Olga Kálmán is leaving ATV for Lajos Simicska’s Hír TV

The news of Olga Kálmán’s departure from ATV and her move to Lajos Simicska’s Hír TV has spread like wildfire. This unexpected event prompted scores of negative comments on the Assembly of Faith, the fundamentalist sect that owns ATV. Columnists also bemoaned the sad state of the Hungarian media, which leaves someone like Kálmán with only two choices: either ATV or Hír TV. They reminded their readers that only a couple of years ago Hír TV was part of the Fidesz media empire. Its journalists made it their mission to hunt down all those liberals whom they considered Viktor Orbán’s enemies. Since the Simicska-Orbán fallout two years ago, however, quite a few newcomers joined the staff and its most vicious mud-slingers left. They will find a congenial home in Lőrinc Mészáros’s new acquisition, Echo TV.

It is an anomaly that a basically conservative or even right-wing sect like the Assembly of Faith keeps up a liberal television station. So the clash of cultures within the walls of ATV should have been expected. Critics claim that Sándor Németh, the leader of the Assembly of Faith, made a deal with the devil in 2012 when, they suspect, he agreed to some level of cooperation with the government in return for his sect’s “recognized” status. The Assembly of Faith is certainly the odd man out among the 26 accepted churches.

The first program that ATV scrapped was the Újságíró Klub with György Bolgár, Tamás Mészáros, and János Avar. Every Monday night the three seasoned reporters, with the assistance of a moderator, discussed the main political events of the previous week. In June 2014, after 14 years of great popularity, ATV did not renew their contracts, allegedly because of lack of interest in the program. Its replacement was a flop and died after a single season.

In May 2016 Sándor Friderikusz got the boot, ostensibly because his excellent conversations with intellectuals were deemed to be too serious for the station’s audience. Friderikusz’s liberal outlook was most likely the real reason. In October Friderikusz gave a lengthy interview to Index in which he described the state of affairs in the studios of ATV under the direction of Sándor Németh’s son, Szilárd. Friderikusz recounted a conversation in which Sándor Németh inquired from him whether he was purposely working for the downfall of Viktor Orbán.

And about a month ago we learned that András Bánó, the long-time director of ATV’s excellent news, is leaving the station. Most people doubt that his departure is voluntary. The pressure is on to get rid of certain people.

Meanwhile, there have been signs that the Assembly of Faith, under the leadership of Sándor Németh, is supporting the government’s views on the migrant issue. ATV, for example, agreed to air the government’s anti-migrant ads, which many faithful ATV viewers strenuously objected to. As we learned lately, Sándor Németh is also an admirer of Donald Trump, as you can see from the photo he posted on his Facebook page.

Sándor Németh, leader of Assembly of Faith, is a very happy man

While serious programs have disappeared one by one, a few “light” programs have been introduced. I can’t imagine that ATV’s viewers like Péter Hajdú’s Frisbee or Zsuzsa Csisztu’s Csisztus24. These programs simply don’t belong on a television station that has until now functioned as a quasi public television station. Today I took a look at both: they are dreadful.

Another “lighthearted” program is Judit Péterfi’s Magánszféra, which is supposed to let us in on politicians’ private lives. I described the program after the first episode as “an extended flirtation between the reporter and the politician, initiated primarily by Judit Péterfi.” Another new program, this one for women, seems to be superior to the other new shows–as long, that is, as one can tolerate Henrik Havas’s constant bragging.

I have no idea how these new programs are faring, but I doubt that they are hits. Friderikusz characterized Szilárd Németh’s leadership of the station as “amateurish,” and the latest changes in programming seem to justify his opinion. If Szilárd Németh, who is apparently under the thumb of his father, keeps going in this direction, ATV will soon disappear. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if by next season most of the new programs are scrapped. It was time for Kálmán to leave. It’s just too bad that the only television station that it is still independent belongs to Lajos Simicska. At least this is the opinion of Kálmán’s fans.

On a brighter note, ATV announced that Egyenes beszéd will continue but Szabad szemmel (With Open Eyes) with Antónia Mészáros on Friday evenings will be discontinued. My hunch is that Mészáros, who is a fine reporter, will take over Egyenes beszéd.

The Fidesz media was shocked by the news of Kálmán’s departure for Hír TV. They immediately went into attack mode. According to Magyar Idők, “the employees of Hír TV were perplexed when they received the news that Olga Kálmán was joining their station.” It’s not just the old hands at the station who are worried about their jobs but even those who joined Hír TV in the last couple of years. Magyar Idők learned that “the leadership of ATV has been worried for some time that Hír TV wants to compete with them by espousing a political view farther to the left than ATV is at the moment.”

Origo seems to be worried about Simicska, who allegedly will be overpaying Olga Kálmán. According to Blikk and other right-wing tabloids, like Ripost and 888.hu, Kálmán’s Egyenes beszéd (Straight Talk) is not at all popular. They seem to know that ATV’s “most often watched program is ATV Start, an early morning show.” Moreover, Kálmán’s presence seems to be immaterial to viewers. There was no appreciable difference in the size of viewership when in her absence someone else was before the cameras. So, concludes Origo, “the departure of Olga Kálmán is not an irreplaceable loss to ATV.”

Lokál, a free paper owned by the mysterious Árpád Habony, a right-hand man of Viktor Orbán, portrays Kálmán as a workaholic who was still in the studio four days before her son’s birth and, “as soon as she delivered, she was immediately on the phone on a work-related matter.” The impression these publications are trying to convey is that Kálmán is not only an unpopular TV personality but is also a bad mother. Simicska is wasting his money. All this sounds like sour grapes to me.

