The attack on the media is backfiring

The events of the last few days in Hungary have already aroused the interest of the foreign media as well as international organizations concerned with the media and civil society in general. János Lázár might insist that he put no pressure on the CEO of Origo Zrt. to remove Gergő Sáling, the editor-in-chief, but journalists unanimously told AFP that Sáling “was forced out” for political reasons after the site published a story about the extravagant travel expenses of János Lázár, Viktor Orbán’s chief-of-staff. Transparency International also considers the Origo affair “intimidation aimed at stifling the voice of civil society and democratic oversight.” And this is just the beginning. One can be sure that in the next few days important German- and English-language papers will have articles about the Hungarian government’s heavy-handed interference with the distribution of Norwegian Fund grants and the pressure it put on the management of Origo.

Meanwhile the scandal is growing, as scandals usually do. After the firing of the editor-in-chief, András Pethő, deputy editor-in-chief, resigned. He was the author of the article that incurred the wrath of János Lázár. Soon afterward Péter György, the founder of Origo, also resigned from the governing board. He is the head of the Film, Media and Cultural Studies Graduate Program at ELTE.  Deutsche Telekom naturally refuses to bear any responsibility for what happened at the subsidiary of its subsidiary, Magyar Telekom, while Origo Zrt. steadfastly denies any connection between the editor-in-chief’s firing and the article about Lázár’s trip. So does Lázár, who tries to portray himself as a man of honor who would never put political pressure on the media. In fact, according to 444.hu, political pressure on Origo has been constant over the last three-four years. Ever since Viktor Orbán became prime minister of Hungary.

There are always people who are convinced that the Hungarian public will swallow anything and everything this government does. They claim that Hungarians have difficulty with the concept of solidarity. In brief, nothing will ever change. I don’t agree with this assessment of the situation. I’m convinced that there will be a tipping point. We don’t know what will prompt a widespread response to an abusive and dictatorial authority. The tipping point can happen at any time and over any issue, but I would say that launching a broadside attack on the media is not a bright move on the part of the government.

Yesterday one may have been disappointed that only 1,000-1,200 people decided to protest the government’s actions against the media. But by today the opposition to the government looks much more impressive. More than sixty media outlets joined forces against the introduction of  taxes on advertisements. And, what is most important, not just left-of-center TV and radio stations, newspapers, and web sites got together but right-wing media as well: not just RTL Klub but also TV2 and HírTV. Among the radio stations not only Gazdasági Rádió but also Katolikus és Lánchíd Rádió. Among newspapers not only Népszabadság and Népszava but also Magyar Nemzet, Nemzeti Sport, and Metropol. Among online newspapers not only Hír24 but also Mandiner.hu.  And many, many others. Tomorrow the television stations will be dark for a while and newspapers and online newspapers will be blank. I think János Lázár and his boss made a big mistake. They managed to turn even friendly, often servile media against them.

solidarity
And the Orbán government is facing other problems at the moment. I will mention a few. Lately the European Court of Human Rights handed down several decisions that found the Hungarian government in violation of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Although the Orbán administration swears it will not abide by the court’s rulings, one has the feeling that they might be forced to change their minds. Then there is the Norwegian case. It looks as if the Norwegians are not about to be pushed around by Viktor Orbán and his chief-of-staff, János Lázár. Today the Hungarian ambassador to Oslo was called in by the Norwegian foreign ministry. After the conversation Géza Jeszenszky could only say that he hoped the misunderstanding would be cleared up soon.

And let’s not forget the infamous monument which, though still not erected, continues to provoke criticism. This monument, which was supposed to serve as a symbol of Hungary’s loss of sovereignty on March 19, 1944, has been strongly opposed by historians, the Jewish community, and the center-left political forces. Even American Jewish congressmen and senators got involved and wrote to a letter to Viktor Orbán asking him to sit down and discuss the issues surrounding the idea of the monument. Viktor Orbán just answered the American legislators and told them that the monument will stand regardless of what the whole world says, including the Hungarian public. According to Medián, more than 55% of the Hungarian population thinks that the monument falsifies the country’s history. Yet he goes ahead.

