The implementation of the MPM2014 for Hungary shows a situation of high risk for media pluralism in the country. The results collected by implementing the MPM in Hungary, show risks in the country as follows: 50% (17) of the indicators assess a high risk; 47% (16) of indicators indicate medium risk, and 3% (1) refer to low risk.


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Graph 13: Average level of risk for each type of indicator – Hungary


Legal Type of Indicators Assessing Risks to Media Pluralism

Low risk was assessed for one of the 20 legal indicators: 18 Regulatory safeguards for the distribution of public interest channels on cable, DSL and/or satellite platforms.

Medium risk was assessed for 14 of the 20 legal indicators: 1 Regulatory safeguards for freedom of expression; 2 Regulatory safeguards on freedom to information, 3 Recognition of media pluralism as intrinsic part of media freedoms and/or as policy objective of media legislation and/or regulation, 4 Regulatory safeguards for journalistic profession, 6 Policies and support measures for media literacy (or digital literacy, in particular) among different groups of population, 7 Safeguards for access to airtime on PSM by the various cultural and social groups; 8 Regulatory safeguards for minority and community media, 9 Regulatory safeguards and policies for regional and local media; 13 Regulatory safeguards against high degree of cross-ownership between television and other media; 14 Regulatory safeguards for transparency of ownership and/or control’, 16 Regulatory safeguards against excessive ownership and/or control of mainstream media by politicians; 20 Policy measures for the impartial circulation of internet data, without regard to content, destination or source.


Freedom of expression and media freedom-related indicators (1-4) scored as a ‘medium risk.’ These fundamental rights are guaranteed in the Constitution and in the media legislation, respectively, however additional statutes limit the full exercise of these rights, both formally and in practice.

Freedom of expression is guaranteed in Hungary’s Constitution. However, lawmakers passed an amendment to the Constitution that restricts political advertising in media outlets during elections. This amendment has been found by election observers to add undue restrictions to freedom of expression and information rights (indicator 1).

Media pluralism and freedom (indicator 3) is formally guaranteed in the 2010 media legislation.[1] However, the legislation contains a number of provisions that weaken regulatory safeguards that ensure a diverse media marketplace and fair competition among market participants. These include a high risk for the politicization of the media regulatory authority (see “high risk’ section below); the centralization of public media under the management of the media regulator, National Media and Telecommunications Authority (NMHH); and insufficient anti-concentration safeguards; lack of transparency of media ownership structures, among other factors. In addition, journalists in Hungary are bound by criminal and civil defamation and libel laws. Under the criminal code, media are subject to increased punishments and liability for offenses.[2]

Regulatory safeguards for right to information also scored as a medium risk (indicator 2): Access to information is provided for the Act CXII of 2011 about information self-determination and freedom of information, which also created a new authority, the National Data Protection and Freedom of Information Authority (Naihan), responsible for overseeing compliance with the legislation. A recent amendment to the legislation introduced new restrictions to access to information and FOIA requests in Hungary has curtailed the former scope of the law and restricts the public’s and media’s ability to request information. In practice, the Hungarian courts tend to decide in favor freedom of information requests, although systematic and comprehensive data on court rulings in Hungary is difficult to obtain, other than rulings by the Constitutional Court.

Access to the journalistic profession is open (indicator 4). Self-regulatory codes emphasize the independence of editorial content and other professional standards such as objectivity, although such standards are often not implemented in practice. Protection of journalistic sources is recognized by law and by the Constitutional Court. Following a Constitutional Court ruling, the media law is now in line with Recommendation (2000) 7 CoE, and only courts may oblige a journalist to reveal his or her sources and the case must be specifically justified.Access to events for news reporting is not explicitly recognised by the law. The media legislation obliges the state, public authorities and institutions, state-owned enterprises and their leaders as well as public servants to help the work of journalists by providing them with timely information.[3] In practice, there have been several recent cases in which journalists and/or media outlets have been denied necessary press credentials for accessing Parliament and/or election events. In addition, access to the plenary sessions of Parliament has been a reason for concern for more than a decade now. Private television channels may not take footage of these sessions but can only purchase footage that is produced and distributed by a company specially commissioned by Parliament.

