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András Koltay elected to head Media Council until 2030

picture of András Koltay

Among more than thirty items on the agenda for Parliament in its last session of the year yesterday, the National Assembly elected lawyer András Koltay (pictured) as Chair of the Media Council. The current rector of the National University of Public Administration (NKE) received 134 votes in favor of the nomination, with 5 against and 1 abstention.

Koltay was nominated by Viktor Orbán to head the media oversight body after former Chair Mónika Karas resigned from the position last month.

Karas’ term would have otherwise expired in September 2022, after the Hungarian general election in April. But her resignation opened up the possibility for the current government to appoint a successor to serve for the next nine years, until 2030. President János Áder subsequently appointed Koltay as Chair of the National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH) on December 1, also replacing Karas in the role, and Parliament has now elected him Chair of the Media Council in addition to his role as the head of NMHH.

Under Karas’ leadership, according to Telex, the NMHH and Media Council avoided taking strong stands on media issues that the government might consider unpleasant, and had assisted with silencing opposition media voices. One example of this, notes the news source, is withdrawing the 92.9 FM frequency from government-critical radio station Klubrádió in February and awarding it to Retró Rádió, a station owned by the pro-government KESMA holding company.

According to his biography published on the NMHH website, András Koltay is a professor at the NKE and the Péter Pázmány Catholic University, has published more than 250 scientific articles in Hungarian and foreign publications, and is the editor of two legal journals. His main areas of research are related to freedom of expression, media law, and individual rights.

From 2010 to 2019, Koltay was a member of the Media Council of the National Media and Communications Authority, and since 2018 he has been rector of the National University of Public Administration.


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]

Magyar Nemzet complains to media authority over non-binary animated bison

picture of Fred the bison

Hungarian daily Magyar Nemzet has complained to the National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH) about a non-binary bison in a Netflix animated show, summarizes Telex from a Média1 story.

The paper’s complaint is that the character Fred appears in a show without an age rating, which Magyar Nemzet claims violates Hungary’s media law. Incidentally, another character in the series has two fathers.

However, NMHH, which has recently had a change of leadership, only has jurisdiction over media service providers registered in Hungary. As Netflix’s European headquarters is in the Netherlands, the media authority cannot take action on the matter. The Hungarian Media Act, says NMHH, does not apply to foreign-based media companies.

Magyar Nemzet was also able to crack down on Netflix because of the Hungarian anti-gay law originally intended as anti-pedophile, which has had the effect of restricting media portrayals of those in the LGBTQ community.

The Los Angeles Times notes that Fred is the first such regular character to appear in programming for preschoolers.

[Telex][Photo: Netflix]

Head of Hungary’s media authorities resigning, will get 41 million Ft. in severance pay

picture of Mónika Karas

The head of Hungary’s media authorities has resigned from her two positions, receiving a large severance package, and as a result Fidesz may appoint someone to replace her for another 9 years.

Mónika Karas left her role as chair of the National Media and Communications Council (NMHH) and head of the Media Council, and is expected to receive a gross compensation package worth 61.6 million Ft. (US $191,400), or net 41.0 million Ft. (US $127,400) after taxes.

With the departure of Karas, Fidesz may elect a new chair before the 2022 elections to head the NMHH and the Media Council for another 9 years.

Karas was appointed in August 2013 after the death of her predecessor, Annamária Szalai, and her term would have expired in September 2022. Under Karas’ leadership, writes Telex, the NMHH and Media Council avoided taking a strong stand when it came to unpleasant media issues for the government.

In March, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights published a report stating that Hungary’s media authority was a politically-controlled body that guarantees an overwhelming amount of pro-government media, and that the government itself had limited the conditions for free expression in the media.

Mónika Karas’ next job will be as Vice-President of the State Audit Office, and Telex estimates that she will earn 4.24 million Ft. (US $13,200) a month in this position, nearly the same as at the head of NMHH and the Media Council.

When asked by Telex, Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, said that he had no objection to Karas, chair of the Media Authority, resigning six months before the elections and being replaced by a new chair with a 9-year term.