Finally, there is the question of Viktor Orbán’s strong objection to Jean-Claude Juncker for the post of president of the European Commission. More and more it looks as if the anti-Juncker forces will not prevail, especially since Angela Merkel is under strong pressure to stick with Juncker, the choice of the European People’s Party. In order for the British-Swedish-Dutch-Hungarian anti-Juncker forces to succeed they would have to gain the support of 55% of the member states and 65% of the population. Somehow I don’t think they will be able to convince that many heads of state to vote for another candidate.

Hungary is fighting battles on so many fronts that it might seem strategically suicidal to open up two more fronts: the Norwegian Fund and the media. There is, however, one possible explanation for the government’s aggressive behavior. The European Union right now is between two administrations and occupied with an internal struggle between the European Parliament and the European Council. Perhaps Orbán decided that under these circumstances Brussels would be too busy to care much about Hungarian domestic problems. Given the latest developments, however, it seems that Brussels is still functioning and is quite capable of acting against the Hungarian government if it does not abide by the rules. And the “domestic disturbances” are turning out to be a much bigger deal than Orbán and Lázár thought.

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47 comments

  1. “Meanwhile the scandal is growing, as scandals usually do.”

    In Hungary, scandals always fizzle out, at least since 2010.

    On the other hand:

    Our plumber voted for Fidesz, because they brought in “smaller, cheaper” Parliament.
    (We know that cheaper it is not).

    He told me today he is now disappointed that Lazar spent millions on luxury hotels and
    would not vote for Fidesz.

    Will he remember his own words in four years?

  2. This is pure speculation from my part, but I wouldn’t exclude that this media chaos (especially the right wing outlets’ surprising anti government stance) might be a result of some internal power struggle within Fidesz. E.g. Simicska vs Lázár?

  3. Only an implosion is my hope.

    So many indecent participants, as crowded into fidesz, will pile up lots of Lazar affairs, and the party will be history.

  4. Deutsche Telekom naturally refuses to bear any responsibility for what happened at the subsidiary of its subsidiary, Magyar Telekom, while Origo Zrt. steadfastly denies any connection between the editor-in-chief’s firing and the article about Lázár’s trip. So does Lázár, who tries to portray himself as a man of honor who would never put political pressure on the media.

    News, May 6th
    “Deutsche Telekom will launch mobile payment services in other markets including Slovakia and Hungary.
    The company is planning to launch mobile payment solution mid-May, while it has done testing with services like payment and ticketing in Hungary. It is planning a commercial launch this year in Hungary, said Deutsche Telekom.”
    http://www.telecomlead.com/mobile-vas/deutsche-telekom-offers-mywallet-mobile-payment-service-eur-40-bonus-41322-50529
    News, May 22
    “BUDAPEST–Hungary’s telecommunications regulator NMHH called a tender Thursday to sell various broadband spectrum licenses in a bid to boost competition and speed development in the telecoms market.
    Hungary plans to pocket a minimum of 104 billion forints ($468.7 million) from the sale of the concessions, the NMHH said.
    In September 2013, Hungary already extended the mobile frequency contracts of the three telecom providers active in Hungary until April 2022.
    The three mobile phone companies operating in Hungary are Norway’s Telenor ASA (TEL.OS), the U.K.’s Vodafone Group PLC (VOD), and Magyar Telekom Nyrt. (MTELEKOM.BU), which is majority-owned by Germany’s Deutsche Telekom AG (DTE.XE).”
    http://english.capital.gr/News.asp?id=2022961
    News, June 4th
    “Among other things [Lazar] also spoke about how the the government is planning a comprehensive rural Internet system to all households with Deutsche Telekom, for a value of HUF 300 billion, according to the strategic agreement concluded earlier.”
    http://index.hu/belfold/2014/06/04/lazarnak_nagy_tervei_vannak_a_deutsche_telekommal/

    Lázár, tries to portray himself as a man of honor who would never put political pressure on the media.