The 2010 Media Act obliges the Media Council to promote media literacy (indicator 6).[4] The legislation also specifies that it is the obligation of the PSM to “promote acquisition and development of knowledge and skills needed for media literacy through its programmes and through other activities outside the scope of media services.”[5] Basic media skills are taught as part of the curriculum in general education. Other forms of education are provided sporadically by civil organisations. Media and communication BA and MA studies are provided by 21 higher educational institutions and at least 16 non accredited schools. Because of budget restrictions and under government pressure, the number of such institutions has been steadily declining in recent years..

Indicator 7 Safeguards for access to airtime on PSM by the various cultural and social groups scored as a medium risk. The 2010 Media Act specifies a range of ‘objectives’ for the PSM, which include: to “provide media services which are comprehensive in both the social and the cultural sense, aiming to address as many social classes and culturally distinct groups and individuals as possible, b) to support, sustain and enrich national, community and European identity, culture and the Hungarian language, c) to promote and strengthen national cohesion and social integration, and to respect the institution of marriage and the value of family.”[6] In practice, the PSM in Hungary — as in many countries in Europe — struggles with political independence, and often reflects the ideas and opinions of the governing party in power. This is especially evident since PSM’s restructuring under the 2010 media laws.

Indicator 8 Regulatory safeguards for minority and community media scored as medium risk. The 2010 Media Act specifies a range of programming provisions and obligations for linear community media.[7] According to these provisions, community media are “a) intended to serve or satisfy the special needs for information of and to provide access to cultural programmes for a certain social, national, cultural or religious community or group, or b) are intended to serve or satisfy the special needs for information of and to provide access to cultural programmes for residents of a given settlement, region or reception area, or c) in the majority of their transmission time such programmes are broadcasted which are aimed at achieving the objectives of public media services.”[8] In practice, community radio licensing has been highly politicized since 2010, due to the National Media and telecommunication Authority’s (NMHH) tendering practices generally favour outlets that provide government-friendly, conservative and/or religious programming.[9] In addition, “community media” should be considered as a distinct category from “minority media,” which is a non-existent category in the Hungarian context.

Local and regional media are existing categories in the media legislation but with no specific mission or obligation defined in the law. Frequency allocation is managed by the National Media and Communications Authority. Networking is permitted for local linear media within the terms of an operators’ licensing agreement with the NMHH. In Hungary, the local and regional markets lack transparency, due to a significant absence of market data and monitoring of these sectors. A consequence of the 2010 Media Act is the observable trend toward greater concentration in local media markets and the establishment of media enterprises owned by the local government that are engaged in multiple market segment activities. This is a very risky process from the point of view of local news’ diversity. Several municipalities have established their own cross-media undertakings that provide all types of local media services (television, radio, newspaper).

Indicator 13 Regulatory safeguards against high degree of cross ownership (scored as medium risk. The 2010 Media Act removed prior restrictions on cross-ownership; in Hungary, a company may now operate numerous brands (channels or titles) in the same market within the anti-concentration restrictions specified by the 2010 Media Act.

There are no criteria that sets limits on the number of licenses. The NMHH establishes criteria for tendering and licensing. The 2010 Media Act gives the Media Council wide discretion to allocate of licenses and to conduct procurement decisions. The process of licence allocations has been highly controversial and politicized since the Hungarian broadcast market was initially privatized under the 1996 media law. On a number of occasions these tendering and licensing decisions have run counter to principles of media pluralism and diversity. The 2009 tender of two national commercial radios conducted by the former regulator ORTT has since been found illegal by national and international arbitration courts. Controversial and politicized tendering practices have continued since the new media system and regulatory body were introduced in 2010.[10] In addition, the practice of non-disclosure of contractual agreements signed between the regulator and commercial operators obstructs the transparency of market operations and agreements in relation to allocations of public resources (frequencies).[11]

The Hungarian Competition Authority (Gazdasági Versenyhivatal, GVH) is responsible for ensuring the proper functioning of the markets without improper competition practices or concentration occurring. However the 2010 Media Act entitles the Media Council to intervene in a merger/acquisition approval procedure conducted by the Competition Authority in the cases where the provisions of the 2010 Media Act related to concentration in the media market possibly apply. The 2010 Media Act requires the Hungarian Competition Authority to obtain a position statement of the Media Council for the approval of concentration of enterprises that bear editorial responsibility and the primary objective of that enterprise is to distribute media content to the general public via an electronic communications network or a printed press product. The position statement of the Media Council binds the Hungarian Competition Authority (GVH) and the Competition Authority must consider and apply that position statement in determining the approval or rejection of the merger/acquisition. The Competition Authority cannot legally decide against or without the consent of the Media Council; however the Media Act permits the Competition Authority to still disapprove of transactions approved by the Media Council or to add additional conditions to the transaction that the Media Council did not propose.

