Echo TV aired content inciting hatred against NGOs

Published: 21 December 2017

The Media Council of the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH) imposed a fine of HUF 500,000 on Echo TV’s service provider for inciting hatred against non-governmental organisations. On the other hand, the Council will not initiate proceedings against TV2’s service provider for the entertainment programme Appra magyar! – A gondolatolvashow (On Your App, Hungary! The Mind-Reading Show), against which complaints were raised due to a question concerning child abuse. At its last meeting, the Council took decisions to grant the applications for technical development funding submitted by 8 television and radio stations and announced next year’s Károly Escher Ad Hoc Tender with a total budget of HUF 20 million.

Tenders under the Patronage Programme

A total of HUF 15.7 million in funding was granted to 8 community and small community media service providers in the third round of this year’s technical development tender under the Media Council’s Hungarian Media Patronage Programme. As a result, 5 television stations get the chance to modernise their equipment: Füred TV, WTV in Vecsés, Városi TV Mohács as well as Apostol TV and hatoscsatorna in Budapest. The three radio stations that won funding include Rádió Törökszentmiklós, Klubrádió in Budapest and Mária Rádió Ibolya broadcasting in the Danube Bend region.

The Council announced the Patronage Programme’s 2018 Károly Escher Ad Hoc Tender, open for applications to cover on-site filming costs related to unexpected events, with a total budget of HUF 20 million. The first submission deadline is 12 am, 9 January 2018. Grant limit is set at HUF 2 million per application and recipients will also have to apply for a grant under the Media Council’s tenders for documentary or non-fiction films with plans for the film for which the material is shot. The Council reallocated the 2017 tender budget (HUF 10 million for each tender) to the third round of the 2017 Judit Ember Tender for documentary films and Ágoston Kollányi Tender for non-fiction films.

Media supervisory decisions

Following up on citizen complaints, the Media Council concluded that the content aired in the late-September edition of Echo Tv’s programme Informátor (Informer), where the experts invited accused non-governmental organisations of committing crimes when presenting the Islamic community in Hungary and the producers of the programme failed to distance themselves from these accusations, constitutes a serious infringement. The programme presented Hungarian non-governmental organisations running asylum programmes as groups that violate norms and present a danger to society and called their members traitors and war criminals who should be liquidated at will. The Council required the media service provider to remove the online version of the harmful media content immediately and publish a statement about the Media Council’s decision and imposed a fine of HUF 500,000. The channel shall publish the statement on the front page of its website within three days of entry into force of the resolution in a way in which the entire information can be read continuously for a period of seven days from its publication. Remedy may be sought against the sanctions imposed, as is the case for all decisions taken by the Media Council. When applying legal consequences, the Media Council always considers all circumstances of the case on an individual basis and imposes specific sanctions in accordance with the principles of progressiveness, proportionality and recurrence.

The Council will not initiate proceedings on account of the 21th November edition of TV2’s Appra magyar! – A gondolatshow (On Your App, Hungary! The Mind-Reading Show) where a question concerning the admissibility of child abuse was addressed to viewers. The investigation launched on the basis of citizen complaints did not demonstrate that the show presented child abuse as lawful and socially acceptable behaviour. Despite the humour displayed, the show did not trivialise this issue and condemned all forms of corporal punishment and the producers of the show provided counterarguments to the points made by participants. The investigation also concluded that the media service provider has given an appropriate age rating (not recommended for audiences under the age of 12) to the programme that did not feature any content that could have been highly detrimental to the development of the personality of minors.

Radio decisions

The Media Council finalised the call for bids for the Tokaj 101.8 MHz community radio frequency and published it on its website. Bids may be submitted on 25th January.

After performing a formal examination in the process for the Szolnok 90.4 MHz frequency, the Council registered the only bidder, LB Rádió Kft. In the process for the Budapest 98.6 MHz frequency, both bidders, namely Scaletta Kft. and Manna Vision Media Kft., were registered after having submitted the missing information.