    In fact this is what Lazar said: “Anyone who remotely knows me, knows that I never tried to put pressure on the media.”
    In 2011 Lazar sad the following: ““aki nem vitte semmire az életbe, az annyit is ér, ezt tudom mondani. Aaz… annak annyi az élete“. THose who did not achieve anything in their lives, that is how much they worth. Those.. that is how much is their lives.” Later he apologized for this comment that was leaked. A week after the apology, the local Fidesz (who’s president was Lazar) purchased a whole page in the local advertising magazine (27,000 copies published).In the advertisement they published the names, phone numbers and photographs of the three person who in their opinion were responsible for releasing the “fake tape” and tried to “discredit” the mayor [Lazar]. One of the person was the owner of the local radio station.
    http://vastagbor.atlatszo.hu/2014/06/04/lazar-janos-soha-nem-gyakorolt-nyomast-a-sajtora/

  5. “One can be sure that in the next few days important German- and English-language papers will have articles about the Hungarian government…”

    OF COURSE one can be sure about that. After all the Bilderberg meeting was over JUST a few days ago, where the “important German and English-language papers” already received appropriate orders on what to publish. Look at the list of attendees and find the chief editors of many such publications.

    Gordon Bajnai was also at this meeting, why? And why does he deny what was exactly discussed if he has nothing to hide?

    In every decent country leftists and liberals protest against Bilderberg, protest against the part of the press the press cozying up and becoming henchmen of billionares and politicians.

    Decent people protest about the secrecy, the lies, the harassment and arrests of real Journalists https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGOPjx4yOGE . Those who want to cover what the powerful do not want covered. The Bilderberg-participant media is the definition of servile media. They have relevant information to the public that they refuse to report on. We need decent and rightful media that is interested in revealing all the lies and secrets of Bilderberg.

    One that is on the side of the people, not on the side of the Bilderberg monsters.

  6. Eva

    All of these years in the US has imbued you with a wonderful residual of optimism. All of the scandals hurt, but each is no more than a pin prick for FIDESZ’s position in Hungary. The fact is that the population is so cynical that none of these “scandals” will have any real cumulative impact on public opinion. The value of a free media has long ago been lost on the public. The overriding sense is that these “rich” (often foreign) businesses ought to pay.
    The economy remains weak, but it also feels a lot better that at any time since 2007 or so. Tourism is up in Hungary and Budapest feels like a better place. I know this is deceiving and does not reflect the reality of the country at large, but regardless this more positive feeling does matter. Orban has been empowered by the lack of resolve of foreign companies to actively leave the country when faced with discriminatory taxes, by the lack of resolve of EU institutions and national governments to confront his efforts to subvert democracy and by the ineptness of any real political opposition and most importantly by the pathetic passiveness of the Hungarian population (that remains in Hungary) to the long term impact of the regime.

    The media scandal may knock down FIDESZ’s popularity temporarily. But if someone (like most Hungarians) grew up in a society that never had a true free and active press, this issue is minor at best. Anyhow, those who care have either left the country already or can easily read the foreign press.

    Over the coming years, Hungary’s growth and development will continue to lag behind most other countries in the region. Maybe someday this will hurt the ruling party. I don’t see this happening anytime soon, and frankly Schengen and the freedoms that remain that come from EU membership help support the regime and help keep the dissatisfaction at a level that does not scare the Government.

  7. If Lázár or Orbán want something, they will get it. That’s it. That’s what is unclear to Western observers, they just don’t understand what a long term vision is (e.g. to want to control Origo which intention has existed at Fidesz since at least 2000) and that there are people who will never compromise or willing to give up their goals. Fideszniks just wanted Origo and that’s it. And if they wanted it, they were gonna somehow control it sooner or later and they did.

    The Western culture is all about compromises, whereas Eastern leaders (such as those in Russia or fideszniks in Hungary) see compromises fundamentally as weaknesses, even immoral acts, because any compromise necessarily entails giving up something from (essentially betraying) your principles or dreams. This is just dishonorable, and is seen as a failure here.

    (The Hungarian left-wing behaves in this respect exactly like the Westerners, but as the leftists are in the process of getting extinct, the question answered itself: it is not very useful to be a clueless pushover).

