Top media authority of Hungary ruled by Fidesz for nine more years

D NOE20191203003
2019.12.10. 12:15

On Tuesday, the Hungarian Parliament had elected the four members of the Media Council of the National Media and Infocommunications Authority. All four new members - similarly to their predecessors - were nominated by Fidesz after the governing party's majority in the Parliament's ad-hoc community rejected all of the opposition's candidates.

The four new members of the Media Council are Ágnes Hankiss (former MEP of Fidesz), László Meszleny (Fidesz's communications director in the early 2000s), Károly Szadai (Speaker László Kövér's former personal assistant), and László Budai, all of whom were nominated by Fidesz.

The Parliament only elected members to the Media Council, as the regulatory body's current president Monika Karas was elected in 2013 after the death of her predecessor Annamária Szalai. The 9-year mandate of Karas only expires in 2022. 

The Media Council is in charge of enforcing media regulations, distributes radio frequencies, plays a significant role in appointing leaders of public media, and the Media Council's apparatus, the National Media and Infocommunications Authority determines the outcome of Competition Authority procedures concerning media acquisitions.

The primary task of the Media Council would be to preserve and maintain a democratic public discourse, however, the initial report of the fact-finding mission carried out by the International Press Institute and several other international organisations found that they are not exactly doing that. As IPI assesses, the one-party regulatory body has made decisions on the tendering of radio frequencies on political lines, dropping independent broadcasters, blocking mergers of independent media companies while facilitating concentration of pro-government media (although the merger ultimately creating the huge pro-government media conglomerate encompassing more than 450 titles was exempted from competition law by Viktor Orbán himself).

The Media Council and its apparatus, the National Media and Infocommunications Authority were created in 2010 by the controversial media regulation package of the first parliamentary supermajority of Fidesz. It replaced the National Radio and Television Committee, members of which were nominated by a parliamentary group each. The main difference in the selection process is that the Media Council's members are nominated by an ad-hoc committee with MPs from each group, but their votes are proportional to their party's size in Parliament. The committee has to come to a unanimous decision over whom they nominate, but if there is no consensus in the first round, a 2/3 majority is enough to settle the question, effectively allowing Fidesz to single-handedly decide the composition of Hungary's top media authority. 

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