Hungarians’ changing priorities; shifts in the left-of-center media

Changing opinions on political issues 

Yesterday I saw a Hír TV news segment that I found intriguing. A woman reporter with a cameraman behind her stopped passersby wanting to know what the “man in the street” thinks about current affairs. This is the umpteenth time that I have encountered such an exercise. The result was always disappointing. Eight or nine people out of ten simply refused to answer any of the questions while the other(s) proclaimed their loyalty to Viktor Orbán, who has created a wonderful, prosperous country. To my great surprise this encounter turned out differently. Everybody was willing to speak, and there was only one woman out of about ten who was enthusiastic about Viktor Orbán on account of his defense of the country against the “migrants.”

The reporter wanted to know what people think are the most urgent tasks and problems Hungarians face today. The answers were practically uniform: healthcare and education. A couple of people mentioned low wages and inflation, especially food prices. When people didn’t cite migration as a problem, the journalist asked them about the topic. With the exception of one person, they all claimed that the danger of migration is not in the forefront of their concerns. There are no migrants in Hungary, and migrants show little inclination to settle there anyway.

One of those dissatisfied citizens

At first I thought I may simply have seen an atypical, or skewed, news segment. But then, a few hours later, I found an article in 24.hu reporting that “Hungarians worry more about poverty and healthcare than migration.” It summarized the findings of two international organizations, Eurobarometer and the conservative International Republican Institute. Both indicated that migration is not uppermost in Hungarians’ minds. The International Republican Institute’s findings are especially interesting because the respondents were not faced with a set of prepared options. Here poverty and the lack of social equality (28%) were people’s main concerns, followed by corruption (15%), unemployment (13%), healthcare (12%), and “migration” (4%).

But in that case, why did the Orbán government launch a new campaign against the “Soros Plan”? Knowing the careful political calculations of Fidesz, we must assume that the questions in the new “national consultation” will be slanted in such a way that it will speak to the concerns of the majority of Hungarians. There are signs that in the present Fidesz vocabulary the “Soros Plan” is actually just another name for the European Union. In this case, the main thrust of this new campaign will again be anti-EU. But it has to be structured so that it doesn’t cause the kind of adverse reaction that the “Stop Brussels” campaign did.

Changes in the left-of center media

Those of you who are able to watch Hungarian-language television must be aware of the slow transformation of ATV, which until about two years ago was the only independent TV station. At that time Lajos Simicska, Viktor Orbán’s old high school friend and the financial brain behind Fidesz, turned against Orbán, allegedly because of his pro-Russian orientation. This put an end to the pro-government stance of Simicska’s Magyar Nemzet and Hír TV. At about the same time, major changes began to be introduced at ATV, which is owned by the fundamentalist Assembly of Faith. It is hard to tell whether these changes were made in order to boost viewership or for political reasons, but there are fewer programs for people who are interested in political news. Reporters were hired from TV2, a commercial station that caters to a different audience from the one that ATV had attracted earlier. Also, two important reporters, Olga Kálmán and Antónia Mészáros, left the station. Kálmán joined Hír TV and Mészáros left the profession altogether. In addition, several reporters simply disappeared from the screen. The new crew was, at least in my opinion, not worth watching.

The final straw was the replacement of Kálmán and Mészáros with Zsuzsa Demcsák, who began her career as a fashion model but later spent years at TV2, a commercial station recently bought by Andy Vajna, most likely as a proxy for the Hungarian government. After the change of ownership, reporters started leaving TV2, including Demcsák in April. ATV jumped at what the management considered to be an opportunity and hired her. The arrangement was that Demcsák and Egon Rónai would rotate being anchor of “Egyenes beszéd” on a weekly basis. Demcsák’s first week on the job was dreadful. The woman was simply out of her depth. The following week she showed off her incompetence on ATV Start, an early morning political program. Then came Friday morning when she was, I’m afraid, quite drunk while interviewing Tibor Szanyi, MSZP’s European parliamentary member. She was suspended, awaiting the results of an internal investigation, but I’m almost certain that we are not going to see her on ATV again.