    Luckily for Fidesz, however, just like Yahoo which voluntarily gave out private emails to the Chinese government which then used the emails to identify dissidents and send them to prison, a Deutche Telekom will never give a damn about local issues of democracy, if it can make some money in the process, despite paying serious lip service to ‘corporate social responsibility’ and other Dilbert-style bullsh*t — but, see, this kind of amorality is exactly why Lázár and Orbán hate these companies, as these companies are always ready to betray anybody. But these companies and the Western leaders leading them just cannot behave in any other way, as Westerners not only tolerate, but especially value compromise, that is how they were socialized, so they cannot act in any other way. It is in their nature just like it is in the nature of the scorpion to kill the frog in the famous fable. In other words, they are always the first to blink and to give in. They just don’t see the downside, as they can afford the costs, plus they lack principles anyway, given their inherent openness and liberalism which make them tolerate every kind of weird/foreign behavior, but which – as the East often complains – results in a loss of traditional values and morals. Anyhow, this makes the lives of people like Lázár or Orbán or Putin extremely easy.

    In addition, what most Westerners don’t get is that Hungarian right-wingers/conservatives (currently about 75% of the population) don’t like the West. The West, according to this narrative, consistently betrayed Hungary at various important occasions, at Trianon, in Yalta or when Eisenhower acknowledged in 1956 that Hungary is within the Russia sphere of interest, after all, what is sovereignty about if not about being in spheres of interest?

    These voters know (and Orban and Lázár even from personal experience) that all those notions of democracy, human rights, transparency, social responsibility and so on about which we can hear from important Western people is nothing more than vapid, inane talk, to which nobody even listens to in their own country (I mean try to imagine Hollande or Merkel giving a speech, you would fall asleep after a minute, tops).

    Add all these together and I think we can conclude the following. A clever (not a good one, just clever to stay in power) government like that of Orbán (or Putin’s) can always force the Westerners into a compromise which favors Orbán, because the West essentially craves a compromise.

    (Orban may use age-old tricks, like upping the ante further, after which the ‘fair compromise, meeting at half-way’ is simply accepting the first set of moves, but the result is that these tricks almost always work.)

    Second, Orbán unparalleled power is a direct result of never having entered into compromises and always having expected iron-clad discipline. He was very aggressive and it always paid. As he sees it and all evidence support this unfortunately (see his two recent election victories and then compare those to the results of major parties in major countries), winning is about being uncompromising. He will not give up his modus operandi now, but he doesn’t need to, as it always works.

    Corollary: democrats should never believe the smart Westerners because they are always willing to sell you downriver.

  8. Hello, this is my first comment on this Blog.

    The 55% of the member states and 65% of the population,are needed by the Juncker camp,they the anti-Juncker,must prevent the pro-Juncker camp form get them.

    Another thing Merkel,seems to have given up on trying to get an unanimity,but new she appears to trying to get as much countries behind Juncker as possible.

    How will Orban react (response) to this ? Will he jump-ship and join the pro-Juncker

  9. I don’t think these vague metaphysical speculations about “Westerners” etc are helpful or illuminating and rely on a raft of assertions and generalisations that have not been proven or even defined.

    The 444.hu article linked by csermenek however is well worth reading and makes a great deal of sense.

  10. @Jano “This is pure speculation from my part, but I wouldn’t exclude that this media chaos (especially the right wing outlets’ surprising anti government stance) might be a result of some internal power struggle within Fidesz. E.g. Simicska vs Lázár?”

    I heard this very same sentiment yesterday from an insider source. Also, Orbán encourages this because they fight each other instead of him, and it weakens them individually as well.

  11. Germany’s Deutsche Telekom is apparently playing a key role in liquidating free press in Hungary.

  12. “I don’t think these vague metaphysical speculations about “Westerners” etc are helpful or illuminating and rely on a raft of assertions and generalisations that have not been proven or even defined”

    HiBom

    I think “Johanna” (she/he changes their handle on an hourly basis) has been actually quite racist here. Generalising a whole group of people’s morality or intelligence on the basis of their geographical location is downright racism and is a tool used often by Orban and his apologists on here.

  13. @Johanna: “what most Westerners don’t get is that Hungarian right-wingers/conservatives (currently about 75% of the population) don’t like the West.”

    Huge exaggeration.

