Dismissals at the Hungarian public media: MTV, MR, and Duna TV

I would like to start with an old story. I began paying attention to Hungarian politics in the spring of 1994, just about the time of the so-called "media war." On the English-language list on the Internet which I joined, the mostly liberal Hungarians living or studying in the United States knew a great deal about the background of the firing of, if I remember correctly, 126 employees of Magyar Rádió. I, on the other hand, who knew very little and wasn't familiar with the Hungarian way of doing things, thought that since the staffs of both Magyar Rádió and Magyar Televízió were bloated it was a rational decision to let some people go.

Well, you can well imagine that I was alone in my very naive assumption. Soon enough, after learning a little more about the background of the "media war," I also came to the conclusion that my liberal friends were right and I was wrong. Sure, the number of people working for the two public television stations and the radio was enormous and economic considerations dictated a substantial reduction in staff. The problem was that the selection of people to be axed was based on alleged political views. Or, more precisely, the first to be dismissed were those who were considered to be liberal or who didn't sympathize with the government of Péter Boross– those who asked difficult questions from government officials.

Governments in Hungary consider the public media to be something they must control. They think that through these organs they can influence public opinion. That was most likely the case in the spring of 1994, but a year or so later the situation changed. No longer was there only one television station. Moreover, the number of radio stations also multiplied after the passage of a later much maligned media law.

Today, MTV has barely any viewers, although we have to keep in mind that a lot of people, the poorer strata or people living in the boondocks, still have no cable connection. By contrast, when it comes to Magyar Rádió the propaganda value of the station is considerable. It is the only station with a strong enough signal to be heard anywhere in the country. And a lot of people listen to "Krónika," the noon news, for a summary of the day's events at home and abroad.

My understanding is that the two television stations and Magyar Rádió have a total of something like 3,500 employees. From the little one can learn about the government's plans, most likely 1,000 people will get pink slips between now and the fall. The question is who will find themselves without a job in the next couple of months.

Although the man in charge of the staff cuts refuses to reveal the names of those who have already been dismissed, Népszabadság published a list of the people it knows no longer have a job. I'm not familiar with most of the names since I rarely watched MTV, though people working in the media discern a certain political bias in the selection process. The only person I know who was axed was Antónia Mészáros, the co-host of "Az Este," an evening show that focused on current political events. I thought she was an excellent interviewer, but she had one major strike against her: she is the daughter of Tamás Mészáros, a well known liberal journalist and a member of the Monday night "Újságíró Klub" on ATV that has a huge following.  

By the way, the published list doesn't include the names of those former TV stars who no longer have any work to do because their programs were eliminated yet who still get enormous salaries for twiddling their thumbs.

The situation, especially at MTV, is most likely chaotic and wasteful. Yet once again it looks as if this necessary financial step is being used to change the political coloring of MTV even more. As far as I'm concerned, MTV was already under the influence of Fidesz even when the socialist-liberal government was in power. But that doesn't seem to have been enough. The new leadership, as far as I can see, is stacking MTV with former employees of HírTV and even Echo TV. Or, when it comes to the radio, with employees of right-wing radio stations like Lánchíd Rádió.

Current policy makers and media politicians hope for a larger viewership, but I will be very surprised  if their hopes materialize. For one thing, it is exceedingly difficult to carve out and defend a space for public television in the digital age with the potential for hundreds of channels, from Food TV to the Golf Channel. Public television should not be a politicized version of commercial TV but, at least in its ideal form, should offer quality programs that have educational and artistic content. But, given the limited appetite in Hungary for adult education, it's unlikely that this kind of public television would attract a large viewership. A few years back one applicant for the job of director of MTV, Sándor Friderikusz, suggested that MTV be split up into several specialized channels. Would that have worked? I have no idea.

All I can say is that I suspect, given the quality of some of the new key people at MTV, the channel's viewership will shrink even further. Meanwhile 1,000 people will most likely be unemployed for a very long time.

 

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Sackhoes Contributor
Guest

Frankly, I am not surprised nor upset. This is what happens when you have state ownership of the media. The government controls the money and that means they control everything. And while I don’t like these firing massacres, I must say the Hungarian media is probably overstaffed and the radio and television enterprises could get along just fine with 30, 40 or 50% of current staffing.
By way of comparison, CNN has about 4,000 employees worldwide in 45 editorial operations, while MTV (in 2006) had 1900 employees in one editorial operation.

peter litvanyi
Guest

My father /Litvanyi Karoly/ was one of the founding members of the Hungarian media.
For those who speak Hungarian, here is a link:



