The Russian-Ukrainian war was covered objectively by the national television channels

Published: 7 April 2022

The programmes of the M1, ATV, Hír TV, TV2 and RTL Klub channels reported objectively on the war in our neighbourhood, interviewing experts, illustrating several points of view and dealing with the complexity of the situation – according to the research adopted by the Media Council of the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (the Media Authority) at its last meeting. In its analysis, the Authority examined more than 247 programme hours and more than five thousand programme units.

The television channels surveyed in the first week of March reported on the conflict in a neutral and objective manner, with no Russian (or Ukrainian) war propaganda in the sampled programmes. The M1, ATV, Hír TV, TV2 and RTL Klub channels aired extensive coverage of the fighting, the domestic and international economic, security and energy consequences of the aggression, the reactions of the European Union and world politics, and the handling of the wave of refugees arriving to Hungary and Europe. In addition to politicians, the televisions also featured different experts, giving viewers a comprehensive and diverse picture of the conflict and its short- and long-term consequences.

Focus on the refugee crisis and domestic policy implications

On M1, the refugee crisis and aid to those in need were the main focus of attention, with humanitarian disaster and aid making up around a quarter of the news. In addition, the events of the war and the internal political aspects of the conflict were the most frequently covered in the channel's programmes. On RTL Klub, the greatest emphasis was placed on domestic policy aspects of the war, such as the government and opposition narrative on the war, Hungary's energy security and the defence of the utilities price cut. There was also a high number of reports on acts of war. The main topics of TV2’s news programmes were the aid to Ukrainian refugees in Hungary and armed Russian attacks on civilians and civilian buildings.

Following the outbreak of the war, several media outlets expressed their criticism claiming that certain experts unilaterally echo the Russian narrative when making their statements about the causes of the war. During the period under review, no such statement was made on any television channel.

The authority also analysed the imagery in war-related programmes. On ATV, more than 57 percent of the programmes on the subject did not contain any images of war – when they did, the most common illustration (13 percent) was of refugees. The distribution on Hír TV was similar, with more than 62 percent of programmes without images of war and nearly 15.5 percent with illustrations of refugees. The survey also examined who appeared on screen most often: on TV2, Viktor Orbán was the person seen most often, with 7.3 percent, followed by the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, with 5 percent. In the case of RTL, lower proportions were found: Volodymyr Zelenskyy was on 5 percent, whereas the Hungarian prime minister on 4 percent.

The Media Council has not yet started any proceedings

As of 24 February, the authority has received a total of nine submissions related to the presentation of the war. The Media Council established that these submissions did not meet the criteria necessary for objections filed on the grounds of lack of balanced coverage. The submissions generally criticised the news reports, however, the objections filed on the grounds of lack of balanced coverage must state precisely the programme being contested and the relevant point of view which differs substantially from the information given. In the submissions, the notifiers did not mention that they had previously addressed their objections to the media service provider, although under the current legislation, objections must be notified to them first.

The full document is available on the Authority's website.