A few words about the current state of the Hungarian media

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…

Kiricsi Karola

Karola Kiricsi, spokeswoman of the Hungarian Media Council

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.

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
A. T. K.

I think the picture is not complete without listening to the words of György Bolgár:
You can listen to them in Hungarian:

Here is a translation of them:
“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. ”
The most popular commercial stations were awarded licences under MSZP-SZDSZ hence I think they are left-liberal. MTV is watched by a few percent of the population while they commercial stations are watched by the masses.
There are also many other news organs, like index, galamus, origo, magyar narancs, figyelo, figyelonet, hir24, Elet es Irodalom, Neo Fm, Nepszabadsag, Nepszava, HVG, 168 ora, stop.hu, nepszava.com, and many others that are left wing or liberal.


“He claimed that Klubrádió is trying to portray itself as an “independent” organ when in fact it is an “opposition” radio station. The accusation is baseless.”
There are a lot of sources calling Klubrádió an “opposition station”:
and even AFP with a direct quote:
“Another demonstration is scheduled for Sunday, this time to support Klubradio, the country’s only opposition radio station, which last month was stripped of its broadcast frequency.”
Please take into account the above sources.


People are hearing about Klubradio in Canada. Here’s a piece called “A letter on freedom to Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.”


@A.T.K: You must have misunderstood what Eva wrote. Let’s see Eva’s words again:
“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. ”
What is baseless here, is Prohle’s claim that Klubradio tries to portray itself as an independent station . What Eva says, that no, that’s not true, as Klubradio is openly critical of the government, an opposition radio.
The links you provide just confirm that Prohle’s accusation is baseless.

ATK: As if “opposition radio station” were an institution in a democracy… That Fidesz does not know, I am not surprised, but should somebody be in doubt: with free speech and media, there is no such thing as “opposition radio” as anybody is free to criticise the government out of any reason, in particular if that is confined to civilised statements in the press, radio or TV stations. Radio stations often survive governments, without having to switch from “opposition” to “official” radio station and back. In many European countries, the state owned channels have to make sure that there is fair coverage of the main political camps. Some newspapers and news channels take pride in being independent observers who try to find out for the public as much politically relevant facts as possible, so that the public can make an independent judgement. So if foreign observers also call Klubradio an opposition radio station, this should be read as: we got the point, Hungary is autocratic at least. That is why counting whether the distribution of radio stations or newspapers is fair or not, is just a confirmation of what observers think: current official Hungary is seriously challenged by the idea… Read more »

@A.T.K. “The most popular commercial stations were awarded licences under MSZP-SZDSZ hence I think they are left-liberal. ”
So there are left-wing and right wing music stations… Geez, I’d have to pay attention to what song I’ll listen to.
I suggest we differentiate sport channels too, based on being left or right wing sports.. etc.
Commercial stations are just that, commercial stations… usually not much interested in politics, just providing entertainment and making money.. in fact, most of them would be happy to leave out politics from their lives. Very few radio or TV stations are openly political. Klubradio was one of them.

Joseph Simon

Re MD’s comment. I received the Lipták letter from Hungary, from a friend of ’56 times. His father was jailed after ’56, my friend was discriminated against during Kádár’s reign. No fascists here!


@Joe Simon I didn’t say your a fascist. I said most of the extra-right loonies posted it on their blogs. Go figure. Next time please post the link instead.
My father was jailed for 6 years in 56 so stop bragging with your friends. Where were you by the way?


Ah. This chick is disgusting. Though I liked that cigarette lighter on her neck. How does she look her friends in the eye after this?
I wonder how much is it worth to silence a radio? When Orban sold his flat to the French ambassador’s brother in law the guy lost about 30-40 millions on the deal so it looks like this is the price for an ambassadorship in Paris. So offering 20 million extra with an impossible business plan (with no experience in the business) sounds about right.
When the STRABAG or the Hungarian State Lottery Agency will drop 20 million for a radio commercial what will this chick say? God! What a career. You are a professional liar and your boss is an ex porn magazine editor and your party is the defender of Christian values against Europe. What a trash. I’m sure she got a hefty bonus last Christmas when this bunch of “bazmeg” counters got a huge payout.


Mutt Damon: How does she look her friends in the eye after this?
I believe she is embedded with Fidesz and therefore, her friends are Fidesz supporters.
She use to be CEO of the Company that was part of a consortium that arranged 2011 fireworks in Budapest. Budget fireworks about 135 million plus a budget for 80 million for media purchases.