At the request of Európa Rádió’s media service provider, the Council extended the local media service licences for the Debrecen 94.4 MHz and Szeged 87.9 MHz frequencies until 20 March 2023 and, at the request of Rádió Som’s media service provider, Friends-Lan Kft., the local commercial radio licence for the Fehérgyarmat 99.5 MHz frequency. At the request of Extrém Business Kft., the Media Council also decided to terminate the small community radio licence for the 87.8 MHz frequency held by Rádió FM in Érd by mutual agreement with effect from 1 January 2018.

At the request of the respective media service providers, the Media Council authorised TELEKOM BÉKÉS Kft’s local commercial radio station broadcasting on the Békéscsaba 98.4 MHz and Gyula 90.5 MHz frequencies to be connected into a network with A-tól Z-ig Bt’s local commercial radio station at Orosháza 90.2 MHz as a networked media service as of 22 December 2017. In this context, the Council decided to terminate the networked connection between the relevant frequencies in Békéscsaba and Gyula as of 21 December 2017.

At the request of the relevant service providers, the Council also authorised the name change of several media services: in Orosháza, 90.2 Rádió 1 will be called Mega Rádió, while in Békéscsaba, Mega Rádió will be 98.4 Mega Rádió from now on. INTERAX Kft. withdrew the name change request it submitted to the Media Council in relation to its licence for the Békéscsaba 88.9 MHz frequency.

MTVA decisions

The Media Council reviewed the system of public media services. As a result, at the initiative of the Media Service Support and Asset Management Fund (MTVA), the frequencies Baja 92.2 MHz, Keszthely 104.3 MHz, Révfülöp 91.0 MHz, Tiszafüred 105.2 MHz and Nagymaros 93.1 MHz will be added to the frequencies held by Dankó Rádió. The reason behind this is that Dankó Rádió is only sporadically available in smaller municipalities. However, public service objectives may only be delivered in full if public media service can reach as many levels of society as possible in geographical terms as well.

The MTVA indicated that it would not be launching the thematic media service M6 for economical and budgetary reasons. The Media Council took note and recorded this in its register for media services.

At the request of Duna Médiaszolgáltató Nonprofit Zrt., the Media Council will once again conclude a one-year public contract with the service provider in order to increase the diversity of the media market. The reason for this is that the service provider achieved an aggregate audience share of over 40% on the television and radio market last year and, therefore, the Media Council identified it as a media service provider concerned by the rule on the restriction of concentration in the media market. With regard to its television and radio channels, the service provider makes commitments to exceed compulsory airing rates for European works, independent European works no olden than five years and Hungarian works and, on the channel M5, it commits to broadcast artistic, scientific and cultural programmes at least 65% of the time.

Social diversity metrics for news programmes in line expectations

In the first half of 2017, the aggregate rate of representation of groups of particular importance for social diversity, such as ethnic minorities, the economically disadvantaged, non-governmental organisations, people inactive in the labour market or churches, was consistent with the previous pattern in the ten television and radio news programmes examined by the NMHH: their total rate of representation was 17.5%, in line with the rates between 17% and 19% seen in previous years. The official report approved by the Media Council shows that in the analysed categories economic operators had the highest total rate of representation with 43.5%, but inactive people, including predominantly young and retired people, and non-governmental organisations also received significant media coverage with 22.8% and 19.9%, respectively. Moreover, there was a noticeable decline in the rate of representation of interest organisations from 12.1% in the second half of the previous year to 9.9%. The summary covered the news programmes of M1, Duna Tv, TV2, RTL Klub, ATV, Hír Tv and Echo Tv as well as Magyar Rádió’s programmes 180 perc (180 minutes), Déli Krónika (Noon Chronicle) and Esti Krónika (Evening Chronicle). The full study, along with reports for previous periods, is available on the NMHH’s website.

The Media Council amended its Rules of Procedure

Taking account of the experience gained during the period since the last amendment in February 2014 and the changes in day-to-day operations, the Media Council once again amended its Rules of Procedure. Simultaneously with its publication in the Official Gazette of Hungary (Magyar Közlöny), the document will soon be made available on the NMHH website.