Indicator 14 Regulatory safeguards for transparency of ownership and/or control14 is scored as medium risk. The rules regarding transparency of media ownership do not provide sufficient safeguards to ensure public accountability for compliance with anti-concentration rules. The former 1996 Act on TV and Radio required private national and regional TV, and national radio channels to operate in the form of a company in which members were publicly available, or in the case of a share company, it was required to issue only registered shares.[12] The 2010 Media Act contains no requirements for what “type” of entity can operate media services, which reduces prior formal safeguards regarding market-ownership transparency.[13] These new rules therefore limit the availability of public data on shareholders, as well as to assess whether ownership structures are in breach of the “controlling interest” provisions in the 2010 Media Act.



High risk has been identified in 7 of the 20 legal indicators, namely the following ones: 5 Regulatory safeguards for the independence and efficiency of the relevant national authorities, 10 Regulatory safeguards for locally oriented and locally produced news on PSM channels and services; 11 Regulatory safeguards for universal coverage of the media, 12 Regulatory safeguards against high concentration of ownership and/or control in media, 15 Regulatory safeguards for fair, balanced and impartial political reporting in media, 17 Fair, objective and transparent appointment procedures for PSM professionals and management boards, and 19 Regulatory safeguards for the objective and independent allocation of (adequate, consistent and sufficient) financial resources to PSM.

The independence of the Media Authority/Media Council is formally specified in the media law (Act CLXXXV of 2010 on Media Services and Mass Communication). However, the appointment procedures do not provide adequate legal safeguards for independence in cases in which the government has a majority in Parliament (as is currently the case), despite amendments to these procedures based on Council of Europe recommendations.[14] The modifications, which now require the President of Hungary to approve the Prime Minister’s nomination for the head of the Media Authority, fail to provide sufficient formal safeguards ensuring the political independence of all appointees. Rules of incompatibility and eligibility of members are specified in the media law, however these regulations have not ensured objective and transparent appointment procedures in practice.

The score of indicator 10 Regulatory safeguards for locally oriented and locally produced news on PSM channels and services is high because as a result of the 2010 media laws, the PSM in Hungary has been highly centralised in terms of both management and programme production. The PSM is now managed by the MTVA, a body supervised by the Media Council. Hungary has six national public service radio broadcasters. There are no regional or local PSM channels. As specified in the Media Act, Hungary’s national news agency MTI has been granted the “exclusive right” to produce news programmes for the country’s public broadcasters. The law also placed MTI in charge of the online news portals and products of the public media and their on-demand media services. In addition, MTI provides news content free of charge to other media in Hungary, as a result of which many commercial radio stations rely solely on its news services.

Indicator 12 Regulatory safeguards against high concentration of ownership and/or control in media scores medium/high risk. The 2010 Media Act introduced a new audience-share model for regulating media concentration, the aim of which is prevent market participants from increasing their positions once they reach a certain audience-reach threshold. While analysts prefer the audience-share model to anti-concentration rules of the former media law (1996 Act on TV and Radio), a key deficiency of the 2010 legislation is the lack of adequate or clear legal remedies once these audience-share thresholds are reached. In addition, the presence of thresholds, while important, may not alone be enough to signal positive regulatory controls for ensuring media diversity. For instance, the 35 percent threshold on market share in the Hungarian context (for broadcasting) is fairly high given Hungary’s small market size. Likewise, in practice there are no formal, transparent, public mechanisms to ensure that compliance with concentration regulations are being met.