On the other hand, Hír TV came out with several new programs. This morning I watched two of them. The first was “Elmúlt 8 év” (The past eight years) with Györgyi Szöllősi, who is a good reporter. The other was “180 fok” (180 degrees) with Sándor Csintalan, a somewhat controversial character who started off as an MSZP politician and at one point was in the Fidesz camp. He is now a committed foe of Orbán. The program is in part a call-in show and and in part a series of interviews. The first guests were Miklós Haraszti, who is no stranger to the readers of Hungarian Spectrum, and the head of Iránytű (Compass), a polling company allegedly close to Jobbik. I encountered Iránytű’s director before and found his views moderate and balanced. And I loved the screen behind Csintalan, showing an idyllic countryside with a charming peasant house when suddenly Orbán’s infamous choo-choo train goes across. The train appears every five minutes or so. I laughed every time. I think I will also check out another new program called “Magyar Exodus,” which will be mostly filmed abroad, with Hungarian emigrants.

Unfortunately, these two cable channels reach very few people, but their existence is still vitally important. One can only hope that ATV will find its bearings soon because otherwise it can close up shop.

September 17, 2017
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Member

If ATV had the motivation and the courage to scale its political criticism and fact-finding up instead of down at this increasingl critical juncture, it could become more a part of the solution…

Member

I seem to recall that Zsuzsa Demcsák was considered for the job of government spokeperson under Gyurcsány at one point, but lost it due to a comment she made on her blog about not wanting to have her kids mix with poor kids at their preschool, and the backlash that followed.

Hard to feel too sorry for her.

Member

The official reason was “unanswered questions about her husband’s activities in relation to organized crime.” On paper, Demcsak was the one who backed out of the deal, and Gyurcsany went on record to say he was “sorry” she would not be joining his team.

This is not Demcsak’s first rodeo with ATV, either. She co-anchored the “Reggeli Jam” morning show in 2008, until getting into a contract dispute with ATV’s management. I am surprised they took her back.

It’s always fun to slam the “beautiful people” and get that rush of schadenfreude when they fall flat on their faces. Demcsak’s problem is she comes off as insufferably arrogant, similar to Judit Stahl. Like it or not, arrogance is a trait that some people require in order to succeed in the cutthroat world of TV.

Member

“It’s always fun to slam the “beautiful people” and get that rush of schadenfreude when they fall flat on their faces.”

True but what I want to know is, “Why did they think this was a good idea in the first place?” I mean I’m all for giving people a chance but even I could have told you that Zsuzsa Demcsák was not a great choice for hosting a serious news program. TV execs seem to buy into the notion that having a pretty face gives you a pass for doing things you otherwise wouldn’t be considered for.

Member

Demcsak looks really good on paper. After her nomination for government spokeswoman, she kept thumping on about her degree in economics and her language abilities (English, Italian, German). She was also studying for a law degree, but later gave it up. Her mother was the editor in chief of Piac & Profit, a financial magazine, meaning Demcsak is not without pedigree.

This just shows that degrees mean squat in Hungary’s plagia-versities. That doesn’t mean every university graduate is clueless, it just means that degrees are no guarantee of competence.

Demcsak was really good as a TV2 morning-show hostess and lingerie model, BTW.

wrfree
Guest

Re: the cable channels…’existence vitally important’

At this juncture it appears those channels and really any medium offering contrasting opinion to the ‘line’ of the day coming out of the government is a victory for the unhindered flow of opinion and information.

The producers of programming there have a gold mine there in that they are still free to explore the many ways of offering intelligent comment into the society be it incisive interviews or person -in-the-street reporting. Television even if cable still can increase its power to inform especially when linked with social media which has the power to be very influential in attitude shaping of the population.

Perhaps that is why we see that some Magyars see ‘over the fence’ and have come to differing conclusions on where the country needs to go despite the almost total control of media. ‘Information’ still gets out no matter how anyone tries to dam it up. And well people live and love to ‘talk’ among themselves. Can’t shut everybody up.

Member

It’s a shame ATV has banned comments from the Demcsák-Szanyi interview on YouTube. Some of them were golden, like “Szanyi’s not sober either, he’s just been drinking longer and can deal with it better.” :))

Istvan
Guest
It is important for readers of Eva’s blog to understand that the Assembly of Faith referenced by Eva is not part of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship which has a big presence in the USA. The Hungarian affiliate of that body is Magyar Pünkösdi Egyház. This essay by Eva explains a little more about what Eva translates as the Assembly of Faith and which the organization itself on its English language website calls “Faith Church” see http://hungarianspectrum.org/tag/sandor-nemeth/ They actually have a short English language video about the history of Faith Church on their website which can be seen at http://www.sandornemeth.com/faith-church/history I have had several very interesting discussions about the expansion of this church with members of my family in Hungary who are devout Catholics and live in the greater Esztergom area ( Archdiocese of Gran). In general I believe they are in denial about the recruitments made directly from the Catholic faith and see the growth of the Faith Church as largely driven by secular people who looking for community within Hungary. In general my Catholic intellectual family members cite a 2010 Eurobarometer survey of religion in Hungary where about 20% of the population openly said they did not… Read more »
Jean P.
Guest

If they had asked me I would have answered that the worst danger looming over Hungary is the Putin plan. The Putin plan aims at restoring the Sovjet power sphere. The Hungarian prime minister offers Putin invaluable help to achieve this goal which implies the return of Hungarian sovereignty to Moscow.

