Hungarian Media Council Shuts Down One of Few Remaining Independent Radio Stations

On December 20, the Hungarian Media Council reassigned the frequencies of three radio stations, removing one of Hungary’s only remaining independent stations, KlubRadio, from the airways. The Media Council’s decision to essentially ban KlubRadio is a major blow to media freedom in Hungary. The move is a sign that Hungary’s new model of media regulation is undermining media freedom and freedom of expression. The station garnered at least half a million listeners on a daily basis, with interactive debates featuring personalities and experts from across the political spectrum. KlubRadio sued the media council previously for removing a past frequency used by the station.

Hungary’s constitution protects freedom of speech and of the press. However, a series of press laws passed under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán from June to December 2010 was criticized by international observers and European Union representatives for threatening media independence and pluralism. Earlier this week, the Hungarian Constitutional Court vetoed part of the media law for violating the constitution by limiting press freedom. Under the media law, radio stations must devote at least 25 percent of airtime to Hungarian music. Hungary has only two private radio stations, and three public radio stations. The five-member Media Council, consisting of members from Orban’s Fidesz party, has the authority to fine radio stations for unbalanced coverage and ban public subsidies to media outlets found guilty.
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