It took place a while ago.
I wouldn’t be able to translate it. Just tears, nothing else.
Dear “Sackhoes”: you don’t know what you are talking about. We can talk about CNN and its recent performance; if you wish. Are you a fellow American? Where do you live? What is your name? You are either ignorant or….How can you even write these words?
Dear Eva:
“Meanwhile 1,000 people”. Let’s have the list, it speaks for itself. Gyurcsany Feri is right. I might not /at all/ agree with him but he is an honest man. Always was, the miserable bugger.
Peter Litvanyi

Paul
Guest

I take the opposite view – this is what happens when you don’t have state ownership of the media.
Every country needs one TV and radio station they can rely on for unbiased information, and that isn’t going to happen with a profit motive driving it.
The BBC isn’t perfect, but it’s a pretty good example of what I’m talking about. It can be done.
But the people have got to want it badly enough to be ready to fight to protect it when the government start playing rough.

peter litvanyi
Guest

I agree Paul.
Peter Litvanyi

Member

PBS (in the USA) and CBC (in Canada) are in trouble too. Although I agree with separation of State and Media, just like the separation of State and Church, most public media outlets are liberal. I am not saying that this is a bad thing or a good thing, but I think most of them are biased to the left. On the other hand it is very hard to find any media outlet that is non-biased, and if you are looking at the conservative media, you get some very lame “honest reporting”. Hungary has it share from these type of programs, so does the USA. So, when you look at the big picture the quality is still in the public media.
Does the Hungarian Public Media needs to cut back? Yes, I believe they do, but the process should be transparent, and based on qualitative and quantitative measure that are easy to explain. THe record of Fidesz as far as transparency goes is very poor and getting worst by the second.

Adele
Guest

While I agree that there should be some form of public media (especially since some people cannot afford cable) it is worth noting that the most honest reporting today in Hungarian television comes from ATV, which is a private channel. In a country like Hungary, where the government does not understand the concept of a free media, a BBC model unfortunately cannot work. I would advocate for all those highly-qualified journalists who were fired to start their own TV station, far from government control of government money. One of the main issues today in Hungary’s civil society is that it is so dependent on the government financially that it struggles to find an independent (and honest!) voice. In Hungary, we need more private media.

Odin's lost eye
Guest
The real problem for most of the worlds ‘Public Broadcasting’ outfits is that they did not have a John Charles Walsham Reith and a ‘Royal Charter’ in at their foundation. Royal Charters are like the Tablets that Moses brought down mountain with him. Once signed (by HM) they are very difficult to change! Witness the problems in Canada over the lands given to the Mohawk by Charles 2 of England and Scotland. Very few ‘Public Broadcasting’ outfits have or really understand that the job. As Reith put it when he summarized the BBC’s purpose in three words was to educate, inform, and entertain. You will notice the order that Reid gave to the words. First is to educate, by his he meant to teach people about things they may not know. These would range from how to nail wood together to how to analyse a story by Dickens. Most politicians believe that to control the ‘Public Broadcasting’ outfit is vital to their party’s power and control of the nation. The Governing party think people are stupid –dim yes, stupid no-. As Ole Abe Lincoln said “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the… Read more »
Member

Me personally I don’t really like the BBC news at least not BBC America here. I can’t tell them apart from Al-Jazeera.
I’m totally with Sackhoe. The independent state run media is a myth. In the moment the state takes it’s hand off the outlet it starts behaving like any other independently funded media. I’m sure I’ll cause an uproar with this but the advertising revenue is the guarantee for the free flow of information. Not the truth. Forget the truth. My truth is may not be yours.
With state run media the problem is not only that the politicians just can’t resist manipulating it. I don’t want my taxes spent on cheap entertainment for others. At minimum, if we really insist having state run broadcasting it should be profitable. By the way the MTV ‘s (Hungarian Royal TV) viewership is in free fall at this moment.
I also agree with Some1. The media and the churches must stop being the bitches of governments.

Member
Odin, I would add Tiananmen Square for good measures as Fidesz is taking China as a great example in the way the country should go. Adele: I cannot fully agree with you and here is why. Not having Public Broadcasting is maybe the way to go, but have some form of it and being stuffed with people who are predominantly biased toward a particular party, and achieving that goal by letting others go, is simply wrong. It is my understanding that Public Broadcasting will not fold. Also, just like Odin’s pointed out, there should be a tool that passes on news and educate people (on current politics, human rights, Hungarian history, political rights, whatever), and that tool should reach far to the most remote villages if need it. That should be via Public Broadcasting, and that will always cost money, because it is hard to beat popular programs, but there should be money for it. Of course there could be and are grants to stimulate such programming on private networks, but I have to say that in my experience, the quality of Public Broadcasting most of the time is way above the rest. Public Broadcasting should not be a tool… Read more »
Johnny Boy
Guest

“I can’t tell them apart from Al-Jazeera.”
Why? Because they don’t just spit Israel’s lies? Because they refuse to call those terrorists who are only defending their homeland (Palestine) on their own territory?

