Based on a citizen report, the Media Council investigated the 11 September 2018 broadcast of the programme Balázsék aired on Radio 1 broadcasting on the Budapest 96.4 MHz commercial regional radio frequency, and imposed a fine of HUF 350,000 for incorrect age rating. The media service provider rated the programme in the category not recommended for persons under 12 years of age; however, according to the findings of the investigation, the specific broadcast should have been classified as a category 16, due to repeated references to sexuality, and thus it could be aired only after 9 pm in this form instead of the morning hours. The infringement is also particularly serious because the influence of widely available programmes is remarkably significant, and adolescents tend to accept the models offered by the media without criticism, and during age-rating the youngest members of the relevant age group, i.e. 12-year-olds in this particular case, must be taken into consideration. Based on the above, the 12- to 14-year-old members of the age group to be protected probably could not properly interpret the content of the broadcast. The age rating of radio programmes is carried out by the radios themselves based on the parameters set out by the Media Act. However, these ratings can be subsequently reviewed by the Media Council ex officio as well as based on citizen reports.
Based on an investigation of one of its October 2018 programming weeks, the local community radio station SOLA Rádió broadcasting on the Budapest 101.6 MHz frequency aired less Hungarian music, fewer local public and everyday life programmes and those within the radio station’s programme profile, and had more reruns than stated in its public contract. Therefore, the Media Council imposed a fine of HUF 10,000 on the operator. Based on the investigation of one of its November 2018 programming weeks, the small-community radio Rádió Szarvas broadcasting on the Szarvas 105.4 MHz frequency aired fewer text-based, public service, local public and everyday life programmes but more reruns and advertisements than stated in its public contract. Therefore, the Media Council also imposed a HUF 10,000 find on the operator.
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 other violations in the same subject previously committed by the operator as well as the audience ratios of the endangered age group, and employs the principle of progressiveness and proportionality.
At the request of the media service provider, the Council renewed the media service provision rights of the operator of Cegléd Rádió broadcasting on a commercial basis on the local radio frequency Cegléd 92.5 MHz for another five years as the previous seven-year rights were to expire soon.
Citizen reports related to human dignity
As a result of citizen reports, the Media Council also investigate the 13 January 2019 broadcast of the Bayer Show of ECHO TV, and decided not to initiate official proceedings. In their submissions, the citizen reporters objected to the fact that Zsolt Bayer spoke of a 18-year-old female student delivering a speech at an anti-government demonstration in uncivilized tone and thereby violated human dignity, personality rights (including good reputation); the reporters also objected to the fact that the broadcast was published on the largest video sharing platform without any age rating. The Media Council, however, concluded that the content disputed in the report was an expression of personal opinion about a specific person, which, although it could indeed be offensive to the person concerned, in and of itself is insufficient to be considered, beyond the violation of private interest, as a media service provider’s behaviour constituting an infringement against a community. However, the Board is only entitled to proceed to protect public interest, i.e. the interests of viewers and listeners, as in media regulation, the protection of human dignity is not a tool to protect the individual but something that can only be applied if the institutional value of human dignity is devalued in the audience’s eyes. In connection with the statements made in the programme segment, the person named has means of personal right protection, civil or criminal court proceedings to enforce its claim.
In relation to the specific television programme, the Council stated that the programme did not include any problematic element in terms of the “not recommended for persons under 12 years” age rating defined by the media service provider. In relation to content published on YouTube, the Media Council has no competence to proceed because the operator of the video sharing portal does not qualify as a media service provider and, therefore, does not fall under the scope of the press and the media acts.
The Media Council has also received citizen reports regarding the 13 July 2018 broadcast of the programme Informátor on Echo TV covering the homeless situation and the social debate resulting from the relevant amendment to the act on civil offences. The citizen reports objected to the violation of human dignity and the discriminatory nature of the programme. The Media Council established that the disputed media content did not exceed the substantive tolerance threshold that would justify the restriction of freedom of the press, i.e. the Authority’s intervention, in order to provide for the institutional protection of human dignity. The provisions of the Press Act on discrimination were not violated either because, the Council argued, the programme was not suitable for creating prejudice against the homeless community, and to reinforce existing stereotypes in society.
The full agenda of the Media Council’s weekly sessions can be found on the board’s website, just as the minutes of the meetings and all decisions; the latest ones will be published after the necessary certification and administration period.