The new media supervision law is stricter than the previous legislation, but by no means marks the end of the freedom of the press. As in many other areas, Fidesz thus far has not moved to advance its power by changing the legislative framework but rather by placing party loyalists in various independent positions.
One of the post-transition period’s most characteristic but least loved institutions, the National Radio and Television Commission (ORTT) has become the next victim of Fidesz’ desire to completely remodel the state’s institutional structure. The ORTT won’t be missed, but the new institutions, the National Media and Info-Communications Authority, the Media Council and the Public Service Board of Trustees, which emerge pursuant to the ambitiously titled novel “media constitution” that supersedes the old media law, are unlikely to win universal acclaim either.
Of course the problem is that creating independent public media and media oversight institutions is inevitably a thorny issue in a highly polarised, recently democratised society where independent media are a new phenomenon. The old media regulations were basically successful in facilitating the free operation of a vast and vibrant media landscape. That is not to say that most of the media was of high quality or independent from political influence (it was not), but with the exception of the public media, the law was not in fact meant to ensure that.
But it is in the latter area, i.e. the public media, that the performance of the law was patchy: the supposedly independent public media was sometimes subtly, sometimes openly biased. Based on the composition of the oversight bodies and the roster of persons now selected to lead the public media, this problem is likely to worsen.
Policy Solutions' analysis on the government's growing control over public media can be downloaded from here.
Policy Solutions is a progressive political research institute based in Budapest. It was founded in 2008 and it is committed to the values of liberal democracy, solidarity, equal opportunity and European integration. The focus of Policy Solutions’ work is on understanding political processes in Hungary and the European Union. Among the pre-eminent areas of our research are the investigation of how the quality of democracy evolves, the analysis of factors driving euroscepticism, populism and the far-right, and election research.
Follow us on Facebook!