I wrote at least twice about the noticeable move toward the right at the Hungarian public television station. First on February 21, 2008, under the title Sunrise or sunset? The story of Napkelte and again on September 25, 2009, when I asked whether there is a Beginning of a new Hungarian media war. Hungarian politicians on the right consider public television an especially important vehicle for political propaganda.
Even when the socialist-liberal government was in power Fidesz put pressure on MTV, and the leadership of the station buckled easily enough. Fidesz managed to put an end to an inferior early morning political program called Napkelte (Sunrise) that was produced by an outside firm. In its place MTV started another program called Ma Reggel (This morning) that was even worse than Napkelte. Ma Reggel's cast of characters was very similar to those of the late Napkelte: a combination of reporters who sympathized with Fidesz and/or were totally untalented and unprepared if not just plain ignorant.
Recently it was announced that two new reporters would be working for Ma Reggel: Szilvia Krizsó who had her own Sunday night political show, A szólás szabadsága (Freedom of Speech), which was simply dropped, and Péter Obersovszky, a man who is in charge of a couple of programs at the far-right Echo TV. MTV's idea of balanced reporting usually means that they hire someone from the far right whom they then try to balance with someone who is considered to be liberal.
If one compares Obersovszky's style on Echo TV to his performance on the first day (August 5) in his new role as anchor at Ma Reggel, one immediately notices that while at Echo TV he is all politeness at MTV he is fiercely partisan when he encounters someone he suspects of belonging to the other side. This difference in style is perfectly understandable. At Echo TV only "friendly" right-wing politicians show up and thus Obersovszky agrees with everything they say. In fact, he helps them along. At MTV this is not always the case.
On the very first day Obersovszky had an encounter with Gábor Török, a political scientist who cannot be accused of siding with the left. If anything, the opposite is true. But obviously he is not sufficiently partisan in his convictions as far as Obersovszky is concerned. So a rather unpleasant encounter followed. The interview was supposed to be an assessment of the first two months of the government, but it seems that Obersovszky wasn't interested in that at all. Instead he attacked Gábor Török, accusing him and other political scientists of putting too much emphasis on the dangers of "excessive power." He rather antagonistically inquired whether anywhere in the realm of political science there was such a category as "excessive power." What is excessive? Is there a level that is desirable?
Gábor Török has a blog in which he almost daily writes something about the current political situation. On August 1 the title of his piece was "Is everything going to belong to Fidesz?" It was about the possibility of an overwhelming Fidesz victory on October 3 at the local elections. The phrase "excessive power" didn't show up in this writing. Nonetheless, Obersovszky announced that "the people wanted the excessive power of Fidesz." What is the problem with this?
Török tried to explain that there is nothing wrong with it, but if Fidesz wins all the cities, towns, and villages, these municipalities might all want to have a piece of the pie and this might cause friction between local Fidesz leaders and the central leadership. Well, at that point Obsersovszky completely lost his cool. It often happens, said Obersovszky, that in the local councils interests clash, resulting in a total impasse. Civilians, non-politicians manage to get on the local councils and they bring the council's work to a standstill. What Fidesz wants is "the introduction of a rational system" instead of a situation that is often no more than a farce.
Well, that was quite a political statement. A statement that a journalist in the public media shouldn't be allowed to make. At least Török had the presence of mind to retort: "Now you have made an unequivocal political statement." It was an exchange one doesn't hear too often in the media, but that didn't deter Obersovszky who continued with his favorite theme of "excessive power." The people, according to him, wanted to give "excessive power" to Fidesz because "their lives have become impossible." When Török inquired what he means by that, Obersovszky claimed that state and municipal offices have deteriorated to such an extent that they are incapable of handling the affairs of citizens "who certainly didn't give a hoot about the dangers of 'excessive' power.'" And again he lashed out at Török: "only you emphasize this problem; am I wrong?" Török answered that he thought he was. End of interview
If I calculate correctly, Obersovszky, come fall, will be the anchor at least once a week. In August he has graced the TV screen more often. Sometimes three times in a row due to the summer holidays of his fellow anchors. During almost all of his interviews his political commitment is obvious. He has definite opinions about the IMF that wants to strip Hungarians of their last penny, has grave doubts about the Finno-Ugric "theory" and is convinced that the Soviet Union forced its own ideas about the origins of the Hungarians on the country, and lately made propaganda for the fantastic achievements of Kurultaj/tribal meeting and the Hungarian-Turanian Association. All favorite topics of the Hungarian far right.
In my opinion Obersovszky doesn't belong on a public television station, but it looks as if the current leaders of MTV thought that by employing Obersovszky they would please the current government. The leadership of MTV was never known to be able to withstand political pressure, especially if it came from the right. From here on the programs will be even more lopsided.