Follow the Money! Ownership & Financial Transparency should be a Media Policy Standard

May 4, 2014

by Kristina Irion

On paper, media policy in Western Balkan countries complies with the standards set by the Council of Europe and the EU aquis. However, a cross-national comparison of case studies from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia (FYROM) and Serbia that I conducted with my colleague Tarik Jusić showed that media systems in these countries have the form, but often lack the substance of democratic media institutions. In particular, we find a worrying tendency for media, politics, and business to form an iron triangle- a self-enforcing power structure serving local, albeit sometimes competing, elites. In such a context, politics and businesses deputize mass media to advance their partisan interests and, with some notable exceptions, mass media ties in with politics and businesses for revenues.

Kounalakis discusses Snowden and capital punishment

January 28, 2014

CMDS Fellow Markos Kounalakis wrote an article in the Sacramento Bee about why the US was unlikely to get Edward Snowden back.

'The heated debate surrounding NSA leaker Edward Snowden usually revolves around two extreme positions: Some consider him a hero and a whistle-blower worthy of clemency, while others consider his acts treasonous and believe he should be subject to the harshest punishment in our penal system.

PM taps right-wing media lawyer to head Media Authority

August 16, 2013

Leaders from across the political spectrum have denounced Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s nominee for president of Hungary’s Media Authority as a  loyal puppet controlled by the ruling Fidesz party and its inner circle of media and business oligarchs. Orbán on Wednesday nominated right-wing media lawyer Monika Karas to serve as successor of recently deceased Annamária Szalai as head of Hungary’s Media Authority (NHMM). Karas has served as legal counsel for Government-linked media outlets Lánchíd Rádió, Magyar Nemzet, and HirTV, and for numerous Fidesz officials, including the Prime Minister’s chief adviser Árpád Habony. From 1993 to 2002, Karas represented Magyar Fórum Kiadó, a publisher which was at the time owned by far-right politician and anti-Semitic writer István Csurka.

Fidesz-linked firm buys national economic daily

August 13, 2013

Fidesz-linked think tank Századvég's Gazdaszágkutató Zrt. (Century Economic Research Inc.) announced this week it has purchased Napi Gazdaság, a top national business and economic daily. Századvég is part of a consortium of companies have been awarded HUF 4.7 billion (EUR 15 million) in state consultancy contracts by the Ministry of National Development (MND) since 2011, HVG reports. The consortium serves as the primary political and economic advisory group to the government and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Hungary's top two TV stations oppose new ad tax

RTL Klub and TV2, Hungary's largest national private TV stations, are protesting a government decision to tax media companies according to their net annual advertising revenues, according to a May 28 article in An announcement from RTL Klub reportedly called the measure “unprecedented in Europe,” and added that the company might leave Hungary over the tax. The graded tax, announced a few days earlier, would hit the major broadcasters hardest. The tax is reportedly part of the government’s effort to make sure the country can exit the EU’s excessive debt procedure.

Átlátszó fights to expose public media spending

Amid steady budget increases and cuts to public media staff, Hungary’s public media management fund, the MTVA, has been outsourcing production to private firms with close ties to Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party, according to an ongoing investigation by pro-transparency investigative reporting NGO, Átlátszó. The group, which has been working to uncover the MTVA’s spendings since 2011, has published a series of reports based primarily on leaked documents that detail the MTVA’s outside contracts with Government-linked private companies and individuals to produce programs for Hungary’s public media.

Media Council issues first fine on a print daily

By Judit Barta

Hungary's Media Council on May 8 handed down its first sanction against a print and online publication with a HUF 250,000 (EUR 862) fine for hate speech against right-wing daily Magyar Hírlap for publishing Zsolt Bayer’s January 5 opinion piece, in which he called Roma “animals” who “shouldn’t be allowed to exist.”

Human Rights Watch: Hungarian media face political pressure

Independent media outlets in Hungary practice self-censorship as a result of unclear regulations and declines in public and private advertising revenue, according to a new report published by Human Rights Watch.

Atlatszo: "The coming dark age of democratic governance in Hungary"

"A recent amendment to the law on freedom of information all but ensures that the Government operates in complete darkness," says pro-transparency investigative reporting NGO, Atlatszo.

Study: Government gives key ad revenue to Hungary's right-wing media

State advertising revenue  of right wing media was more than two times higher in 2012 than in 2010. The state's spending on advertising in  Hungary's print media is directed to a small group of government institutions and firms. The changes in the advertisement incomes of left and right wing leaning printed media follows closely the change's of governments. The advertising incomes of the leftist printed media had dramatically been decreasing from 2008, so that this sum had been reduced to less than one third of 2003 by 2012.