Member
Johnny Boy: ” Because they refuse to call those terrorists who are only defending their homeland (Palestine) on their own territory?” Now, here you go again. You, yourself call them terrorists, but you think that they are OK. What is qualify as homeland Johhny Boy? How far we have to go back in human history to make sure everyone is on their homeland? Maybe the Magyars should pack their luggage and start to march back all the way they came from, so they would be on their homeland. Who was first in the current territory of Transylvania Johnny Boy? You forgot a few very important things here. You do not want the Jews in Hungary, many like minded people do not want them in their tribal territories either. (These are those limited mental capability people who cannot see the forest from the tree). So why don’t you tell us what would be the alternative? The other thing is that the people you call Palestinians are not really welcomed in other Arabic countries to settle or visit for that matter. THe third point that integration was offered by Israel, it is extremist (like Hungarian extremist who do not like Jews, Homosexuals… Read more »
Johnny Boy
Guest

I didn’t call them terrorists, try interpreting my sentence again. I said BBC refuses to call them terrorists, and that is a very correct behavior.
You yourself should look up whose homeland Palestina is and not ask me.
The other garbage you say about what I want and what I don’t want is below the standard worth commenting.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

JB, you either don’t know English well enough or you are a liar. Or both.
This is what you wrote:
“Why? Because they refuse to call those terrorists who are only defending their homeland?”
If you didn’t want to call the Palestinians terrorist you should have said: “Why? Because they [BBC} refuse to call those people who are defending their homeland terrorists?”
If you had written the sentence I suggested above your explanation would have been acceptable. But you didn’t say that. So, Some1 was perfectly right. You called the Palestinians terrorists.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“You called the Palestinians terrorists.”
I didn’t. If I say this:
“Because I call you a fag who lies all the time?” is exactly the same grammatical structure.
Yet I think it is obvious what the sentence means. Both are correct, mine and your expanded version. Some1’s interpretation results in an incorrect sentence because it is apparent that ‘call’ is an incomplete verb there.

Member

Some1: I like very much your post! To the last word.
Actually I mentioned Al-Jazeera as an example of what claims to be independent but it’s not. Homework for Johnny: contemplate on the fact that you can watch Al-Jazeera in the Washington DC area.
Returning the original subject my point is that broadcasting is business. The truth doesn’t sell well. If the evening news would go like: “Hamas kept shooting rockets on Israel so Israel bombed the crap out of them. Now the weather …”. Would you watch this? There is no truth in broadcasting – there is information and opinion. Twisting my own point I would say we want to be lied to but not from one station. I wouldn’t have problem with the MTV presenting it’s own version of the truth if it was privately funded. Do you follow Johnny? You can say whatever you like just don’t make me pay for it with my taxes.
And of course let me say what I want to say …

Member
Johnny Boy: I do not have to look up who’s homeland is Palestine (by the way the first Philistines integrated into that region way after others already settled.) Likely what YOU think is significant is what took place in the Iron Age, but there were several thousands years prior to that, so brush up on your history. The point is that with your logic Hungary should forfeit their “claims” to Transylvania (if you know the history of that area.) How far do you need to go back? How fare will you go back to claim a land? Until it is convenient for you? THe point is that you make some claims that you cannot back up (as usual), then you say “I am not answering that” like a three years old. THe point was also that it is not the people on the “territory” who have problems but the likes of you. THe problem is that you and those similar to you have some tribal claims all over the world, and you want to tell people where to go (literally and otherwise). You want the gypsies somewhere, the Jews somewhere, your cozy to the Chinese but have a problem with… Read more »
Member

“Why? Because they don’t just spit Israel’s lies? Because they refuse to call those terrorists who are only defending their homeland (Palestine) on their own territory?”
Short answer: No.
Long answer: Johhny, you are an idiot.
Even longer answer: No, that is not the reason I think the BBC and Al-Jazeera are similar.
Vincent, we happy?

Johnny Boy
Guest

Some1 this is the last time I’m warning you to stop insulting me.
Your outrageous lies about where I wanted the Jews or Gypsies or any other group is going to end up in you being completely ignored from my part very soon. If that is what you wish, just go on, but after that it will become useless for you to address me in any way.
About Palestine, it’s you who without any factual claim hinted at that the Jews were first on the now Palestinian ground. It’s your turn to support it, not mine.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Mutt: you are going to get ignored very soon, too.
Idiot.
Is that really all you can do? Personal insults?

Member

“you are going to get ignored very soon, too”
Calling you an idiot is my way ignoring your posts when you stick to me out of context questions about me liking channels that call the Palestinians terrorists. Stop being a primadonna focus on the subject and please don’t forget we are not stupid.