  14. The fundamental problem with the Hungarian press is that it cannot support itself without state advertising. And so the state is able to exert pressure by the threat of withdrawing or withholding it (this was no less true pre-2010.) And in the end, the owners of Origo have the choice of either selling up, caving in or continuing to lose epic amounts (which it has been doing steadily for years.) It appears they have chosen the middle course although I suspect they will ultimately sell.

  15. Come to thinking about it, this might be just what the monument on Szabadság tér is trying to symbolise: Deutsche Telekom striking down on the freedom of the press in Hungary.

  16. @D7 Democrat

    I was being provocative on purpose, but obviously I failed to get the messages through. Believe me, I am not normally one to simplify things, causality is always extremely complex. To quote Lacan: “I always speak the truth. Not the whole truth, because there’s no way to say it all.” I’m familiar with that, it is just impossible to really say “everything”.

    Every model is necessary a simplification, in order to make things, ideas easily digestible.

    What I wrote about is based on my extensive experience with Western people of influence, however. You may dismiss me as racist, but you do so at your own peril (sorry, my peril, because it is me who lives in an autocracy). If you reject the arguments as racist or whatever instead of trying to make efforts to understand my arguments, however simplified those are, and don’t assume for the sake of argument that those my reflect reality, you will never understand Fidesz and will always wonder how can it be that Orban always got what he wanted?

    How can it be that while major, sometimes hundred years old parties from the UK, to France to Spain lost half of their votes, Fidesz increased them further. Granted, again, Fidesz’ results had infinite number of causes, but people actually went and voted for Fidesz because – I posit – they – for whatever considerations – wanted Fidesz in power.

    I propose two issues for you to research: why is it that Fidesz had by far the most votes (not just mandates, but genuine votes) in recent elections in Hungary?

    And how can it be that Orban never once had to back down in any conflicts with the EU which was important to Orbán, and the EU or Merkel or whoever it was always gave the stamp of approval and stood in for a lovely photo op when the compromise was made?

    Your basis to reject my contentions is as sophisticated as saying that the Hungarians are anti-semitic or uneducated and only if they would see the reality and be like any normal cultured Western person they would vote for the opposition and things would be great. You will go nowhere with these conclusions.

    While my arguments are simplified too, I intended to raise the issues for further consideration, which considerations may not have occurred to some of the readers here. Moreover, I am a bit familiar with the thinking of top-brass fideszniks too and their ideas about “the West”. To use a bit of Heideggerian inspiration, to any Hungarian “the West” always already appears in a relationship to Hungary, it just cannot be analyzed as a completely abstract concept. And that relationship according to many conservative people I know is similar to what I wrote about. Like it or not. The fact that Hungarians envy “the West” in many ways is not a counter-argument either. They want to be part of “the West” in many ways, but don’t like “the West” as long as it is in an external position to Hungary. And of course we will never be absorbed into “the West”.

  17. it is getting thick for hungarians.
    kiev is approaching felcsut.
    lies have not saved anybody from the anger of the people.
    remember the golden boys, milosevich and yanukovich.

  18. johanna — have you and others read the moldova, konrad, jokai eye opening books on Hungary?

    Hungary is not following logical normal models.

    Our closest relatives are the palestinians. Also full of good decent intelligent people with a terrible end result. Our hamas/jobbik/fidesz are our enemies, but we are too sentimental to end their rule.

    Or study iraq, iran, burma, mongolia, n. korea. We have got a few close relatives in them, too.

  19. @johanna
    “people actually went and voted for Fidesz”

    Let us recall the numbers.

    On April 6, 2014, the number of eligible voters with Hungarian address was at 8,019,000 in one official, explicit count or 8,048,000 in another, implicit count.

    This number includes 80,000+ voters who received Hungarian addresses after January 01, 2014.

    Party list votes were cast by 61.10% of the 8,019,000, i.e. exactly 4,899,391 people

    Fidesz: 26.71% (cf 33.69% in 2010) or 25.97% without counting 80,000 ready-to-vote people.

    Democratic Opposition Alliance: 16.08%
    Jobbik: 12.69%
    LMP: 3.36%

    All other parties: 2.26%

  20. I heard a (possibly) apocryphal story about Orban in his college days which can be transplanted to the present day. One of his classmates hurt his ego one day, so our fearless leader decided to teach him a lesson.. Well, Orban and five of his mates. They jumped on their victim, threw a few punches and kicks in, just to let him know who he had insulted. Orban’s back-up started walking away, knowing the bullied guy had got the message and basically to get out of the way before a teacher came along and punished the bullies.