Nothing illustrates the problems with journalism in Hungary better than when the estimable Mong Attila was introduced on ATV as an “ellenzéki újságíró” (opposition journalist.) Attila politely insisted he is simply a journalist. But when he was doing excellent investigative work about the K and H scandal, he was labelled a “Fidesz journalist”. Everything is so polarised that people cannot conceive that it is possible to think and act independently. I remember showing a friend of mine Private Eye (the UK satirical magazine) and he could not get his head around what he was seeing. “But they are attacking everyone! Whose side are they on?” If you watch ATV, there is a programme that has been running for years, in which three talking heads (articulate and intelligent people, one of whom is Bolgár György) discuss the weeks events from the same perspective. With my British eyes and ears, I’m crying out for someone from the other side to put their view and thus enliven debate. But that hardly ever happens anywhere in the Hungarian media which is one of the great problems affecting Hungarian society, healthy political debate. Incidentally, Klub Radio is tacitly funded by the MSZP (or rather their… Read more »

You may be interested to know that the organization Reporters Without Borders has just posted its latest ranking of countries according to press freedom. For some reason, it ranks Hungary seven places ahead of the U.S. Can’t imagine what criteria they are using.


Mark: Can’t imagine what criteria they are using.
This is the full report:

They don’t list any specific criteria, but if you read the report it seems to be things like ownership, arrests and beatings of journalists, changes in media and privacy laws, etc. Oddly, although Hungary gets a better rating than the US, on the world map at the end of the report, Hungary is (rather ironically) orange “notable problems”, whilst the US is yellow “satisfactory”. Either I’m misreading this or they’ve slipped up. As regards their verdict on Hungary, although the TV and radio picture in Orbánistan is dire, I think they are right, the press situation isn’t too bad. Despite the theoretical threat of the media law, newspapers and magazines still seem to be able to publish what they like. Either Orbán doesn’t see the press as a serious threat*, or none of the editors or owners have yet managed to seriously upset him! *The press has a very small (and shrinking) audience compared to TV, so it’s only real power is setting the agenda that the TV and radio then follow (which is why in the UK our supposedly ‘balanced’ public radio and TV actually has a right of centre bias). But, if you control the TV and radio,… Read more »
Joseph Simon

Orbán et al should follow the US example how to bypass, outflank the press. Nothing of importance is ever reported in the US media, except celebrity gossip. ‘Occupy Wall Street’ is the most exciting social movement since the Vietnam war protests. It is ignored or marginalized. Ms. Born has to be mentioned again. This unassuming economist could have prevented the financial crisis. She was silenced by Greenspan, prevented from airing her concerns. Remember Mark Twain. Freedom of speech but a good sense not to use it.


OT – a couple of reports caught my eye today:
Is Jobbik becoming the ‘official’ opposition?
“Jobbik demands parliamentary committee to examine plagiarism allegations against Schmitt; spokeswoman says president’s statements on scandal “smacked of lying”.”
And Malév appears to on the verge of collapse (yet again):
In the first para of this portfolio.hu piece, Spanish airline Vueling appear to be about to buy Malév (or some of it, at least). But in the second para it’s all doom and gloom:
“If Malév, which is close to financial collapse, cannot remain afloat until the Spanish company’s arrival, then Vueling’s competitors will swoop down on the temporarily empty Hungarian market and then it would not be worth for the Spanish company to buy a stake in Malév.”
Can Malév be saved? Should it be saved? Do we care?


CNN channel is no longer available on our DIGI satellite service; the only English news now is BBC world; which I don’t mind.
Is CNN on any of your service provider’s list? will they take away ATV, as well?


ps. And CNN has been replaced with Hits music channel from Romania.


Is this news for real?
47000Ft not even enough to cover the one loan we have

Eva S. Balogh

enuff: “Is this news for real? http://www.168ora.hu/buxa/matolcsy-47-ezer-forintbol-nagyon-jol-meg-lehet-elni-90077.html 47000Ft”
I’m afraid so. He said a few more truly stupid things too.


No wonder he is not attending Davos 2012. He would be over qualified for the economics forum.


That wouldn’t even cover the mortgage on our flat (and that’s our Hungarian flat, and a Sterling mortgage!).
And this man is in charge of the Hungarian economy. Or did I dream that?


enuff, cool, I think Matolcsy should try to live on 47,000 ft per month and give the rest of his income to charity (or, even better, send it as a payment towards the national debt)


Is that number (47,000) arbitrary or is it eg the minimal wage or some social minimum? (I could not find any hint in the article of 168 ora.) The average net wage reported by KSH is three times this amount (for manual workers twice).