Hungary: A popular talk radio loses its licence to a music radio – layoffs at the public service media

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The licence of Klubradio at 95,3 MHz expired on 11 February, 2011. According to law, this frequency should have been tendered in autumn 2009, but it did not happen. In a tender for other frequencies in April 2010, KlubRadio applied for and won 92,9 MHz – declaring that it planned to broadcast only at one of the two possessed frequencies. However, the contract to this latter frequency was never concluded with the radio, because of the chaotic status at ORTT (the previous Media Council) after the Parliamentary elections.

In December 2010, the new Media Council announced that the tender (of April) for 92,9 MHz was unsuccessful, because Klubradio’s application was invalid – and at the same time announced a tender for 95,3 MHz, but with entirely different conditions than the draft publicized by ORTT previously. The new tender is for a „music radio that presents some local information and values” – while Klubradio has been a talk-radio concentrating on politics, with news, but almost no music.  In the new tender, music ought to be at least 60% in order to get a score at all, and the talk-part should be related to “local public life, helping local everyday life”. While experience in media services is worth only 3 points from the 72, 12 points may be given upon „subjective evaluation”.

Thus, the new Media Council withdrew the frequency that Klubradio has won, and with the same move it made sure that the radio cannot re-apply for its old frequency. The Media Council’s members are appointed exclusively by the governing party Fidesz, and its head is appointed directly by the Prime Minister. Klubradio has been a talk-radio representing liberal values and critical of the conservative political parties (Fidesz calls itself “conservative”, although it might appear as radical). Klubradio’s  reach has been 200-300 thousand persons, while its coverage 1,8 Million. The radio already lost most of its advertisers after the elections, when big state companies and other companies transferred their advertising spending to rival media outlets that are less critical with the government.

At the same time big layoffs are going on at the Hungarian public service media: 550 employees are fired, the names have been published last week. The number of public service employees have been very high indeed (about 3500), but the selection criteria of the layoffs was alleged political affiliation, or the “unfriendly” attitude to the current governing party and its representatives. The popular programmes that these people edited do not cease – only their “colour” and the staff that prepares them changes.  Several of the fired employees are highly esteemed, experienced and famous reporters and editors. Allegedly, the list (which is not publicized) does not contain names of employees whose programmes have ceased recently and who therefore have nothing to do at the moment. At the same time, new employees are recruited from private TV-s that are known to be connected to the political right like HírTV, Echo TV or Lánchíd Radio. The layoff is likely to continue in autumn with the same number of people.

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