Istvan
Guest

I agree.

Observer
Guest

Jean

I’m pretty certain it’s not Orbán offering, but Putin demanding, as he has bought Orban. So, yes, the Russians are going to succeed with whatever they plan in the case of Hun.

I don’t know how NATO and the Euro Intel services are going to contain this risk.

Guest

I’ve mentioned it before:
I think that many people in the “West” (including Germany) wouldn’t mind if the East came under a Russian hegemony again – we would have a two classes Europe again with the poor Easterners doing the badly paid lousy jobs that the Westerners don’ want …
Wait, isn’t that the situation of today already?
So there would be no real change economically – and nobody in the West really cares about the human rights of the Easterners (ok, that’s not 100% true but it’s valid for many people).

PS:
Just as many people don’t care or don’t even know how those Vietnamese and Chinese and Bangladeshis live which produce so much of what we consume in the West and the USA etc …

Ferenc
Guest

I would like to make a remark about a part of the title of the post, “shifts in the left-of-center media”. Using “left-of-fidesz media” seems more appropriate to me.
Reason: about the real position of HirTV can currently only be said that it is in opposition to OV&Co and has to be seen how it will really develop coming closer to the elections (I strongly suspect to see there enormous support for Jobbik, about which can not be said that it’s left-of-center…)

PS: as a word play it’s usable also – HirTV left F-media (after ‘Geci-day’) – how far F really left it’s hands off ATV is not fully clear (note the Consultation banners, which where on ATV’s website)

bimbi
Guest

Off-Topic, but…

Which came first? Rogan’s corrupt “Hungary residence” for sale scheme or Cyprus’s yard sale of citizenship to the super-rich and super-corrupt:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/17/cyprus-selling-eu-citizenship-to-super-rich-of-russia-and-ukraine

or Portugal’s scheme where the entry price for the super-rich and super-corrupt was a mere € 500,000:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/18/portugal-golden-visas-corrupt-brazilian-tycoon-among-applicants

I guess it doesn’t much matter – they are all in it up to their necks (today’s Guardian).

Guest

@bimbi:
Similar minds read similar sources it seems – I quoted the Guardian report on the “Dutch immigrant thread” … 🙂
And we might add of course the billions of pounds, dollars and € that Russian oligarchs and others have invested in London (and New York …) apartments – they must be rather sure that in case of need they can get there easily …
Remember the old saying:
Pecunia non olet!

wrfree
Guest

Yep.. old Vespasian had it right..👍

Istvan
Guest
Prime Minister Orban spoke to Parliament today about Soros (I am sure Eva will discuss this in due time), but also about the Ukraine education law. Which PM Orban argued deprives Hungarian children of Hungarian education. Here is what is curious about this, on Friday in the heart of Kyiv near Bessarabska Square Russian SVR agents likely carried out a bombing, see video footage from Radio Free Europe https://www.rferl.org/a/kyiv-bombing/28724784.html . Ali Timayev, also known as Timur Mahauri, a Chechen with Georgian citizenship. Timayev, 39, reportedly fled Chechnya after fighting in the Russian-Chechen wars. In Ukraine, he reportedly participated in the fighting in the Donbas as part of a Chechen volunteer battalion on the Ukrainian government side was blown apart. Orban and for that matter virtually the entire Hungarian Parliament is ignoring the context of the Ukraine education law in relationship to the ongoing very real war. On 5 September, Russian President Vladimir Putin told at a press briefing after a BRICS summit in the Chinese city of Xiamen that Russia intends to draft a resolution for consideration of the United Nations Security Council, suggesting lightly armed UN peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine, where war between government forces and Russian-backed militants has… Read more »
wrfree
Guest

Looks those guys are a working right now in ‘exercises’ to get the kinks out to prepare for the next ‘expansion’. They’re keeping the West busy busy.

Observer
Guest

“ATV … otherwise it can close up shop.”

Watch the advertising on ATV, it can be propped up by gov/Fid money, their booty is huge.

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