Saturday 8 January 2011

In which I try to understand the Hungarian Media Law

The Hungarian ruling centre-right party Fidesz, using its parliamentary supermajority, has enacted two bills and a constitutional amendment on Tuesday (21 December) that will tighten the government's grip on the media.
The ruling party calls the changes the country's "new media constitution".
The new laws impose a strict supervisory regime on all print, broadcasted and online media, including "online media abroad that has been located in another country in order to circumvent stricter regulation in Hungary".

EurActiv: EU speechless over Hungary's contentious media law, December 23, 2010

Basically, the chairperson of the new Media Council is appointment by the Prime Minister and supported by a council elected by parliament, and has the authority to fine radio, television, newspapers (which the OSCE deemes unusual since "traditionally, regulatory authorities govern broadcast media only"), websites and "private persons" for what is referred to as "unbalanced coverage" or "breaches of the rules on coverage of sex, violence or alcohol" (I'd feel more threatened by the presence of an armed xenophobic and anti-semitic militia than by all those things Skins does so well).
It also allows the Council to force journalists to disclose their sources, and comes with a merging of public TV, radio and news agency under one management which "will only rely on news of the government-controlled news agency" (the merger was actually passed in summer, when it prompted considerably less news coverage).
A balance within each program is to be ensured (Section 12 (2)) which is, as we all know, impossible, unnecessary and so far unknown to media theory. Media theory recognizes internal and external pluralism, where internal means that each channel must be balanced. But even this cannot be ensured, for there are those well-known biased media providers; which, in the age of information society, is not objectionable until the external pluralism is achieved; that is, until all media are to serve a single political scenario. Currently, due to the effects of this very act, this danger is imminent.

This from an English translation of an article written by Hungarian journalist Judit Bayer (by a German Member of the European Parliament for the Green Party) about "the Problem with the Hungarian Media Law".

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