11 Sep 2020 Lvl. 2
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Alert created on: 11 Sep 2020 n° 105/2020 Hungary

Hungary’s Last Independent Radio Station has License Extension Rejected by Media Council

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
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On 11 September 2020, the Media Council of the National Media and Communications Authority (ORTT) announced it would not extend the license for Klubrádió, the last remaining independent radio station in Hungary. The decision means that the Budapest-based commercial talk and news radio station’s license will expire on February 14, 2021, potentially forcing it off the airwaves for good. Justifying its ruling, the Media Council, which is stacked with figures supportive of the ruling FIDESZ party, said that during the last seven years Klubradio had repeatedly violated Hungary’s Media Law. In a statement the station said it believed the decision "does not correspond to reality." It added: "The leaders and employees of Klubrádió are looking for legal and other means in order to ensure that Hungary's last independent radio, which authentically informs hundreds of thousands of people every day, is not muted.” András Arató, chairman of the Board of Directors of Klubrádió, previously denied the station had committed violations that could result in its license extension rejected. A new tender will be launched for its current frequency, Budapest FM 92.9 MHz. Klubrádió’s critical coverage has long made it a target of the Orbán government. The station has been progressively stripped of its frequencies outside the capital, confining it to Budapest. Moreover, when its previous license expired in February 2011, the Media Council refused to extend the license for two years despite three court rulings in the station’s favour. A grass-roots campaign by thousands of listeners added to growing pressure and Klubrádió was awarded a long-term frequency in March 2013. Over the last several years the Media Council has been accused of contributing to the dramatic decline in the diversity of Hungary’s media by selectively interpreting the law to allow FIDESZ and the KESMA foundation to slowly take greater control over the country’s media market. Its latest efforts to silence Klubrádió reflect the government’s strategy of abusing control of state institutions and state resources to bias the media market against independent outlets or force them out completely. This strategy also includes the weaponization of state advertising spending, which is massively tilted toward pro-government media and which is the subject of a formal state aid complaint to which the European Commission has yet to respond. The Hungarian broadcast sector is dominated by pro-government media. The only remaining independent television station is the foreign-owned commercial broadcaster RTL Klub, whose evening news programme carries stories critical of the government. Klubrádió is the last bulwark in the radio sector, with the radio waves outside Budapest already carrying only pro-government news.
11 Sep 2020
New Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights says that "the decision of Hungary’s Media Council not to renew Klub radio license is a further illustration of the pressure on independent media"
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