.,  Simicska was rumored to own options to purchase Index.hu, one of Hungary’s most widely read online news websites. Index.hu is owned by another oligarch, Zoltán Spéder, who, like Simicska, has  fallen out with the Fidesz government, prompting some to suggest that Simicska would exercise his options to purchase the online publication together with McNutt.

An article that appeared in the July 21, 2016 edition of Figyelő entitled “Index and McNutt” (pg. 13) suggested that the purchase of the popular daily online by a Simicska-McNutt duo “might, from a political point of view, create a new situation.”

According to Figyelő, there are those in the Hungarian government who are troubled by the prospect of Michael McNutt expanding his media portfolio in Hungary.

Figyelő cited an account by McNutt himself, made during a guest lecture at Central European University, where the American businessman claims to specialize in “investor-state disputes.” (The video is available here on YouTube.)

McNutt’s hands are certainly full now that the media authority has decided to axe his newly-acquired Class FM’s broadcast frequency license. But rumors that the American media mogul may join forces with Simicska to acquire Index.hu will certainly be a source of anxiety for the Fidesz government.