It appears former Fidesz oligarch Lajos Simicska’s free daily Metropol has come to an inglorious end. Deprived of state funding in the form of government and state-owned company advertising, and the right to be distributed in Budapest metro stations, Tuesday (today) is the last day the free daily will go to press, reports nol.hu.
Péter Hivatal, CEO of Metropol‘s publisher, confirmed the rumors heard by nol.hu but said the company would release more details later.
Metropol circulated 330,000 copies daily around Budapest public squares and all of Hungary’s county seats. It will end its operations after 18 years on the market.
The daily was originally founded by a Swedish company. The paper started circulation around Europe, the Americas and Asia during the second half of the 1990s. It got its name from the publishers’ business model: spreading the paper at public transportation hubs.
Megapolis Zrt. purchased the paper in 2011, one year after Fidesz’s landslide victory at the national elections in 2010. Megapolis’ owner, Károly Fonyó, was known for his strong ties to Lajos Simicska (pictured), the architect and main benefactor of Fidesz’s economic hinterland.
But Simicska’s relationship with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán changed in 2014 when the two had a falling-out. By February 2014, Simicska was openly criticizing Orbán. In return, Orbán opened fire on Simicska’s media, construction and agriculture companies.
Since then, the Orbán government has drastically cut its economic ties with virtually all of Simicska’s business interests, as evidenced by the notable dearth of state advertising in Simicska-owned media outlets.
According to Kantar Media, the state (including state-owned enterprises and local municipalities) spent some HUF 218 million advertising in Metropol the first quarter of 2015. This fell to HUF 28 million in the first three months of 2016 as state advertising was redirected to new media outlets launched or otherwise controlled by so-called informal advisor to the Prime Minister, Árpád Habony, whose free daily “Lokál” launched last year has supplanted Metropol as the Fidesz government’s free daily of choice.
Megapolis Zrt. saw the writing on the wall when news emerged that Habony would launch a free daily to challenge Metropol, utilizing the same business model.