In a blog also published in the Népszabadsag newspaper, she says that “This new tax was introduced in Parliament in just a few days, without significant debate or consultation. Ostensibly an “advertising tax” to raise revenue, in fact it disproportionately affects one single media company, RTL. Indeed, according to their own calculations, they are the only single company that would face the highest rate of the tax; imposing significant losses and putting in jeopardy their ability to operate”.
She adds that “the conclusion is obvious. RTL is one of the few channels in Hungary not simply promoting a pro-Fidesz line; it is hard to see that the goal is anything other than to drive them out of Hungary. The Hungarian Government does not want a neutral, foreign-owned broadcaster in Hungary; it is using an unfair tax to wipe out democratic safeguards, and see off a perceived challenge to its power.
“The freedom of establishment is a fundamental principle of the single market.
“But it is about more than just one tax or just one company: it is part of a pattern that is deeply worrying; a pattern contrary to the EU’s values. Taxation cannot be an instrument for discrimination, and tax policy should not be a political weapon”.
Kroes criticizes a new media law passed in 2010 that put huge powers over the Hungarian media into a body subject to political interference. She also says that RTL was the only monitored TV station in Hungary not to toe the ruling party’s line in the run-up to recent elections.
Crucially, she also says that concerns exist in other EU countries, including Bulgaria, Italy and the UK.
“Europe needs to get its own house in order to ensure a free and plural media. There are many proposals out there for how to achieve that – including those set out in the Report of the High Level Group chaired by Vaira V??e-Freiberga (the former president of Latvia). It’s time we started taking those ideas seriously, for the sake of our freedom and democratic values”.