Media regulator and state-run media conglomerate ask for HUF 115 billion from 2018 budget

October 31, 2017

Media regulator and state-run media conglomerate ask for HUF 115 billion
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/VinceB

Hungary’s media regulator and the state-run media conglomerate will continue to guzzle up a significant amount of public funds in 2018, reports Magyar Nemzet. According to the budgetary proposal for the two entities for the fiscal year of 2018, combined, they will cost Hungarian taxpayers some HUF 115 billion (USD 430 million).

Some figures:

The National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH), Hungary’s media regulator

  • HUF 8.8 billion for payroll, a 4.3 percent decrease from 2017, to cover the salaries of 650 employees. This decrease would come against the backdrop of a decrease in payroll taxes in 2018;
  • HUF 11.1 billion for other expenses, a 5.7 percent increase over 2017 figures;
  • In total, Hungary’s media regulator hopes to operate on some HUF 34.3 billion (USD 128.3 million) in 2018.

Media Service and Support Trust Fund (MTVA), Hungary’s state-run media conglomerate

MTVA owns and operates all of Hungary’s state-run media outlets, which includes 7 radio broadcasters, 8 television broadcasters, and the MTI news service.

  • Payroll will increase in 2018 to HUF 14.7 billion, up from this year’s HUF 14.3 billion;
  • The total budget for state-run media in 2018 is planned to be HUF 80.8 billion (USD 302.3 million), up from HUF 79.9 billion in 2017.

Hungary’s media regulator has been criticized by media sector watchdogs and investors for its complicit role in allowing the media to be taken over by corporations controlled by businessmen closely connected to Fidesz, while at the same time preventing independent media organizations from expanding.

Critics of MTVA argue that the conglomerate has lost its capacity to provide public interest news and instead serves as a vast propaganda machine for the Hungarian government.

The media environment according to the US Embassy

Chargé d’affaires David Kostelancik of the US Embassy recently held a press conference at the headquarters of the Hungarian Association of Journalists to address the “negative trends in the sphere of press freedom in Hungary.”

According to Kostelancik,

  • “Government allies have steadily acquired control and influence over the media market, without objection from the regulatory body designed to prevent monopolies. Most recently, companies affiliated with pro-government figures acquired control of the last remaining independent regional newspapers.”
  • “Journalists who work for these outlets – or who used to work for these outlets – tell us that they must follow pro-government editorial guidelines dictated by the outlets’ new owners, and that they do not have the freedom to publish articles that are critical of the government.”
  • “The government also directs substantial publicly-funded advertising contracts to the outlets of friendly owners, and almost none to independent outlets. We hear reports that businesses are told they must not advertise with independent outlets, or they will face retribution.”