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Orbán exempts new propaganda conglomerate from competition law

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2018.12.05. 19:55

Today, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán signed a government decree that qualified the merging of the more than 450 pro-government media outlets into a single conglomerate as having strategic importance at a national level. This step of the government makes the fusion creating the giant media holding (put together from donations of media companies by Orbán's close friends) immune to Hungarian Competition Authority's (GVH) acquisition inquiries.

The half-page long decree comes 6 days after the first plea arrived at GVH to investigate the formation of the conglomerate, "Közép-európai Sajtó és Média Alapítvány". The authority would have had eight days to decide if they start an inquiry to see if the merger is against competition regulations, but due to a law passed by the first Fidesz-supermajority in 2013, this decree arriving two days before that deadline made the examination legally impossible.

The decree simply lists the companies involved in the merger and qualifies the unprecedented acquisition as a "merger of strategic importance at a national level", and cites "public interest" as the reason for this qualification, without further explanation.

The giant merger saw Orbán's media oligarchs donate their empires of pro-government newspapers, top news sites, sales houses, television stations, and the entirety of the regional daily paper market to a foundation for free, as Index in English assessed the story earlier.

The Government Center of Information defended the decree by stating that this kind of qualification is "not a unique occurrence", as the government had given the same classification to 21 previous mergers, and it is the public's interest that the culture of print media is saved in Hungary for the long-term maintenance of the forums of regional public discourse.

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