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Feb 10, 2021 - Zoltán Kovács

Klubrádió committed major infractions, violated basic broadcasting regulations not once, not twice, but six times

Some would have you believe that Hungary’s Klubrádió, supposedly “one of the last independent, radio stations,” has been “shut down” by the government. In fact, the radio station’s own management is to blame for its demise by flagrantly disregarding broadcasting regulations and falling afoul of the court.

In a ruling handed down yesterday by the Budapest Tribunal, the court upheld a decision taken last September by Hungary’s National Media and Infocommunications Authority’s (NMHH) to deny the renewal of Klubrádió’s seven-year license to broadcast on the 92.9 MHz Budapest frequency. According to the ruling, Klubrádió’s license expires on February 14.

Critics will not tell you about the decision and the court ruling and how Klubrádió broke the rules. Instead, they use this event to drive a story about the government cracking down on press freedom (a fiction they have been promulgating for more than a decade now). In reality, the court’s verdict is quite straightforward. If anyone can be bothered with facts, here are a few important details:

As the court noted, Klubrádió has, on no fewer than six occasions in the last seven years, violated broadcasting rules and was fined twice for violations of “not a minor degree.” One of these six infractions included broadcasting without authorization in 2014. The court found that, considering the radio station never appealed these decisions, they have become legally binding.

According to the Budapest Tribunal’s justification, the cases were severe enough to prohibit the extension of Klubrádió’s broadcasting license on the 92.9 MHz Budapest frequency, meaning the court was left with no other option but to deny the radio station’s request to extend the license.

While political interests sympathetic to the radio station’s programming will try to contest the ruling and point fingers at the Hungarian government, a closer look at the relevant laws and regulations quickly reveals that, in fact, the government has neither the right, the will, nor the possibility to interfere with the legal disputes of private market actors, the media authority and the courts. I think this is what some people call the rule of law…

Frankly, the text of the Hungarian law, which is, by the way, strikingly similar to French and U.S. federal regulation, could not be clearer: Should a broadcaster repeatedly violate the rules (Klubrádió didn’t even contest the fact that they did on several occasions), its application to automatically extend the license must not be assessed favorably.

But, of course, you are not going to hear about these violations from mainstream, liberal media outlets, simply because it would not fit their anti-Orbán agenda, and some of our critics, to whom these media turn for sources, will use whatever means possible to denigrate this government.

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