When it comes to the fate of Klubrádió it is impossible for me to remain detached. Ever since 2002 I have been a faithful listener of Klubrádió along with about half a million people in Hungary and abroad. What brought me to Klubrádió, about which I had heard nothing earlier, was a call-in show that had been aired on the public radio channel before. I’m talking about the program of György Bolgár, a long-time associate of the Hungarian public radio who lost his job because the Fidesz-appointed president of Magyar Rádió liked neither Bolgár nor his program. I wrote about all this on August 16, 2007.
After nine and a half years of listening to “Dear Mr. Bolgár,” as his admirers call him, it is difficult to imagine life without my two hours a day devoted to “Let Discuss It” and therefore I refuse to bury Klubrádió. I don’t know yet what will happen, I don’t know how can we save the only liberal radio station in all of Hungary, but I believe that the half a million people who regularly listen to Klubrádió’s excellent programs cannot remain without their favorite radio station. It was especially moving today to listen to Bolgár’s program. The listeners, deeply saddened but at the same time outraged, expressed their hatred of a regime that simply cannot tolerate any dissent. What is Viktor Orbán afraid of? After all, the decision to take away Klubrádió’s frequency must have come straight from the prime minister.
It has been known for a long time that Klubrádió is a thorn in Fidesz’s side. Viktor Orbán, for example, repeatedly refused to give an interview to Bolgár, most likely because he knew that he would have to answer hard questions. In general Orbán doesn’t grant interviews to opposition papers or other media outlets except when he really has to. For example, during election campaigns he even talked to Olga Kálmán of ATV’s “Egyenes beszéd” (Straight Talk). But never to György Bolgár. So, we all knew that Orbán would find a way to get rid of Klubrádió.
Shortly before the elections Klubrádió applied for a frequency that had just become available. Surely, they were thinking ahead. After the elections when their use of 95.3MHz was coming to an end, they might have difficulty renewing their license under the Orbán government. They won the competition but because of the opposition of Fidesz members on the board their license for the new frequency was “tabled.” The board refused to sign the contract under the pretext that one radio station cannot broadcast on two different frequencies. In vain did the owner, András Arató, explain that naturally they will not broadcast on two different frequencies. They will relinquish 95.3 if they can have the newly won frequency. At the moment the case involving the ownership of this new frequency is before the court.
Then slowly but surely the campaign began to make Klubrádió’s life impossible. In February 2010 Klubrádió’s license expired, requiring the station to enter into a new competition for the same frequency. The tender for 95.3MHz was now explicitly for a “music radio station that presents some local information and values,” with maximum points being granted to stations with over 60 percent music and 25 percent local news content. Clearly, the Media Authority didn’t have KlubRádió in mind on this frequency. After all, Klubrádió’s programming consists of about 75 percent speech on matters of national politics. The tender was also ridiculous because most of the radio stations in Budapest currently broadcast music. So, why another one? We know why. So that Klubrádió wouldn’t be able to win the tender.
Meanwhile, the Media Authority extended Klubrádió’s license for only three months at a time. Thus the radio station couldn’t assure its advertisers that it would be on the air for more than a couple of months and advertisers usually commit themselves for a year. Klubrádió became so financially strapped that eventually they decided to start a fundraising campaign similar to the ones National Public Radio listeners are familiar with in this country. It was a novelty in Hungary and many people doubted whether Klubrádió would succeed in this endeavor, but Klubrádió has fiercely loyal listeners. Thousands and thousands of people “bought” twelve minutes of programming time for 12,000 forints. Today a woman phoned in from Debrecen who told “dear Mr. Bolgár” that this year the family didn’t go on vacation because they paid 48,000 forints in the last few months to help Klubrádió remain on the air.
Klubrádió, in addition to the 95.3 frequency that serves Budapest and environs, had two other frequencies–one in the Esztergom-Tatabánya region and another serving Debrecen. During the summer Klubrádió lost the Esztergom-Tatabánya frequency because the Media Authority raised the price and Klubrádió didn’t have the means to pay for it.
By mid-summer the fear that Klubrádió might have to close its doors reached such heights that 25,000 people signed a letter pointing out “the political and moral responsibility” of the Media Authority for presenting a tender for Klubrádió’s frequency that surely cannot be satisfied with the current owner of 93.5. The letter was signed by the very best of Hungarian society, writers, philosophers, professors, film and theater directors, and artists. The list of names can be seen in Népszava‘s July 7th issue.
And yesterday it happened. The new owner of 93.5MHz is Autórádió Műsorszolgáltató Kft., a company no one has ever heard of. No wonder because the company came into being only a few months ago. The owners started their business venture with one million forints or about $4,200. The majority owners are Hajnalka Tamás from Dunakeszi and Lajos Mészáros from Budaörs. Lajos Mészáros is a busy guy. According to Opten‘s list of Hungarian companies, he has been involved with or still is involved with sixteen different Hungarian ventures. Out of these three are being liquidated at the moment, two have already been liquidated.
Who can Lajos Mészáros be? But what is more important, who is behind Lajos Mészáros?
Tomorrow the loyal listeners of Klubrádió will join an already planned demonstration in front of the Magyar Rádió building. The original demonstration was organized to call attention to the lack of freedom of the media at the public televison and radio stations and the plight of those employees of Hungarian public television who have been on hungerstrike for two weeks. Now they will be joined by the supporters of Klubrádió who will sing along with a CD from a benefit concert held a few months ago for the radio station and will chant: “Hadd szóljon! Hadd szóljon!”–Let it sound, let it sound!