Yesterday, I offered my impressionistic assessment of the Magyar Televizíó’s bias in its presentation of the refugee crisis and the referendum, which was supposed to save Hungarians from the curse of a Muslim invasion. But, as I wrote yesterday, I watched the programming for only an hour, just before the polls closed. I interpreted the frantic tone of the reporting as a last, desperate attempt to change what by then looked like an inevitability: an invalid referendum. But, as you can see below, thanks to Democracy Reporting International (DRI), which is a Berlin-based think tank, today we have an objective, scientific assessment of M1 as a propaganda tool of the government. I should add that ATV and HirTV can be viewed only by cable subscribers.
I know that some of you think that “no one watches Channel M1,” but that is incorrect. According to a 2015 survey, M1 is the fourth most often watched channel after RTL Klub, TV2, and Duna TV. Channel M1’s audience is around 1.8-1.9 million people; ATV has about 1.2 million viewers. At that time HírTV didn’t even make it in the top fifteen.
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Hungary’s public TV backed government position 95% of the time during EU-refugee referendum – new research
Hungary’s state-owned TV network M1 showed a strong pro-government bias in primetime news programming during the referendum campaign on EU refugee quotas, despite a legal duty to show balanced coverage. New research published today reveals that 95% of airtime allotted to refugees and the referendum endorsed the government’s position, and 91% of related news items were negative about refugees.
The study, which monitored news across the country’s five main TV stations from 8 – 22 September, found the state broadcaster also allotted the greatest airtime and prominence to refugees and the referendum. M1 headlined with related issues in 86% of news shows, as well as dedicating 42% of news programming – more than double the average amount of time allotted by all five channels at 18%.
Michael Meyer-Resende, DRI Executive Director, says: “The staggering amount of airtime and prominence, not to mention the biased tone and lack of balanced debate, makes M1 seem like an extension of the ruling party’s no campaign. For six years Viktor Orbán has systematically dismantled democratic checks and balances. We’re seeing the results of that now.”
TV2, a station bought earlier this year by businessman Andrew Vajna with close government ties, exhibited the second strongest pro-government bias.
Table 1: tone of news items on refugees in the referendum context
The percentage of news items dealing with the refugee issue and the referendum based on the overall tone (negative, neural, or positive) of each item.
Table 2: number of news items covering refugees and the referendum
The number and share of individual news items on the refugee issue and the referendum by television channel.
Table 3: airtime allotted to refugees and the referendum
The average length of news items dealing with the refugee issue and the referendum by news programmes (in minutes), and the share of total news programming on each channel.
|Share of airtime||42%||10%||5%||17%||18%|
Table 4: prominence allotted to refugees and the referendum
The slot in which news items dealing with the refugee issue and the referendum first appear among all topics in a given news show.
|1st news item||86||0||0||50||29|
|2nd – 5th news item item||14||0||7||43||64|
|6th or subsequent item||0||100||93||7||7|
Table 5: percentage airtime that supports the government’s position
The proportion of time allotted to presentations of positions that favour the government’s stance in terms of dealing with the refugee issue and the referendum.
|Percentage of time that supports or promotes the government’s position||95%||89%||39%||46%||53%|
|Percentage of time that supports or promotes a position that is different to the government’s||5%||11%||61%||54%||47%|
Table 6: average airtime that support’s the government’s position
The average time allotted, respectively, to the presentations of positions that favour the government’s stance and of positions that differ from the government’s view, dealing with the refugee issue and the referendum (in seconds).
|Average length of content that supports/promotes the government’s position||118||55||29||38||40|
|Average length of content that supports/promotes a position that differs from that of the government||6||7||46||44||35|
Table 7: percentage of news items that show plurality of voice
The share of news items which feature both voices which endorse the government’s view and voices which promote a view that differs from that propounded by the government.
|The joint appearance of conflicting opinions||6%||30%||47%||21%||26%|
Table 8: percentage of news items that encourage voter turnout
Share of news items that deal with the issue of turning out to vote as a percentage of all news items that address the referendum.
|Encourages to turn out||Encourages not to vote||Both||Not mentioned|
Table 9: percentage of news items that encourage voting a certain way
Share of news items that encourage viewers to vote a certain way as a percentage of all news items that address the referendum (or also refer to the referendum).
|Encourages to vote “no”||Encourages to vote “yes”||Encourages to submit an invalid vote||Presents several potential viewpoints||Does not indicate how one should vote|
The statistics are based on monitoring the evening news shows of five national television channels between 8 and 22 September. M1 is state-owned public television, TV2 is controlled by businessman and ally of the Prime Minister Andrew Vajna, RTLKlub is owned by Germany’s RTL Group, ATV is controlled by evangelical church ‘Faith Church,’ and HirTV is controlled by Lajos Simicska, former ally of the Prime Minster, now opposed.
RTLKlub (9%), Tv2 (7%) and M1 (5%) drew a significant share of viewers, while the two satellite channels boasted smaller ratings (approx. 2%). This research was commissioned by Democracy Reporting International and carried out by Mertek Media Monitoring Budapest.