When it comes to the offerings of ATV, we must keep in mind that during the day the station airs two-and-a-half hours’ worth of infomercials in addition to the dubbed 700 Club with Pat Robertson, lasting 30 minutes twice a day. On Sundays, one has the pleasure of listening to Sándor Németh’s sermon Vidám Vasárnap (Joyful Sunday). Of course, this is also repeated later. ATV receives quite a bit of money from the Orbán government for airing a documentary series called Hazahúzó (Drawing you home), which depicts different regions of the country. These programs are supposed to be magnets for Hungarians living and working abroad. As we know, all these efforts have been singularly ineffective. This daily program is 40 minutes long and is aired twice a day. So, as you can see, there is a lot of filler here.

During the day I also took the time to check out Hír TV’s fare and found quite a few good programs, including their newscast, which was thorough and professional. At first glance it seems that Hír TV has more substantive programming than ATV. They have only 30 minutes of infomercials, they don’t have to air government propaganda for expats, and they don’t have to show such programs as the 700 Club or Németh’s sermons. On the basis of my sampling, it is definitely worth taking a look at Simicska’s station, quite independently from Olga Kálmán’s joining its staff.

December 18, 2016
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Member

Its a good move from Olga Kálmán, ATV is rather disappointing while Hir TV is really good at the moment! The controversy is that Simicska seems to have promised to support Jobbik sooner or later during the elections.

Sztív
Guest

To the best of my knowledge neither ATV nor HírTV have a viewing share of more than about 1-2%.

Ferenc
Guest

Don’t know any viewing shares, but as I understand people who watch ATV and HIRTV need more effort to do so and have much more trust in the information received from these stations.
Like wolfi mentioned yesterday, the public station(s) are by many called “Orban TV”, basically meaning one-side mouthpieces and unreliable.

My questin: anybody here know of and can direct to reliable “viewing shares” for all Hungarian TV stations and/or specific programs?

Benoit
Guest

’Keep your floor shining if you don’t want that others spit on it.’ (’Ha azt akarod, hogy ne köpjenek a parkettedre, keféld fényesre.’) Nagy Endre, the famous music hall writer and director of the fin de siecle advised this in his memoir, A kabaré regénye.
Ms Olga Kálmán’s decision to move from ATV to Hír Tv might have been motivated by an advice like this. To preserve her integrity. However, the crucial issue is this: is there such a thing like a shining floor these days? Is there any guarantee for her to remain unbiassed, to keep her objective stance of the political proceedings? Is there or has there ever been such a thing like independent journalism?

Guest

“Is there or has there ever been such a thing like independent journalism?”

There has been many independent journalists. They are all dead.

Istvan
Guest
Eva I have been confused for sometime by your references to the Assembly of Faith as the owner of ATV. I believe that the owner of ATV is the “Hit Gyülekezete” the Faith Church. The reason I raise this is because I assumed that your reference to the Assembly of Faith meant that it was a theological offshoot of the USA Assemblies of God (AG) which has done extensive missionary work around the world. The AG world organization is called the World Assemblies of God Fellowship and Hit Gyülekezete is not a member of that body, nor is any other Hungarian church. Sandor Nemeth is the founder of the Faith Church in Hungary, and his church evolved from the Hungarian charismatic Catholic movement into a more Pentecostal-charismatic movement. (I am not sure they would agree with that designation.) Nemeth still leads the Faith Church but his son is playing a larger role as Eva notes (but the son is not considered to be highly anointed as yet), as far as I can tell an American Pentecostal-charismatic preacher named Derek Prince recruited Nemeth into what is called the Shepherding Movement and it has no association with the AG church. Eva your… Read more »
Istvan
Guest

Eva one article you linked to was from the Hungarian Atheism Site which is clearly hostile to all forms of religion. None the less the internal workings of the Faith Church that László Bartus depicts was actually learned organizational behavior that Sandor Nemeth was taught by Derek Prince. Prince later left the group he created in the USA and repented in public over being a member.

The question László Bartus does not appear contemplate is why the Faith Church has so grown and that goes to the alienation many feel under contemporary market economies. A desire for a clear pathway in life if you like.

Istvan
Guest
In relation to Eva’s post on Olga Kalman, origo.hu revealed that her salary at ATV was about $161,000 per year based on the current exchange rate. Origo’s article seemed to believe that salary was “ami példátlanul, egészen abszurd módon magas fizetés” [which is an unprecedented, quite absurdly high salary]. Given Ms. Kalman’s significant stature and audience share it boggles the modern mind that a salary at that level can be considered absurdly high for a national media personality in a country of 9.8 million. Rachel Maddow, a liberal political commentator for MSNBC in the USA, and Charlie Rose, a political correspondent for CBS, both earn $2 million a year. Joe Scarborough, a conservative political commentator for MSNBC in the USA, earns $3.5 million, while Chris Matthews, a liberal political commentator for MSNBC, earns $4.5 million. Laura Ingraham, a conservative political commentator on XM Radio, earns $7 million a year. Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, all conservative political commentators, earn $20 million or more a year. The truth be told my own yearly income based on US military retirement, social security income, 401k payments, and reimbursements for public lobbying I still do at age 70 is higher than Ms.… Read more »
Ferenc
Guest

Today had lunch together: Habony Árpád (?Fidesz propaganda consultant?), Andy Vajna (TV2) és Németh Sándor (ATV)
https://www.facebook.com/Juhi.JuhaszPeter/posts/1313047682101045
http://444.hu/2016/12/22/osszejott-a-szentharomsag-habony-arpad-andy-vajna-es-nemeth-sandor-ma-a-nobuban-talalkozott
Merry Chrismas everybody!!

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