Appointment procedures for PSM professionals and management boards (indicator 17) scores as high risk. The 2010 media legislation brought each of Hungary’s public service media outlets—three national TV, three radio stations and one national news service—under a new body, the MTVA, which manages funding for the PSM. The MTVA is managed by the Media Council. The chairperson of the Media Council appoints, sets the salary for and exercises full employers’ rights over the Fund’s director general. The chairperson of the Media Council also appoints the Fund’s deputy directors, as well as the chairperson and the four members of its Supervisory Board. The Media Council is responsible for approving the Fund’s annual plan and subsidy policy and for determining the rules governing how MTVA’s assets can be used, managed, and accessed by the public media. The Fund’s annual budget is approved by Parliament.

Regulatory safeguards for the objective and independent allocation of (adequate consistent and sufficient) financial resources to PSM (indicator 17) scores as high risk. The allocation of financial resources to the MTVA of PSM is defined by law. However, there is no formal procedure for setting the amount of the MTVA budget. Although there are consulting and supervising organs linked with the individual public service media companies, in reality all public service activities are carried out by the MTVA, which is not supervised publicly and its operation is lacking in transparency. In addition, how the MTVA distributes funding to PSM channels for programming lacks oversight and transparency.

The Media Act specifies that PSM channels and services should provide fair, balanced and impartial representation of political viewpoints in news and informative programmes.[15] In practice, the content of PSM since the system was restructured in 2010 has been marked by a demonstrable pro-Government bias. Content analyses provided by the Media Council shows that between 2011 and 2013 government and Fidesz MPs were given roughly 75 percent of airtime on public media news programmes.[16]

While net neutrality has not been raised as an issue so far in Hungary (indicator 20), other questions relating to internet freedom have become salient. For example, the Constitutional Court (CC) has recently ruled that internet content providers are legal liable for any comment that readers add to their posts, even if they immediately remove sensitive comments. In addition, the Government introduced a proposal in Oct 2014 to tax Internet usage based on traffic. The proposal was withdrawn after mass demonstrations.


Economic Type of Indicators Assessing Risks to Media Pluralism

Overall, Hungary scored as high risk for a majority of the economic indicators (4 out of 6 indicators). Medium risk is scored by indicators: 23 Number of sectors in which Top 8 firms/owners are active, and 26 Centralisation of the national media system. High risk is scored for indicators: 21 Media ownership concentration, 22 Media audience and readership concentration, 24 Availability and quality of broadband, and 25 Minority and community media.

In Hungary, as in other post-communist countries with limited audiences and advertising markets,[17] the media are frequently exposed to economic pressures. In recent years, the growing number of media outlets, triggered by the rise of the internet and of digital broadcasting, has generated more intense competition for audiences, while advertising revenues have been shrinking since the global economic and financial crisis hit the country in late 2008.[18]

Indicator 23 Number of sectors in which top 8 firms/owners are active and indicator 26 Centralisation of the national media system score as medium risk. A precise evaluation of cross-ownership concentration is difficult to track due to deficiencies of data for all market sectors. As far as data are available, the major 8 media firms have aggregate market shares of more than 50% of the market.

Indicator 21 Media ownership concentration and indicator 22 Media audience and readership concentration score as high risk. The major Top 4 owners have an aggregate market and audience shares above 50 per cent in the TV, radio, newspaper and online media sectors.

In Hungary, the public service broadcaster has a legal obligation to provide minority programming. Apart from the PSM’s Romani programme, there is neither other programme or television channel for Hungary’s largest ethnic minority, nor for the linguistic or national minorities. The minority programmes on the PSM are not aired during prime time hours, but generally, early in the morning or early in the afternoon. Print Roma magazines established after the political transformation of 1989/1990 do not exist any more according to the registry of the Media Authority.


Socio-political Type of Indicators Assessing Risks to Media Pluralism

Hungary scored high risk for a majority (6 out of 8) of the socio-political indicators.

Indicator 27 Guarantees for universal access to media regarding special needs groups scored as medium risk. The media law stipulates that audiovisual media service providers need to provide programmes accessible for the hearing impaired, stipulating that more programmes need to be provided with subtitles or in sign language every year. In 2014, the PSM and the two leading national commercial television channels need to provide at least ten hours of programming per day with subtitles or sign language between 6-24 hours. Some programmes of the PSM and the leading commercial national television channels are subtitled. The media authority found that in 2013 1Q 53% of the programming of the PSM and RTL Klub and TV2 were providing subtitles/sign language, but there were troubles with the quality: the subtitles were not providing the full meaning and they were sometimes late compared to the visuals. The most popular programmes and the news bulletins do have subtitles but of not satisfactory quality.