    Orban, although the job had been done, simply couldn’t walk away; his hatred and most of all, his inferiority complex wouldn’t let him. So he went back to kick the almost unconscious victim once more in the head. Just in time for the teacher to see what was happening….

    Orban hasn’t changed. His biggest enemy is Viktor Orban.

  21. D2
    June 5, 2014 at 7:24 am

    Our closest relatives are the palestinians. Also full of good decent intelligent people with a terrible end result. Our hamas/jobbik/fidesz are our enemies, but we are too sentimental to end their rule.

    Or study iraq, iran, burma, mongolia, n. korea. We have got a few close relatives in them, too.

    Oh my… You are not one of those who claim that the natives of America are also Hungarians?
    WHo cares who are the latest links in the DNA chain of events? How far are you going back? How about he monkeys, and the sea creatures? On a certain way D2 you are connected to Vona, like it or not! I also like to point to the fact that there were more jews were migrating with the Hungarians than palestinians. You do the DNA math there to see who get there higher.
    I find these theorizing so silly.

  22. @ tappanch

    You keep deluding yourself. Please face the sad reality. Those who decided not to cast their votes even though they could have, decided to accept the outcome, in a way they also voted. In the US, the participation ratio is not even mentioned by the media, nobody cares. MSZP could have brought their voters to the booths, but they did not, so those voters might as well not exist, which is probably the reality. Though as Szigetvári just mentioned MSZP actually wanted to be the Peyer party. Anyway, it was in a different era, not relevant any more.

    In April Fidesz got 43.5% of the votes cast for party lists, in the EU elections over 51%.

    In both cases Jobbk was the second biggest individual party with 20 and 15 per cents, resp.

    Nobody even got close to Fidesz. Fidesz indeed set up a very distorted system, including the Transsylvanian votes, many of which could have been forged, but the issue is the majority wanted Fidesz to rule them and not the opposition. If and when the opposition can engineer a similar victory, it will get to form the government, until then, Fidesz is here to stay. There is no way around it, those who voted wanted Fidesz.

  23. @johanna:

    “There is no way around it, those who voted wanted Fidesz.”

    If you insert “a majority of …” then your statement is true – still, you’re probably right that it will be difficult to oust Fidesz.

    @all:

    Has anybody seen a kind of calculation or even simulation what kind of “voter swing” would be necessary for Fidesz to lose an election under the new system?

    Obviously if because of economic problems e g one third of the Fidesz voters left for Jobbik and one third for a united left party list the Hungarian parliament would look totally different – but where is the threshold?

    I remember from our last elections in Germany that some unforeseen event can decide an election – like in Baden Württemberg (aka Schwab country) where after the Fukushima incident our Greens got so strong that they could form a coalition with the Social Democrats – bringing an era of more than 50 years of a Christian Democrat government to a sudden death …

  24. PS:

    So now we have a Green prime minister in Stuttgart – the first in all of Germany (maybe all of Europe?) – the signs were there before: All our Schwab university towns have Green mayors: Heidelberg, Freiburg, Konstanz, Tübingen – and last not least even Stuttgart, the country capital.

    That came as a real shock to our “Christian” conservatives who had always been as self assured as the Fidesz henchmen …
    So you should never give up hope!

  25. I am beginning to love even those obnoxious CDU politicians. Greens are fine, too.
    The lucky Germans got on the right path.
    Their leaders are really decent in comparison to all Hungarian ones.
    I have heard Willy Brandt, too, personally in Tuebingen around 1972.
    That was a magical moment.

  26. Totally OT @TUI:

    Yes the late 60s (when I was a politically active student in Tübingen) and the 70s were a fantastic time – almost a kind of revolution. I was not affiliated with any party but a member of the Humanistische Union which fought for a modern world, against all kind of prejudices. Some examples:

    We invited the head of the German FSK (Film-Selbstkontrolle) – a kind of censor institution who not only gave a talk bit also showed some “forbidden” scenes, either too violent or too sexy …
    We published a leaflet on contraceptive measures for the students (condoms, the pill, the Knaus-Ogino method etc …)
    We show anti-fascist films.
    And we financed our activities by selling buttons like:
    Make love not war – I still have some of these at home …

    And even more OT:

    For dinner I just made a Schwab Wurstsalat with Emmentaler cheese – my Hungarian relatives love this!

