She looks nice enough until she opens her mouth. I’m talking about Karola Kiricsi who accepted the unsavory job of being the spokeswoman for the new Media Council. I understand that most people need a job in order to eat but still…
It is not only what she says, that’s bad enough, but how she says it. Anyone who would like to hear her in her own voice should listen to her interview with Olga Kálmán on ATV’s Egyenes beszéd (Straight Talk). It’s an experience.
Of course, the occasion for this interview was the future of Klubrádió. Thanks to the ill-conceived scheme of the Orbán government to deny the station a frequency, Klubrádió’s name is becoming internationally known. One wonders whether government officials are really that dense. Don’t they realize that no one in the West is going to believe their protestations to the contrary and that they will be labeled an undemocratic regime unfit to belong to the European Union? Is it worth it?
At least on the public relations front Klubrádió is making inroads. András Arató, managing director of Klubrádió, and György Bolgár, the host of a much loved (or hated, depending on where you stand politically) call-in show, received an invitation from Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Digital Agenda. As it turned out, the Hungarian Media Council offered Kroes its assistance in properly interpreting the Hungarian media law but received no answer from the commissioner. Kiricsi was surprised and hurt!
But that’s not all. Neelie Kroes even posed for an official photo with Arató and Bolgár and posted it, of all places, on her Twitter site.
András Arató, Neelie Kroes, and György Bolgár in Brussels
All this must be truly annoying in government circles, as became apparent during a conversation György Bolgár had with Gergely Pröhle, assistant undersecretary of the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, this afternoon. Pröhle, who is normally politeness itself, was not exactly civil to György Bolgár. Bolgár wanted to know whether the Foreign Ministry informs the government of all the adverse news about Hungary coming from abroad. Moreover, Bolgár inquired whether the Foreign Ministry ever gives advice to those who are in charge of making policy. Bolgár didn’t say it in so many words, but his aim was to find out whether the ministry perhaps warned the government that trying to eliminate Klubrádió would result in such bad publicity to Hungary that it wasn’t worth it.
Pröhle’s reaction was anything but conciliatory. In fact, just the opposite. He claimed, incorrectly by the way, that Klubrádió is trying to portray itself as an “independent” organ when in fact it is an “opposition” radio station. The accusation is baseless. Klubrádió makes it quite clear that it is critical of the government. And there is a genuine need for such a radio station. Let’s see why.
Nyilvánosság Klub (Open Society Club) monitored several television and radio stations, both public and commercial, between November 7 and December 16, 2011. The findings are telling. They monitored the daily news programs of the Hungarian public radio station (Magyar Rádió), Klubrádió (an opposition radio station), and Lánchíd Rádió (a commercial right-wing radio station). They monitored the evening news programs of M1 (MTV, Hungarian Public Television), TV2 and RTL Klub, ATV, and Hír TV, all commercial stations. ATV is an opposition station while Hír TV is a pro-government one.
The Open Society Club’s first observation was that coverage of foreign news has suffered a lot in the last few years. In 2007 32% of the news was devoted to news from abroad. Today it is only 23%. In the public television station’s news coverage serious political news also decreased by 30% while tabloid news items multiplied. In M1’s evening news 50% of news items are now devoted to tabloid news. The situation is even worse at TV2 and RTL Klub. There out of ten items nine are about murders, gossip, accidents, etc. The monitors found the most balanced coverage between serious and tabloid news was at ATV’s new program. András Bánó, the editor-in-chief of ATV’s Híradó, is doing the job that public television should be doing by providing balanced and responsible coverage. I might also mention that ATV has a special news program dealing exclusively with foreign affairs, “Világhíradó.”
Criticism of the government hardly ever surfaces on MTV, MR, or the right-wing Hír TV. During the six weeks Nyilvánosság Klub monitored MTV and MR there were only two mentions of foreign criticism of the Hungarian government. It was only ATV and Klubrádió that mentioned any criticism coming from abroad.
No criticism or negative opinion was ever uttered about Viktor Orbán and his policies either on MTV, MR, or Hir TV during November-December 2011. Praise, on the other hand, was abundant, especially on Lánchíd Rádió. ATV’s coverage of Viktor Orbán was more balanced: the evening news mentioned the prime minister in a positive light 16% of the time and 30% in a critical manner.
It is sad that MTV doesn’t fulfill either the role of balanced reporting or its mission of educating the public. We also must keep in mind that MTV can be seen everywhere in the country as opposed to ATV, which is available only on cable.
It is very important to have Klubrádió remain on the air because otherwise about half a million regular listeners will be deprived of a station that balances out somewhat the entirely one-sided public and pro-government organs and the two most popular commercial stations that shy away from political news altogether.