Indicator 28 Universal coverage of PSM and broadband networks regarding geographic coverage is assessed at medium risk. All public service television channels are distributed via digital satellite and terrestrial broadcasting and can be accessed by more 99 percent of population via DVB-T. The public service radio station MR1 Kossuth Radio has a 100 percent coverage over the country (also reaching some of the neighbouring countries), while the coverage of other public service radio stations is below that level (MR2 Petofi Radio: 86%, MR3 Bartók Radio 68%, MR4 National broadcasting – for nationalities – 92%). Universal access for broadband (fixed line and mobile) has not been achieved in Hungary. Both fixed line and mobile broadband subscriptions are below the EU average. The NMHH is pursuing strategies and tenders aimed at the expanding frequencies for and improvement of the current broadband coverage, including with a 4G mobile network.

High risk is scored by indicators: 29 Representation of political views in the media, 30 Political control over media and distribution networks ownership, 31 Political control over media funding by advertising, 32 Presence of professional associations providing advocacy for editorial independence and respect of professional standards, 33 Level of independence of PSM considering mechanisms of its financing, and 34 Independence and ownership of news agencies.

The Hungarian media landscape is, in general, highly partisan and politicized along ‘pro-Government’ and ‘opposition’ lines. The broadcast sector in particular lacks independent watchdog media outlets from which citizens can obtain objective information regarding government policies or public issues with the notable exception of the evening news bulletins of RTL Klub, the most popular nationwide commercial television channel.

The PSM in particular is dominated by Government views. Commercial broadcasters also display clear partisan biases on both sides of the political spectrum. Unlike the legacy media, new media are more independent and many actively perform their watchdog roles. Many online news outlets offer investigative and public-interest stories and accounts of both the incumbent government and the opposition. However, online media are mainly consumed by younger Hungarians and coverage delivered by these outlets is not often re-circulated by broadcasters and therefore tends to remain in within the online media silo.

The MPM content evaluation of political bias in the broadcast media during the election campaign of European Parliament in May 2014 indicates that the government was more frequently portrayed in a positive light, while the opposition, including both the centre-left parties and the far-right party, were more often put into a negative context. The majority of the news items covering the governing parties and the government on national commercial TV2 were of a neutral tone. The opposition had no coverage at all in the studied period. On the major public service television channel M1, many of the reports covering the government and the governing parties were of a positive tone, yet the vast majority of the news coverage was neutral. However, one third of the news items covering the opposition were critical or highly critical.

In Hungary, where political parallelism is on a high level, i.e., most news outlets are informally associated with political parties (indicator 30); favouritism is the rule with regard to the distribution of state-controlled advertising resources (indicator 31). Outlets loyal to the government in power are granted state advertising and other funding, while media critical of government policies are denied these key revenue streams. Moreover PSM funding allocation is not transparent (indicator 33). As the fragmentation of the audiences has accelerated, commercial revenues have been on the decline, thereby increasing the role and market power of state advertising (by ministries, municipalities and state-owned companies).[19] The Hungarian state has therefore become an important player in the advertising market; private advertisers have also followed suit by placing their ads in government-friendly outlets. Such trends have created market distortions, wherein pro-Government outlets with lower market shares are generating larger advertising revenues than ‘opposition’ media outlets with bigger audiences.

