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Tag: Klubrádió

Biggest stories of the year in Hungarian politics (part 1)

picture of 2021

“2021 wasn’t a quiet year by any means for Hungarian domestic politics,” writes Azonnali, which highlights its choices for the nine biggest political stories of the year.

In the first of a three-part series, we’ll highlight Azonnali’s picks for the top nine stories of the year in Hungarian politics.

Klubrádió loses its broadcasting license

The Hungarian media situation gets worse year-by-year, writes the news site. Whereas Reporters Without Borders ranked Hungary 56th out of 180 countries in 2010 in terms of media freedom, it dropped to 91st in 2021. Countries such as Albania, Hong Kong, and Kosovo now rank higher than Hungary in this area.

The NGO has also called Viktor Orbán an “enemy of the media” – the first EU leader to get this designation, and joining strongmen Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Alexander Lukashenko.

Perhaps it is not surprising then, that the media space narrowed even further when Hungarian courts dismissed Klubrádió’s legal action against the Media Council in February, thus effectively ending the radio station’s terrestial broadcasting.

Citing minor irregularities, the Media Council did not grant an extention of Klubrádió’s expiring broadcast license of the 95.3 FM frequency, a decision which was challenged by station management. Following this decision and its loss in court, Klubrádió continued as an online radio station, while its 95.3 frequency was given to the ATV-owned Spirit FM.

Fidesz leaves the European People’s Party

Almost exactly two years to the day after Fidesz had its membership in the European People’s Party (EPP) suspended on March 20, 2019, which it claimed it did so voluntarily, the party finally left the biggest party in the European Parliament (EP) on March 18 of this year, after Fidesz MEPs individually left the group in early March.

The relationship between Fidesz and the EPP had been strained for a long time, partially because of Klubrádió. However, the government-promoted billboard campaign in February 2019 insulting George Soros and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who had been nominated by the EPP, was the last straw for the transnational party grouping.

After leaving the European People’s Party, Fidesz embarked on setting up a new group in the EP, which was expected to be joined by neo-conservative and far-right parties such as Marine Le Pen’s National Rally and former Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s Northern League, but these efforts haven’t come to fruition yet.

On December 3, Viktor Orbán said on Kossuth Radio that he hoped to take an important step in forming a new party in the EP at the Orbán-promoted Warsaw Summit, but the summit ended without creating anything durable or concrete. Viktor Orbán then said that no decision would be made on the matter until after the French Presidential election in April 2022.

Although Fidesz has left the EPP, Hungary is still represented in the party through György Hölvényi of KDNP, the smaller party in the ruling Fidesz-KDNP coaltion. The party’s communications director, István Hollik, has said that Hölvényi will try to reform the EPP from the inside.

Opposition rallies against Budapest campus of Fudan University

China’s Fudan University signed a cooperation agreement with the Hungarian National Bank in 2017 to establish a branch university campus in Hungary, and in 2018 the two countries agreed that the Hungarian government would support Fudan’s activities in Hungary.

The agreement turned into a scandal of sorts, however, when journalist Szabolcs Panyi from Direkt36 found out that Fudan would be built on the location designated for the Student City university project, leading to a major reduction in the size of the project and the number of dormitory rooms for students.

Following this development, András Jámbor, the founder and former editor-in-chief of media site Mérce, made Fudan into an issue for the opposition together with the Szikra Movement, which they linked to the increasingly critical housing crisis in Hungary. Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony and District IX Mayor Krisztina Baranyi organized protests and demonstrations against Fudan and to defend the Student City project.

Despite this, the government has not retreated on Fudan. It first voted to create a Fudan Hungary University Foundation, which would run the school, then named a director to the foundation in November.

In addition to demonstrating, the opposition has now begun collecting signatures on a planned referendum for the public to vote on the Fudan issue. They will need to get at least 200,000 signatures by mid-January for the referendum to be held at the same time as the Parliamentary elections in April 2022.

