Hungary’s Media Situation:
Is the New Generation the Key?
In a freedom-dominated century awareness about the limitations of speech freedom burdens the citizens of Hungary. The hybrid regime of the country goes hand in hand with the accumulating media monopoly of the government.
The odd situation is in motion in Hungary that the lack of accessible free media is not in the attention of a large part of the society. This is given as a result of the ageing population that informs itself from mostly physical medium which is centralised to a great extent. According to the data of Eurostat, around one third of the citizens are older than the age of fifty-five. Consequently, at least 33 percent of the habitants is poorly informed about the news.
On 17 February, 2022, a couple of weeks before the Hungarian elections, “journalists from around world travel to Budapest over concerns for press freedom”, reported the IPI (International Press Institute). After the press freedom mission, the evaluation of the media situation in Hungary was concluded in a IPI report.
The IPI found that even though media freedom exists, the independent platforms are heavily controlled in financial matters, as well as limited in the possibilities to reach a wider target audience. The worrying discovery that citizens living in rural areas have little to no option to inform from non-government owned channels leads to the conclusion of standardized discrimination of independent media platforms.
In 2018, the leading party, Fidesz, set up a centre to handle all mediums under the umbrella of one firm. Since the creation of the Central European Press and Media Foundation, the centralised media regulation is profound. TV channels, radios and journals have been taken under government influence.
The New York Times wrote that from 31 outlets in 2015, more than 500 news platforms were influenced by the government by 2018. This tendency continues according to the IPI: demonstrated by the data of Átlátszó, it is shown that by 2020, more than 50% of all media channels in the country were Fidesz-powered.
Some earlier established platforms are fighting back, such as the online journal Átlátszó. The journal had to make the decision like the majority of the impartial portals: “handing over the wheel” to the government, shutting down as a result of financial difficulties, or figuring out support for themselves. Advertisements and various monetary funds have been cut off for non-aligned platforms, therefore the surviving ones are mostly supported by donations from the audience.
As time is passing by, and the leading party is ageing out of office, the hope at the end of the tunnel is the youth once again. Along with the few older and still independent news entities that are still standing, new initiatives have been created. These are the two categories: the determined, older platforms and the motivated new creations. They can grow into the future of Hungarian media.
One of the more recent and reliable portals is named “Partizán”. With a smart step, Partizán benefited from the possibilities of YouTube and founded a nonaligned information forum on all issues concerning the state of Hungary. They not only create awareness of ongoing affairs, but their team is set out to educate the Hungarian society. Masses that are uneducated and afraid are the easiest to lead by their nose, the horrifying events of WWII should have taught us this already. The platform of Partizán is provided by another independent media channel, the Mérce, however, the editorial of each channel is independent.
The other end of the spectrum is characterised by the recently founded Compact TV. While this medium is less focused on political news, they clearly represent an approach with fresh eyes. As they phrase it on their page: “A slap in the face of domestic content production”. They are also supported by individual donations and private investments. What is peculiar about Compact TV, is that the program is extremely lively, filled with energy which echoes the advantage of change brought by the youth.
So it seems, the upcoming generations have begun to re-establish media pluralism. Besides the listed programs, there are multiple other channels trying to cater to the demand with unbiased, hard facts. Nevertheless, it is immensely complicated to balance in a tense milieu like the one that materialised itself in Hungary; counterbalancing every move of Fidesz crosses the line of objective media reporting once again.
Even though the direction is right, and the action is taken, it is hard to reach other age-groups given the barrier of online activism. In an ageing population, like Hungary’s society, it is essential to publicise on more accessible platforms - such as radio, TV, or a physical newspaper - for everyone. The possibility for that is still awaited.
Edited by: Tom Culf
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