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Opposition Laments Public Media As State-Owned News Channel Kicks Off Rather Poorly

Tamás Székely 2015.03.17.

Opposition parties have criticised harshly the renewed programme structure of Hungary’s public media. The changes launched on March 15 by the Media Service Support and Asset Management Fund (MTVA) include a 24-hour rolling news channel on the frequency formerly occupied by the main channel (M1). In its first day M1 had so many technical problems that it had to shut down around 2.30 pm on Sunday, Hungarian online daily origo.hu and bbj.hu reported. Mistakes were made in editing, cutting and sound transmission, and the anchors seemed to be intimidated by the continuous live broadcast. MTVA leader László Zsolt Szabó defended the problems, saying that “only people who do not work do not make mistakes”.

In response the Hungarian Liberal Party (MLP) said it expected public television to provide objective news coverage. Gábor Fodor, the party’s leader, told the press that his party would move to have the public media budget cut. The 2015 budget for MTVA was approved by parliament last November at 80.4 billion forints (EUR 263.9m). The public-service media should not “toe the party line” but provide a public service, Fodor said. Referring to businessman Lajos Simicska’s recent comments declaring a “media war” on ruling Fidesz and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, he said the channel is “enormously well-funded” and operates “basically out of revenge,” insisting that a media loyal to the government had been established to counterbalance “Simicska’s empire”.

The left-wing opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) said the public media in its current form should be eliminated altogether and the money spent on something more useful, the party’s deputy leader László Varju said. Varju said the new television does not even pay lip-service to its public service remit since live broadcasts of parliament’s sessions have been taken off air. The opposition Dialogue for Hungary (PM) said Sunday’s launch of the new public television channel “leaves no doubt” that funding for public media should be cut. Dialogue for Hungary co-leader Tímea Szabó said she had submitted a proposal to parliament to halve the public media budget and spend the freed amount on providing free meals for children during school holidays.

via hungarymatters.hu, origo.hu and bbj.hu photo: Barnabás Honéczy – MTI