Tag Archives: television stations

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

DRI: Monitoring Hungarian TV coverage of the refugee referendum

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.

♦ ♦ ♦

 

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.

infograph2

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%.

infograph1

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.

infograph3

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.

Channel Negative Neutral Positive
M1 91 9 0
TV2 83 4 13
RTL 42 46 12
ATV 65 30 5
HírTv 36 35 29

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.

Channel M1 Tv2 RTLKlub ATV HírTv
Number 154 46 30 62 80
Share 41% 12% 8% 17% 22%

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.

Channel M1 Tv2 RTLKlub ATV HírTv
Length (min) 23.3 5.4 3.4 5.9 9.9
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.

Channel M1 Tv2 RTLKlub ATV HírTv
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.

Channel M1 Tv2 RTLKlub ATV HírTv
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).

Channels M1 Tv2 RTLKlub ATV HírTv
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.

Channels M1 Tv2 RTLKlub ATV HírTv
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
M1 76% 10% 6% 8%
TV2 46% 0% 29% 25%
RTL 15% 8% 8% 69%
ATV 19% 19% 17% 45%
HírTv 19% 8% 16% 57%

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 
M1 59% 7% 0% 7% 27%
TV2 42% 4% 0% 21% 23%
RTL 8% 0% 0% 15% 77%
ATV 14% 6% 0% 19% 61%
HírTv 11% 0% 5% 11% 27%

Notes

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.

October 4, 2016