Why is the new Hungarian media law meeting with so much opposition?
The legislation, which was approved by the country’s parliament just before Christmas and came into effect at the beginning of the year, has been condemned both at home and internationally. Its critics, who include the European Commission and more especially the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), believe it to be against the spirit of European law and a threat to press freedom in the country.
The Hungarian government, which is led by the centre-right Fidesz party, has nevertheless strongly defended the new law and dismissed all requests to amend it. In its view, the criticism is an overreaction and not something to be concerned about.
However, the government’s position is being made difficult by the fact that Hungary has just taken over the presidency of the European Council of Ministers for the first six months of this year – a role countries such as Germany and France feel it should not occupy in light of the controversial legislation.
Broadband TV News has received emails from readers in Hungary both supportive of and against the new media law. It has also seen an English language version of the law that has just been published by the recently formed National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH).
One reader pointed out to us that some sections of the new law have not been translated into English. There is, for instance, no mention of the ASO date being possibly put back by at least a year.
Among the key points in the new law are limits on the holders of exclusive broadcasting rights (unable to deprive over 20% of viewers of access without the payment of a subscription fee); programme quotas (even for on demand, where a 25%+ requirement for Hungarian works per calendar year will apply); and strong restrictions on both product placement and market concentration.
One of the most controversial clauses nevertheless appears to be the creation of a new Media Council, elected by parliament, that will have powers to impose heavy fines on broadcasters for what is deemed unbalanced coverage.
It seems the controversy surrounding the new law is unlikely to end anytime soon.