As hundreds of employees at MTV, Duna TV, and MR are being dismissed there is a huge outcry in the Hungarian media, which is not surprising given the collegial sympathies within the profession. The outcry is particularly strong in that small segment of the media that is critical of the present government. Papers close to the Orbán government didn't spend much time on the topic or show much sympathy towards the victims of the reorganization. In Magyar Nemzet, for example, there were only two brief news items on the subject lately. On July 5 it was announced that altogether 550 people will lose their jobs at the three institutions immediately and by the fall the numbers will reach 1,000. That is about one-third of the whole staff. Today another article announced that the decrease in numbers was inevitable given the new organization of the public media. Period.
The reorganization means that the news for the three media outlets will be compiled centrally by MTI (Magyar Távirati Iroda), the official Hungarian news agency. Since I found MTV's news very poor even before this reorganization, I decided to take a look at yesterday's evening news on MTV and Duna TV to see what MTI came up with. And then compare these broadcasts to that on ATV.
First, MTV evening news. Admittedly, it was very hot yesterday in Hungary–a record-breaking 35.8C (96.4F) in Budapest. But does the news really have to spend almost 9 minutes out of 26 on the subject? After they finished with the report on Budapest, they moved on to Pécs and Szeged. In Pécs they talked to the Fidesz mayor about the heat, but the socialist mayor of Szeged wasn't given the opportunity to share his meteorological words of wisdom.
The second item was genetically modified corn, which is strictly forbidden in Hungary. To be sure that Hungary will not have any genetically modified produce in the foreseeable future, the present government found a place for the ban in the new constitution. And horribile dictu, the authorities found not just modified but genetically contaminated corn on 400 hectares. Well, that was the end of this crop. They spent almost three minutes on this subject.
There was a brief mention of a government plan to raise the price of certain drugs for people who have asthma or pulmonary diseases and who still smoke. The so-called "hamburger tax" on unhealthful foods was referenced with a report that Antal Rogán (Fidesz) proposed a change in the bill that would exempt canned soups and sauces from the list.
After that came, for about the third day in a row, the story that in a summer camp about thirty children became sick. By now everybody is well but MTI still sent someone to a hospital only to announce that all children have left already and the camp was closed.
There was a murder in Budapest and miraculously the Hungarian police found the man immediately, a Serbian citizen who had a huge arsenal of arms with him. He was found in a pig sty somewhere fifty kilometers from the Hungarian-Serbian border. He has already confessed to killing his girlfriend.
Then came two very brief foreign new items. Some demonstrators heading to Tel-Aviv were detained at Orly Airport in Paris. And The News of the World in London ceased publication.
Between this meager foreign news and the announcement that the uniform of the Forma-1 drivers will be decorated with Hungarian folk motifs we learned that the employees of the public media are planning a demonstration for next week. There was an interview with the spokeswoman of a newly established media authority who assured everybody that political considerations play no role in the selection of those who receive pink slips. And finally, we learned about the last Harry Potter film.
All in all, very poor and hideously boring.
The big difference between MTV and Duna TV was that Duna TV didn't start with the heatwave. The corn was the lead story, followed by the weather. The heat was discussed in only two minutes instead of eight and the time they gained that way was devoted to genetically modified corn in Romania. Of course, we heard the same stories about the camp and the children who are no longer sick, and the more expensive medication for those who smoke.The fired public media employees got the same kind of coverage as on MTV. Some news items about the Hungarian minority in Romania and Ukraine followed, mostly complaints about the lot of the Hungarian minorities. Naturally, the decoration of the Forma-1 uniforms couldn't be missed, and the news ended with Harry Potter.
So, let's see what ATV found important in the day's news. After a brief mention of serious differences of opinion between István Tarlós and the mayors of the districts, ATV moved on to former Prime Minister Péter Boros's criticism of the military judge who refused to keep the three men accused of spying in pre-trial detention. In this connection it was mentioned that Péter Tarján, an expert on national security matters, found the handling of the alleged espionage on the part of the national security people unprofessional.
ATV reported on The Economist's article on Hungary's European presidency: it considered Hungary's performance "modestly successful" but mentioned several problems posed by the media law, the constitution, and the report of the Venice Commission. ATV then talked about the sacking of the employees of the three public media organs and announced that there will be a demonstration next week.
We also learned that in the town of Devecser where the red sludge ruined almost every building, eight families could move into new townhouses. There are 100 empty lots available. A new building was occupied by the Devecser police, which is bigger and better than ever.
The weather got a minute or two of coverage, and the murder was naturally also reported on.
But then came something that we heard nothing of on the public television stations: foreign news. DSK's earlier alleged rape-attempt in France was mentioned. They managed to find space for the news that Berlusconi will not run for office in two years. ATV spotted the item in The Washington Times from which it is clear that an Egyptian politician invited by the Tom Lantos Institute to attend the Conference on Democracy and Human Rights in Budapest denies the holocaust and considers Anne Frank's Diary a fake. And finally there were a couple of news items from the United States: the Michigan murderer who after killing seven people committed suicide and Atlantis's last journey into space. Finally a couple of soccer items.
I might also mention that after this half-hour news comes a program devoted entirely to foreign affairs. Those watching ATV learned almost everything important that happened in the world that day from Syria to Pakistan and South Sudan.
Tomorrow I will listen to yesterday's news at the two apparently most popular television channels: RTL Klub and TV2.