MVM Paks II. Zrt., the company overseeing the expansion of the Paks nuclear plant, has spent roughly HUF 1 billion (USD 3.8 million) since 2014 promoting the construction of two new reactors according to documents obtained by Dialogue for Hungary MEP Benedek Jávor after a protracted lawsuit, reports Magyar Nemzet.
The first contract for promoting the expansion of the nuclear plant in southern Hungary was a framework contract worth net HUF 550 million (USD 2.1 million) made with oligarch Lajos Simicska’s I.M.G. Media Group media agency in 2014. Magyar Nemzet, which is also owned by Simicska, claims the nature of the framework contract makes it difficult to track down which contractors actually performed the work.
From 2015 onwards the government concluded individual contracts. The high number of government-tied media among the contractors is conspicuous. Echo TV’s weather program and the daily Magyar Hírlap, then owned by Hungarian businessman Gábor Széles, were awarded contracts worth HUF 45 million (USD 175,000) and HUF 40 million (USD 155,000), respectively.
András Bencsik’s weekly Demokrata was awarded a contract worth HUF 20 million (USD 77,000) for publishing two-page articles on the significance of nuclear energy for 10 weeks. By contrast, independent economic weekly HVG was awarded a similar contract for only HUF 2.25 million (USD 8,690).
MVM Paks II. Zrt. also contracted with four rural newspaper publishers for a total of net HUF 23.1 million (USD 89,000), namely Mediaworks Zrt., Pannon Lapok Társaság, Lapcom Zrt. and Russmedia Kft.
MVM Paks II. Zrt. also spent a few million winning the support of the local media of nearby settlements. The regional TV channel Telepaks was awarded a HUF 6.75 million (USD 26,000) contract for various promotions between 2015 and 2016. Rádió 96.3 Kft., the operator of local Paks channel Fortuna Rádió, was contracted for HUF 7.2 million (USD 27,800) to produce and broadcast informative programs, interviews and advertisements about the new power block.
Government-tied think-tank Századvég Political School Foundation also landed a contract worth HUF 21.2 million (USD 82,000) for conducting two polls on the acceptance of the expansion project. Médianéző Kft., a subsidiary of another government-tied think-tank, Nézőpont, was awarded a HUF 2.55 million (USD 10,000) contract for press monitoring.
Thorough analysis of the contracts acquired by Jávor might take some time as the government only provided non-searchable copies. The recently acquired contracts total roughly HUF 21 billion (USD 81 million), only a fragment of the HUF 4 trillion (USD 15.5 billion) of public funds allocated to the project.