— Law LXXXII (82) of 2010 “Amending Certain Laws Regulating the Media and Telecommunications” in July (see National Assembly voting results in Hungarian);
— Law CIV (104) of 2010 “on Freedom of the Press and the Fundamental Rules of Media Content” in November (see National Assembly voting results in Hungarian);
— and Law CLXXXV (185) of 2010 “on Media Services and Mass Media” in December (see National Assembly voting results in Hungarian).
These three laws, known together as the Media Package (Médiacsomag), supplanted Hungary’s previous media legislation, Law I of 1996 “on Television and Radio.” None of these new media laws became part of the Fundamental Law that Fidesz-KDNP National Assembly representatives adopted in 2011 and which went into effect on January 1, 2012.
Law LXXXII of 2010: Amending Certain Laws Regulating the Media and Telecommunications
Law 82 of 2010 created a new “autonomous state-administrative organ” called the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (Nemzeti Média- és Hírközlési Hatóság, or NMHH) in order to conduct supervision of both the media and telecommunications in Hungary, thereby merging and replacing the National Radio and Television Authority (Országos Rádió és Televízió Testület) and the National Communications Authority (Nemzeti Hírközlési Hatóság).
The law also established as a constituent body of the NMHH the five-member Media Council (Médiatanács).
See text of Law 82 of 2010 in Hungarian.
Law CIV of 2010: Freedom of the Press and the Fundamental Rules of Media Content
Law 104 of 2010 states that it shall apply to “media services” and “press products” in Hungary, i.e., to all television and radio stations, newspapers, magazines, periodicals and “online newspapers and news portals” operating in the country.
The law “recognizes and defends the freedom and diversity of the press,” though stipulates that the “exercise of the freedom of the press may not constitute or encourage any acts of crime, violate public morals or the moral rights of others.”
The law states that “media content shall not violate the constitutional order” and shall not serve to “exclude” or “incite hatred against any nation, community, national, ethnic, linguistic or other minority or any majority as well as any church or religious group.”
The law prohibits the linear media (television and radio) from broadcasting content that could “materially damage the intellectual, psychological, moral or physical development of minors especially by broadcasting pornography or extreme or unreasonable violence.”
The law provides the NMHH with the authority to impose sanctions on media services and press products that violate the stipulations of the Law 104.
See Law 104 of 2010 in English.
Law CLXXXV of 2010 on Media Services and Mass Media
Law 185 of 2010 states that it “shall apply to media services and press products provided and published by media content providers established in Hungary,” i.e., to all television and radio stations, newspapers, magazines, periodicals and “online newspapers and news portals” operating in the country.
The law states that every private media service provider operating in Hungary “shall allocate over half of its annual total transmission time of linear audiovisual media services to broadcasting European works and over one-third of its transmission time to broadcasting Hungarian works,” every public media service provides shall allocate “over sixty percent of its annual transmission time to broadcasting European works” and “over half of its annual transmission time to broadcasting Hungarian works.”
The law furnishes the Media Council with the right to issue and determine the winner of tenders for state-owned radio and television frequencies: “Analogue linear media services using state-owned limited resources may be provided—unless provided otherwise by this Act—subject to winning a tender announced and conducted by the Media Council.”
The law provides the president of Hungary with the authority to appoint the president of the National Media and Infocommunications Authority to serve a mandate of nine years at the recommendation of the prime minister. The law stipulates that the president of the NMHH shall automatically become the candidate to serve as president of the Media Council as well.
The law establishes a Nominating Committee composed of one member from each National Assembly caucus to appoint candidates to serve as the other four members of the Media Council. The law stipulates that each member of the Nominating Committee shall command the same number of votes as the number of representatives in the member’s National Assembly caucus.
The law authorizes the National Assembly to elect by a two-thirds majority the president and the four members of the NMHH’s Media Council for a period of nine years.
According to the law, if the National Assembly does not elect the appointed president of the NMHH to serve as president of the body’s Media Council, the NMHH president shall continue to convene and conduct meetings of the council, though shall not have executive authority.
The law states that the president of the Media Council may not serve more than one term in office.
Law 185 furnishes the Media Council with the authority to force media distributors to suspend or terminate transmission or publication of the stipulated media service. The law provides the Media Council with the right to impose fines of the stipulated maximum amount in order to punish violations of media law:
— 200 millions forints on media service provider deemed to possess “significant market power”;
— 50 million forints on all other media service providers;
— 25 million forints on nationally distributed daily newspapers and online media
— 10 million forints on nationally distrubted weekly periodicals;
— 5 million forints on regionally or locally distributed daily newspapers or weekly periodicals.
The law established the Media Service Support and Asset Management Fund (MTVA) to manage the operations of state-run Hungarian TV, Duna TV, Hungarian Radio and the Hungarian News Agency (MTI).
See text of Law 185 in English.
The National Assembly has amended the Media Package on several occasions in response to stated disapproval of the legislation from the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the Office for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Hungary’s Constitutional Court, which voiced criticism of the laws, though did not deem them “unconstitutional per se” (source in Hungarian). The above description of the media laws reflects these amendments.
Continued Criticism of Amended Media Laws
In May 2012, Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović said that the amended media laws still threatened the pluralism and political independence of Hungary’s media.
Mijatović said that amendments made in 2011 and earlier in 2012 had rectified many of the OSCE’s previous objections to the media laws, but that “other elements that I raised as problematic already in 2010 have not been improved. These include the ways of nomination and appointment of the president and members of the Media Authority and Media Council and their power over content in the broadcast media as well as the prospect of very high fines that can lead to self-censorship among journalists” (source in English).
In an interview with the Hungarian weekly Figyelő published on June 7, 2012, European Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes referred to the amended laws as “disappointing” and “rather embarrassing,” noting that that the amendments had complied with only 11 of the 66 recommendations that the European Council had made with regard to Hungary’s media laws (source in Hungarian).
In May 2012, the Council of Europe issued a report criticizing many aspects of Hungary’s amended media laws (see report in English).