A new law imposing a special advertising tax on media companies, passed in mid-June, 2014, further undermines the position of independent broadcasters. The tax is widely believed to target RTL Klub, a subsidiary of the German multinational Bertelsmann Group, which is the most popular commercial television channel in Hungary, whose evening news bulletins had been lightly critical of the incumbent government.[20]

Indicator 32 Presence of professional associations providing advocacy for editorial independence and respect of professional standards scores as high risk. There are several professional journalist associations in Hungary, although their enforcement capacities remain weak. The major organization is the Hungarian Journalists Association (Magyar Újságírók Országos Szövetsége, MÚOSZ) with some 5,000 members. The organisation has a code of ethics and practice based on the Anglo-Saxon standards of journalism (such as objectivity, neutrality, the separation of news from views etc.). In practice, however, partisan journalism is the rule in most of the print and broadcast media. The organisation also has an Ethics Commission, which, however, does not have the means to enforce standards. MÚOSZ was not involved in any meaningful way in the drafting of the 2010 Media Laws. While MÚOSZ is commonly associated with left-wing journalists, there also are some minor journalists’ associations of right-wing journalists such as the Hungarian Journalists Community (Magyar Újságírók Közössége, MÚK) and the Hungarian Catholic Journalists Association (Magyar Katolikus Újságírók Szövetsége, MAKÚSZ). While the three organisations also have a joint code of ethics and of practice, co-operation between the three is lacking. There also is a Press Union (Sajtószakszervezet), whose ability to enforce journalists’ interests is, however, limited. Currently there is no collective contract protecting journalists’ rights vis-a-vis employers.

Indicator 34 Independence and ownership of news agencies scores as high risk. The Hungarian Wireless Agency (Magyar Távirati Iroda, MTI), which is part of the PSM structure, has a de facto monopoly in the country. Since 2010, the MTI news agency has provided most of its media content free of charge. At the same time, its only private domestic competitor, the Independent News Agency, lost many of its subscribers and ceased to exist.[21] Various commercial broadcasters and print media outlets across the country now rely on the news provided by MTI.

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Graph 14: Level of risk for each risk domain – Hungary

[1] Act CIV of 2010 on the Freedom of the Press and the Fundamental Rules of Media Content, (Smtv.),

Act CLXXXV of 2010 on Media Services and Mass Media, (Mttv),

[2] §226 and §227 of the Act C of 2012 on the Criminal Code, (as amended 2013) in Hungarian at: See English-language translation of the 1978 Criminal Code (§179 with almost identical language to 2012 Criminal Code) at:

[3] § 9, Smtv,

[4] §132(k) Mttv.,

[5] §82(2)(c), Mttv.,

[6] §83(1), Mttv.,

[7] §66, Mttv.,

[8] §66, Mttv.,

[9] See Mertek analysis of local radio tendering practices, “Media Council Redraws Radio Market,”, November 2013, and “The Transformation of the Radio Market in Budapest,” September 2012,

[10] See “Klubradio Wins Frequency Fight,” Hungarian Media Monitor, March 2013,

[11] ‘‘Court: Media Council must reveal contracts with top TV stations,’’ The Hungarian Media Monitor, CMCS, 5 February 2013,

[12] See § 85 of the 1996 Act on Radio and Television,

[13]§41(3) Mttv, .

[14] ‘Council of Europe and Hungarian Government agree on changes to media laws’, The Hungarian Media Monitor, 6 March 2013,

[15] 83 (1), Mttv. .

[16] See NMHH content analysis of top TV channels,

[17] Sparks, Colin: (2012) ‘‘The Interplay of Politics and Economics in Transitional Societies,’’ in Central and Eastern European Media in Comparative Perspective. Politics, Economy and Culture, pp. 41–61, ed. by John Downey & Sabina Mihelj, Farnham, Surrey, England..

[18] ‘A Magyar Reklámszövetség bemutatja: 2012-es Reklámtorta’ (The Hungarian Advertisers Association presents the advertising pie of 2012), (accessed 19th June, 2014).

[19] See Czibik, Ágnes et al., ‘Print media expenditure of government institutions and state-owned companies in Hungary, 2003–2012,’ May 2013, Corvinus University of Budapest,; see also Urbán, Ágnes: ‘Állami reklámköltés, 2008 – 2012’ (State advertising 2008–2012), 17th March, 2014, Measure Media Monitoring, (both accessed 19th June, 2014).

[20] Fehér, Margit: ‘Hungary Adopts Tax on Advertising Revenue,’ The Wall Street Journal, 11th June, 2014, (accessed 19th June, 2014).

[21] ‘Bezár a Független Hírügynökség’ (The Independent News Agency is closing down), 25th May, 2014, emasa (MÚOSZ), (accessed 19th June, 2014).

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