Hungarian Media Laws in Europe: An Assessment of the Consistency of Hungary’s Media Laws with European Practices and Norms

March 9, 2012

Title: Hungarian Media Laws in Europe: An Assessment of the Consistency of Hungary’s Media Laws with European Practices and Norms
Publication Type: Report
Year: 2012
Pages: 186
Date Published: 03/2012
Institution: Center for Media and Communication Studies (CMCS), Media Program of Open Society Foundation
Language: English


This study, led by researcher Amy Brouillette analyses the consistency of the Hungarian media regulations with European practices and norms. It addresses a key international policy debate regarding the conformity of Hungary’s new media legislation to European and EU media-regulation standards. The study also contributes to the ongoing policy making process regarding Hungary’s media laws—particularly in light of the recent rulings by Hungary’s Constitutional Court which requires several provisions to be amended by 31 May 2012—as well as contributing to the debate around other areas of concern that have been raised by the European Commission, European lawmakers, and domestic and international stakeholders.

In December 2010 and January 2011, the Hungarian Government released two statements summarising the main criticisms of its new laws and providing examples of regulations from 20 European and EU-member states as precedents for Hungary’s media legislation. For this study, the Center for Media and Communication Studies (CMCS) commissioned media policy experts in each of these 20 countries to examine every example cited by Hungary’s Government. The findings of this report are based on the expert assessments of these examples. The purpose of this study is to examine the accuracy of the precedents cited by the Hungarian Government in order to shed light on the more critical question of how consistent Hungary’s media laws are with other media systems in Europe.

The study finds that Hungary’s media laws are largely inconsistent with the cited European practices and norms, based on an examination of the legal precedents provided and on the expert analyses of how these precedents are implemented in these European and EU-member countries. In a majority of examples, experts report that the Hungarian Government’s references omit or inaccurately characterise relevant factors of the other countries’ regulatory systems, and as a result, the examples do not provide sufficient and/or equivalent comparisons to Hungary’s media regulation system. In many examples, the Hungarian Government accurately presents a portion of a legal provision or regulation, however, in these cases the reference either excludes elements of how the regulation is implemented or the regulation cited does not correspond with the scope and powers of Hungary’s media laws or Media Authority. Overall, this study finds that the European media regulations cited by the Hungarian Government do not serve as adequate precedents for Hungary’s new media laws.

The study also reveals a wide disparity in media-regulation policies among European and EU-member states and highlights some key deficiencies in a number of other European systems that may inhibit press freedom in ways that do not appear to conform to European free-press norms.