Every week the National Media Authority publishes detailed statistics about news coverage, breaking it down by political categories. They distinguish, for instance, between news featuring members of the government parties and the opposition. The statistics on the website of the Media Authority are drawn from an analysis of MTV’s evening news, the news on Duna TV, the noontime news on Magyar Rádió (Déli Krónika), Tények (Facts) on TV2, RTL Club’s news coverage, the news on ATV, HírTV, and the far-right EchoTV. I thought that a few numbers might highlight the plight of the opposition. Bear with me for a few minutes.
The latest statistics (between September 3 and September 9) show an overwhelming preponderance of Fidesz politicians in all the news. The leading vehicle for Fidesz-KDNP messages is the much-listened-to Déli Krónika on MR (67.6%). TV2 is not much behind with 62.1%, but even ATV spends 56.5% of its total time on the activities of Fidesz politicians. One must also add to these high numbers news about Christian Democratic politicians. Again, Magyar Rádió’s noontime news leads the list with 14.7%. Thus 82% of domestic coverage is devoted to the government parties on Magyar Rádió. The “public” television stations and MR spend very little time on MSZP. Echo TV spends more time on Jobbik than any other media outlet under consideration, and ATV offers the most extensive coverage of LMP and DK. Overall, the average coverage of the listed news broadcasts is as follows: 61.4% of the coverage is about Fidesz-KDNP politicians while only 16.3% deals with MSZP. LMP and Jobbik each receive 8.1% and DK only 4.1%.
The situation is not better when we read about “direct speech coverage of the representatives of the government parties.” Again, Magyar Rádió is the most brazen in this respect: 93.3% of the coverage is devoted to politicians of the government parties while, for example, members of DK never made an appearance either on MTV’s evening news or MR’s noontime Krónika. ATV, on the other hand, seems to ignore the Christian Democrats while they spend more time on LMP (13.2%) and DK (7.9%).
Another category is the “speaking time of members of the coalition parties and the parliamentary opposition in news programs.” The pattern is the same. Thus, one can conclude that someone who listens to Magyar Rádió’s news at noon and MTV’s evening news will receive mighty little information about the activities of the opposition parties and the opinions of their spokesmen.
When it comes to individuals, it is not surprising that Viktor Orbán leads the list. In a week Viktor Orbán’s activities were mentioned 58 times and he could be heard (direct speech) 40 times amounting to about 15 minutes. He was followed by Antal Rogán, János Martonyi, Péter Szijjártó and István Tarlós, mayor of Budapest. MSZP’s Attila Mesterházy paled even in comparison to Tarlós. Mesterházy could be heard only two minutes during that one week. Even Benedek Jávor, whip of LMP, fared better with his 2.5 minutes. Gyurcsány’s name was mentioned four times but he couldn’t be heard either on television or on radio during the week.
In the statistics there was also a category called “government” or “cabinet.” These are members of the government without party affiliation. I didn’t mention this category when describing the September situation because the government per se was barely mentioned in the news coverage during the first week of the month. However, if we compare the latest statistics to those of the first week of January we find a strikingly different picture. Only nine months ago 19.2% of the coverage centered on the “cabinet” while only 40.9% was devoted to Fidesz and KDNP. In comparison to the first week of January Viktor Orbán’s total and direct speech coverage also went up considerably. While in January Viktor Orbán was mentioned 41 times and directly quoted 25 times, in September these numbers are 58 and 40. But one doesn’t have to go back that far. In July on MTV’s evening news Fidesz-KDNP accounted for 56.5% of the total coverage while in early September it was 60.0%. So, there seems to be a steady rise in the coverage of Fidesz-KDNP.
The news coverage of the two popular nationwide commercial television stations, TV2 and RTL Club, is scant. Only about 10% of the population reads a newspaper, and relatively few people get their news from the Internet. Out of habit most people listen to Magyar Rádió’s Krónika at noon. And yet it is MR’s news coverage that is the most lopsided. Therefore political news hardly reaches the average Hungarian, and when it does it is slanted. MTV, for instance, doesn’t like to report on news that’s uncomfortable to the governing party; if they mention it at all they hide it at the very end of the program, after some local news about a traffic jam.
I really should listen to more of MTV’s and MR’s news coverage and compare it to the actual happenings of the day. I have the feeling that it would be a depressing exercise. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that the opposition’s messages simply don’t get out to the population.