Odin's lost eye
Guest

The BBC’s services within the U.K. are not funded by the Government but from the Licence fees paid by all who own TVs. The BBC asks for given licence fee and the U.K. Parliament agrees/disagrees it.
One problem the BBC has is with the financing of the overseas broadcasting.
Some of this is paid for by H.M. government and some (like BBC World News) is paid for from advertising revenue.
This is why the BBC’s Hungarian; Bulgarian and Ukrainian etc services were shut down. HMG would not pay for them.
With satellite TV There are two problems firstly there is the licence/copyright problem and secondly there was a forced agreement made with the CCCP to make the footprint of the BBC’s (and western broadcasting satellites in general) so as to minimise that part of the population of the Warsaw pact countries which could receive it.
This is why the European satellites are so far west. That is on the longitude of the west coast of the USA.
To receive BBC and ITV programs from Hungary you need a very large (3 meter diameter) parabolic antenna. It has to be a Newtonian type, the Digges/Hershel type.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“please don’t forget we are not stupid”
You make this impossible to believe when you say you can’t differentiate BBC from Al-Jazeera. That simple.

Member
Johnny Boy: “I’m warning you to stop insulting me.” You are insulting everyone else, so why don’t you stop and answer those questions that are the very consequence of your comments? You throw a ball and when someone throws it back you start to cry. So, if we all collectively insult you as you collectively insult others, would you stop posting all together? SHould Eva stop replying to you as you consistently insulting her? Johnny Boy: There is factual claims that the first human beings were from Africa approximately 1.5 million years ago. Were they Jews, Magyars or Philistines? You tell me. They were human beings. Philistines only arrived after the Egyptians and Syrians set up some settlements and they INTEGRATED into existing society just before the Iron Age around Gaza. The Israeli State was not established in Gaza, but further up with a capital of Jerusalem around the same time. So there you have it. Let’s give the land back to the Egyptians! Mutt: Yes, that is a very interesting point. We all pay through our taxes for Public Broadcasting. This is why PB should be an independent body, and should not be politically motivated. NOw, of course that… Read more »
Member

Johnny: ‘”please don’t forget we are not stupid”
You make this impossible to believe when you say you can’t differentiate BBC from Al-Jazeera.’
Just to avoid any misunderstandings or English grammar problems: You don’t mean I’m stupid, right? 🙂

Member

“[the BBC] funded by the Government but from the license fees paid by all who own TVs”
This is sooo twentieth century. What if I only watch DVDs??
This was the case in Hungary when I moved out. Is this still the same?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mutt Damon: “This was the case in Hungary when I moved out. Is this still the same?”
No, Medgyessy as a campaign promise stopped the practice.

DAVE
Guest

The tentacles of the FIDESZ government reach into each and every fabric of the Hungarian society. Why should the media be any different? All the signs show the path to “1984”. Do I have to say more???
I challenge anybody to choose randomly any 5 amongst the 700 or so new laws, regulations and rules that the Orban government brought in during their 1-year old reign, and present these laws into Austria or Australia, or into any real western democracy. These governments would fall…
As I said earlier; I am waiting for the leaders of Europe to stand up in their own Parliament, and not only distance themselves from the deeds of the Hungarian government, but condemn the Orban regime for the shame they are bringing onto the commonwealth of European democracies at the dawn of the 21st century…

Paul
Guest
Some thoughts: 1. As a native (UK) English speaker, I actually read and understood Johnny’s sentence “Why? Because they refuse to call those terrorists who are only defending their homeland?” to mean “Why? Because they refuse to call those who are only defending their homeland terrorists?”. Maybe to non-native speakers, whose knowledge of English is more ‘correct’ than us, this sentence wouldn’t have meant this, but to us here in the UK, Johnny’s usage isn’t that unusual – wrong, perhaps, but not unusual – and, I think, would have been understood by most of my compatriots in the way I understood it. Of course, I can’t say Johnny actually meant it this way! But I’m happy to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. 2. You don’t have to be an anti-Semite (or more accurately, anti-Jewish) to have grave reservations about the way Israel treats the Palestinians – both within and without its borders. As someone who grew up in western Europe, in the immediate post-war period, I am culturely conditioned to be pro-Jewish, but I am emphatically anti-Zionists and very opposed to the polices and practices of the current (and many previous) Israeli governments. What the… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Paul: “Johnny’s usage isn’t that unusual – wrong, perhaps, but not unusual”
You are most likely right but at least you must admit that it is ambiguous. At least I think it is ambiguous.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“At least I think it is ambiguous.”
Yes it is a bit ambiguous. But seeing it in the context makes it obvious. With malignancy, however, nothing is impossible.

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