The new media law came into effect after midnight today but the Media Authority has already been hard at work looking into media transgressions under the old media law. And, by golly, they already found at least two problems. Very big problems!
The first involved Tilos Rádió (Forbidden Radio). Why is it forbidden? Because it started as a pirate radio station in August 1991 after the people who launched the station had had enough of the frequency moratorium imposed by the Antall government.
Apparently nowadays very few people actually listen to Tilos Rádió, but one of their listeners, O.Á, was certainly tuned in on September 2 at 17:52:54 when a song by American rapper Ice-T was played. According to O.Á. it was "an opus encouraging violence" which "leads minors toward linguistic primitiveness." O.Á. thought that "it would be important that the radio wouldn't allow popular entertainers to transmit songs leading to destructive worldviews."
The Media Authority sent O.Á's letter on to Tilos Rádió with its own analysis of the station's dreadful transgression and demanded an explanation. The analysis, which included a translation of the English lyrics, was eight pages long! (Csaba Molnár [MSZP] wrote an open letter to Annamária Szalai and inquired how much the translation cost.) According to the Authority Hungarian youngsters under sixteen are well versed in the English language and that knowledge comes largely from music. However, they admitted that they didn't find any reliable statistics on the linguistic knowledge of youngsters under 16.
Tilos Rádió made the letter public and also published their own answer. They explained to the staff of the Media Authority that first of all Ice-T's English is barely understandable to those English speakers who are not familiar with black slang and it is very unlikely that Hungarian youngsters would be capable of understanding the rapper's English. Also, according to the radio's statistics only 4% of the listeners are between the ages of 13 and 18. They have no statistics on youngsters under sixteen.
HVG immediately got in touch with Ice-T, who got a kick out of the story. He laughed at the whole thing and ended the interview with "I love it. People are still afraid of me." No wonder. After all, he was born in 1958. Not exactly a youngster anymore. And he now plays a detective on the popular and mainstream "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." The song in question, by the way, was "It's On," the lyrics of which are available on the Internet. I very much doubt that too many Hungarians, young or old, would be able to understand them.
The funny thing about the whole affair is that if people couldn't understand Ice-T's lyrics before, now they can read the whole obscene thing in Hungarian. And I'm sure that Tilos Rádió's popularity will also go up as a result of the Media Authority's inquiry.
The other problem facing the Authority involved a recent blog article by W. Árpád Tóta, a very talented commentator, entitled "Kompország vitorlát bont" (Ferry country sets sail). Here a little explanation is needed. Endre Ady, the Hungarian poet, called Hungary a ferry country that cannot decide whether it belongs to the west or to the east but usually ends up in the east which for Ady meant backwardness and regression. In the blog Tóta talked about a lot of missteps of the Orbán government, including economic ones, but the important message of the piece was that although many people compare Orbán to Kádár, who is indeed the model for him, in fact Kádár even at the age of seventy had more brains than Orbán has at 47. It's true that Kádár didn't live long enough to experience the revolution of the Internet, but surely he would have caught on that the Internet brought a new era to which the powers-that-be must adjust. But Fidesz is "astronomically" behind times when its politicians don't realize that they might be able to shut up Tamás Bauer and József Debreczeni when they write in the print media but what they cannot stop is this:
Well, this is pretty gross montage picturing a penis and the face of Annamária Szalai, but Tóta is right. It is impossible to stop it. On YouTube there is a video from a film about Adolf Hitler but with Hungarian captions which makes no bones about the fact that although we see Hitler on the screen, it is Viktor Orbán who is speaking. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puq0JjCB_js&feature=fvst
But let's return to Tóta's piece. It had scarcely been put up on the Internet when a letter arrived at the offices of Index where Tóta's blog appears with the following demand: "Please immediately remove the link which is vulgar, tasteless, and repulsive." I just checked, the link is still there. The letter came from the "Tartalomfelügyelő Főosztály" (Department of Contents Supervision) which some have already compared to the Thought Police, the secret police of Oceania in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.