Media supervisory fines for overly permissive age ratings
Following up on a citizen report, the Media Council ordered the operator of RTL Klub to pay a fine of HUF 6 million for the violation of the age-rating provisions of the Media Act in connection with the first episode of the programme Szenzációs Négyes in early September. The board concluded that even though the production’s theme was not sexual, the dance of the performers included vulgar references to sex, and the showman, the jury members, and other performers also made sexually explicit references. As a result, the programme that was not recommended by the operator to children under the age of 12 could have had an adverse effect, as the Media Act stipulates, on the intellectual, moral or physical development of children under the age of 16, especially children aged 12-14; therefore, its age-rating was too permissive.
Also based on a citizen report, the Council also imposed a fine of HUF 1.25 million on the operator of TV2 for the age-rating of the programme Valami Amerika 3 broadcast in mid-September. The film should have been rated by the operator as not recommended for audiences under the age of sixteen instead of twelve, because the scenes displaying verbal and physical abuse and sexual references, and the excessive use of profane and obscene language, among other things, can adversely affect the personality development of the 12-16 age group. Accordingly, both programmes could only have been broadcast after 21 o'clock.
Also triggered by a citizen report, the Media Council imposed a fine on the operator of the regional and community radio station Tilos Radio, because its programme Páholy was aired without any age-rating on a day in September, even though the content of the programme would have required a rating ‘not recommended for audiences under the age of sixteen’. Because of the sexual references in the broadcast, the excessive use of profane and obscene language, as well as the popularization of alcohol consumption and socially unacceptable habits, the Media Council imposed a fine of HUF 75,000 on the radio operator, which acknowledged the infringement in the proceeding.
Unlike cinemas, media service providers, with certain exceptions, are required to classify their programmes in one of the age categories defined by the Media Act, which can be checked ex officio by the Media Council within the context of its own ex post media oversight activities and based on citizen reports. When imposing a fine, the Media Council always determines the form and extent of the fine with due consideration to all the circumstances of the specific case, including all similar violations previously committed by the operator as well as the viewership and listenership ratios of the endangered age group, and employs the principle of progressiveness and proportionality. Article 187 of the Media Act stipulates that in each case the legal consequence will be imposed – depending on the nature of the infringement – taking into account the gravity of the infringement, whether it was committed on one or more occasions or on an ad-hoc or continuous basis, its duration, the pecuniary benefits earned as a result of the infringement, the damage to interests caused by the infringement, the number of persons aggrieved or jeopardized by the damage to interests, the damage caused, the privacy violation incurred and the impact on the market. Decisions may be appealed in court.
Decisions concerning radio frequencies
In the tender procedure announced in September for the commercial use of the Paks 96.3 MHz local radio frequency, the Media Council announced the sole bidder, Paks FM Kft., as the winner. The operator intends to start broadcasting under the name “Paks FM” and has 120 days to do so after the conclusion of the relevant public contract, in accordance with the call for tenders. The Media Council finalized and published on its website the call for bids for the commercial use of the Budaörs 104.8 MHz and the Dabas 93.4 MHz local radio frequencies. Bids may be submitted on 7 January 2019 for the Budaörs frequency and on 10 January 2019 for the Dabas frequency. The Media Council has published the draft call for tenders for the Szigetszentmiklós 107.0 MHz local and the Győr 96.4 MHz district radio frequencies.
The Media Council accepted next year’s market regulatory and general administrative supervisory plan
The board accepted next year’s market regulatory and general administrative supervisory plan of the NMHH Media Council for 2019. The primary topics are no different from last year: in addition to the continuous monitoring of media service providers and social media platforms, next year will again see attention devoted – amongst other things – to the volume of advertisements, enforcement of the statutory limit of 20 per cent for tabloid crime news on major news services, and qualitative analyses of news and magazine programmes. Another primary field of the investigation is compliance of media service providers with child protection requirements during the weekend early morning period of television programming, and the extent of the age-rating ‘not recommended under six years of age’ is used by operators. This year the Media Council also plans to review the film age-rating practices of media service providers. The market regulatory plan is available on the Authority’s website.