December 21, 2011 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Media Council deals serious blow to broadcasting pluralism

Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns yesterday’s decision by Hungary’s Media Council
to strip Klubradio, the country’s only national opposition radio station, of its broadcast frequency
within a couple of months.

In a highly controversial move, Klubradio’s frequency was put out to bid and was won by an
unknown station calling itself Autoradio. Klubradio, which has had a loyal following of about half
a million listeners for the past 10 years, will be able to continue broadcasting until March, when it
will have to surrender the frequency.

The decision was announced on the first anniversary of the adoption of the media law that
created the Media Council. The law was widely criticized for making precisely this kind of media
freedom violation possible.

The allocation of broadcast frequencies is always a complicated exercise that often leaves
disappointed candidates feeling cheated. But in this case, the Media Council’s decision was
clearly biased. It ignored the size of Klubradio’s audience and the many years it has been
broadcasting, and instead chose to give the frequency to a completely unknown station whose
content will probably be much less critical.

We reiterate the appeal that we have repeatedly made this year for this law’s repeal, especially
as regards the Media Council’s creation and the way it functions. The government of Prime
Minister Viktor Orban has clearly failed to draw the lessons from the international outcry that
overshadowed Hungary’s European Union presidency and still limits the EU’s ability to speak with
authority on free speech issues.

At a time when Croatia is joining the EU, Hungary’s government is adopting an increasingly
repressive attitude to media freedom with the strange support of much of the country’s political
class, and is violating the democratic standards it is supposed to embody with increasing
frequency. Many countries violate fundamental rights but, as an EU member and signatory of the
European Charter of Fundamental Rights, Hungary cannot keep doing it.