    And now we’re off with the grandchild to the Balaton …

  27. NOW who posted earlier I suspect is correct about the mass of Hungarians perspective on the media/advertising tax when he writes: “The value of a free media has long ago been lost on the public. The overriding sense is that these “rich” (often foreign) businesses ought to pay.” Concentration of media ownership (also known as media consolidation or media convergence) is a process whereby over time fewer individuals or organizations control increasing shares of the mass media. Contemporary research demonstrates increasing levels of consolidation world wide, with many media industries already highly concentrated and dominated by a very small number of firms.

    Globally, largest media conglomerates include Viacom, CBS Corporation, Time Warner, News Corp, Bertelsmann AG (owns RTL Klub in Hungary), Sony Corporation of America, NBC Universal, Vivendi, Televisa, TheWalt Disney Company, Hearst Corporation, Organizações Globoand Lagardère Group.

    The US is the leader in media exportation. The EU trade deficit in the entertainment sector is approaching 7 billion Euros with US exports amounting to 60-90% of revenues (movie ticket sales etc) while the European share of the US market is about 1-2%. A key EU objective is to fight off us dominance in this area and part of that vision is deregulation.

    The EU has established the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications which issues market analysis decisions based on appeals of national regulatory practices of nation states. The European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association is a major player and critical lobbyist in the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications. ETNO in 2006 welcomed the identification of deregulation as a priority, in particular, guidance from NRAs how to reduce regulation where competition is likely to emerge. Magyar Telekom and Deutsche Telekom are members of ETNO. Deutsche Telekom owns a controlling 59 percent stake in Hungary’s Magyar Telekom and calls itself the “the undisputed, most admired industry leader” in Hungary http://www.telekom.com/static/-/162606/6/presentation-cn-si

    But the joke of the Fidesz position on this tax is it will do absolutely nothing to prevent further market penetration of Hungary by the Germans and other multination corporations in the area of the media. More than likely these taxes will somehow be passed on to consumers and the foreign will maintain control over the media market in Hungary.

  28. johanna
    June 5, 2014 at 9:33 am
    In the US, the participation ratio is not even mentioned by the media, nobody cares.
    Now, why would you say something so silly and uninformed? Maybe you do not care, but the media in fact always report the turnout. Obama won his first term as the record number of new voters turnout. It was reported widely. Put “voter turnout in california” in your google news search and you have 25,400 results. The primaries were on the 3rd. Read the Washington Post for analysis by districts even.
    Lets leave the uninformed “shoot in the dark”, unsupported theories for Fidesz, Jobbik and their followers.

  29. Johanna is absolutely right. While the media-manipulation in Hungary IS outrageous, the electoral system is not, given that there are western democracies that have much purer and less representative fptp systems.

    We do the country no service whatsoever by pointing the finger solely at the Fidesz party. Rather, the real problem is that the vast majority of the population actually agree with Fidesz and Jobbik. That’s why they are where they are.

    As I’ve said here before, a huge number (in my opinion, majority) of those who didn’t vote are latent Jobbik and Fidesz voters, often too lazy to vote in a redrawn political map where their vote, frankly, is unlikely to make a difference.

    Fidesz have tapped into every popular sentiment out there, however ignorant and however repugnant such sentiments might be. If anything good is ever going to happen about this situation, we have to examine what on earth can be done about the wholly unacceptable being so utterly acceptable in modern Hungary. The problem is not the party but the party’s support – many of whom are the losers in this brave new Fidesz world, but who resolutely vote for that loss.

    How will the truth ever get out there, in a society that wilfully closes its ears and eyes to outside information? The tide will only start to turn once someone comes up with an answer to this.

    Otherwise, if we’re not careful, something much more extreme than Fidesz will one day win, and one day soon.