…to be continued…

[Azonnali][Photo by Ryan Stone on Unsplash]

Klubrádió sees little chance of getting its frequency back through new tender

image of Klubrádió logo

Government-critical radio station Klubrádió does not believe it has a realistic chance of getting its 92.9 FM frequency back in a newly-announced tender, although the radio station is planning “certain steps,” Richárd Stock, CEO of Klubrádió Zrt, told Magyar Hang.

The news site contacted Stock after a draft of a new tender for the 92.9 MHz frequency was published in the newsletter of the National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH) on Friday. Klubrádió had broadcast on this frequency until mid-February of this year.

Richard Stock is pessimistic because, as he recalled, Hungary’s High Court, the Curia, confirmed an earlier decision by the Media Council to disqualify Klubrádió from a previous tender. The Media Council had determined that the radio station’s business and financial plans were not well-founded, and therefore the company did not meet the objectives of the tender.

Sprit FM, which has ties to television station ATV, was later granted the broadcast license for the 92.9 frequency.

As Klubrádió still has no commercial revenue and operates from listener donations, we will have to submit the same business plan for the tender as in the previous process. NMHH does not view donations as income that satisfies the terms of the tender. The Curia’s judgments are binding, and the media authority can hide behind them, meaning that if we apply, Klubrádió will again be disqualified from the tender process

– stated CEO Richárd Stock.

As to the “certain steps” they can take, Stock said that the station plans to take part in hearings held at this stage of the NMHH’s proceedings. The radio station also wants to ask the Media Council to clarify whether the call for tenders is in line with legal regulations, as Stock is convinced that they are not.

The CEO also thought it likely that the European Union could take up their cause. The radio executive noted that the European Commission had initiated infringement proceedings against Hungary back in June, after the Media Council declined to extend Klubrádió’s broadcasting license. The Commission determined that the Media Council’s rulings on the broadcasting rights of Klubrádió were disproportionate and non-transparent, and that the Media Law had been applied in a discriminatory manner.

The NMHH has had a new president since Friday, with President János Áder appointing András Koltay, a lawyer and rector at the National University of Public Administration, to the post. However, Richárd Stock claims that the media authority is not independent and carries out the will of the government.

Klubrádió’s broadcasting license expired on February 14 this year, and since then its programs can only be heard on the Internet. However, their listener base has remained stable, according to Richárd Stock, and the survival of the station is maintained through listener donations from a spring and fall fundraising drive.

[Magyar Hang]

Klubrádió taking Hungary to court in Strasbourg

picture of Klubrádió logo

Embatted radio station Klubrádió has turned to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for assistance in its fight against the Hungarian state. In September 2020, Klubrádió claims that the Media Council violated its right to free expression when the agency refused to renew its license to use the station’s radio frequency for another seven years.

According to a petition submitted to the court on Thursday, the NMHH Media Council violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which qualifies both the right to express an opinion and the right to information as a fundamental right.

Representing Klubrádió in the case is lawyer András Cech, who has conducted a number of other successful cases in Strasbourg.

Klubrádió’s request for the frequeny was rejected by the NMHH Media Council in September 2020, citing an alleged administrative error, while many other radio stations had their license extensions renewed without any problems. As a result, Klubrádió was forced to stop broadcasting on the 92.9 MHz frequency on February 14, 2021.

Klubrádió claims that Hungarian courts did not take its claims for the frequency into proper consideration. “As we have exhausted all legal remedies in Hungary, we had no choice but to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. We owe this to our listeners and to the staff of Klubrádió,” remarked Klubrádió CEO Dr. Richárd Stock.

Stock added, “Shame on the Hungarian legal system and case law that an important state body, such as the Media Council, can decide at its own discretion what the public can listen to and which radio can be denied a frequency. The right to freedom of information is a fundamental human right for the functioning of a democracy, which is why we had to turn to Strasbourg on this matter.”

Since February 14, 2021, Klubrádió has been forced to broadcast exclusively on the internet, through its Facebook, Instagram and Youtube channels.

Klubrádió claims to be the third most popular internet radio in Hungary, and the first in news and talk radio. For the past 10 years, the station has depended on the support of its listeners for its survival, and a fall donation campaign raised 111 million Ft. (US $346,000) from them.