  30. I am sorry Ivan, but you agree with the notion that “In the US, the participation ratio is not even mentioned by the media, nobody cares.”? I find some of the comments and commenters here are getting into the uninformed Fidesz territory. No kidding Fidesz is able to do so much damage if even the opposition is uninformed and brings up factually unsupported lines.
    You are right, we cannot solely blame Fidesz for the general public relying on false data, when we who consider ourselves informed are clapping our hands for sentences w/o any merit.

  31. Some1, of course turnouts across the world are lamentable … But this is a separate issue. Only under mandatory voting can this be resolved. Really, it’s a red herring. Because I suspect that an increased turnout would only increase the Fidesz vote. And the Jobbik vote. In both cases by a considerable margin.

    Why is this? Why such an embrace of such obvious falsehood and nonsense, including the evidence of one’s own pockets?

  32. About the comments of “Johanna”. If that is “nothing but the truth”, I wonder do Hungarians – those that “hate the West” – have some idea of what they want “in truth”?

    “They want to be part of “the West” in many ways, but don’t like “the West” as long as it is in an external position to Hungary. And of course we will never be absorbed into “the West”.”

    And in an earlier post: “this kind of amorality is exactly why Lázár and Orbán hate these companies, as these companies are always ready to betray anybody.”

    I thought “betraying anybody” could be seen like “never compromising” – so good. And by the way “betraying anybody” is exactly what Lazar and Orban have been doing over the past years. So good or bad?

    Or this one: “They [the West] just don’t see the downside, as they can afford the costs, plus they lack principles anyway, given their inherent openness and liberalism which make them tolerate every kind of weird/foreign behavior, but which – as the East often complains – results in a loss of traditional values and morals. Anyhow, this makes the lives of people like Lázár or Orbán or Putin extremely easy.”

    The West through being tolerant and open has lost its traditional values and morals, which were what exactly? Betraying people, “weird/foreign behavior”, being aggressive, never compromise, destroy your enemy, fight to the death? I thought Orban considers his country and compatriots to be the embodiment of Christian values, do these include being aggressive, destroying your enemy etc.? What are these traditional values, where can I find them, and do they mean anything different from “please let me stay as confused about everything as I have been so far”?

    And also: What was wrong with Eisenhower accepting that Hungary belongs to Russia if that is according to what Johanna writes “the truth”? Hungarians always hated the West, and liked people of Putin’s calibre, so why then complaints about exactly putting you into this “sphere of interest”?

  33. Yes Kirsten, these Fidesz loonies don’t see the irony of it all:

    Once, Orbán claimed to be a liberal and wanted the Russians to go home – now he calls himself a conservative and wants a kind of union with Russia, and the same people applaud him!

    Ain’t that strange?

    Re Hungary and the “West”:

    Of course everybody wants the riches of the West in the 21st Century – but they don’t understand how it all came to happen and what it means to live in these “Modern Times”. Back to the values of 200 years ago is the motto of many Hungarian conservatives – just have a look at politics.hu!

  34. “Because I suspect that an increased turnout would only increase the Fidesz vote. And the Jobbik vote. In both cases by a considerable margin.”

    Why do you believe this?
    Any evidence?
    If the democratic opposition hadn’t been such a shambles at the last election, they would have got the same pitiful vote?

    Fidesz and to a lesser extent Jobbik’s strength is maximizing their potential vote.
    Their electorate is pulled out by hook or, mainly, by crook.

    If you say 40%+ of the electorate don’t care who governs them as long as it doesn’t impact too greatly on their life, I would be more inclined to believe you.

  35. Thanks, Tyrker!

    The article is fascinating and the comments are also very interesting – and the sheer volume shows that not all Hungarians are Orbán’s sheeple …

    I wonder what the reaction in Germany will be – if the news makes it to the Telekom management at all.

  36. Wow, that was fast! No we wait what DT will do – probably nothing much …

    “We’re in it just for the money” is also their motto!

    Maybe SPIEGEL and other widely read media will report on the affair.

  37. @wolfi: I don’t think this will get wider media coverage in Germany, but I hope I’m wrong.

    As for DT, they are hypocrites, of course,, but in the end you cannot expect foreign corporations (or any corporations, really) to stand up for democratic rights … the people who live in the country should do that.

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