In its ruling the Media Council disqualified Klubrádió from it’s tender application for the 95.3 MHz frequency. The Council cited as reference according to which Klubradio was not to have signed the application’s individual pages, as well as not to have numbered these. In reviewing the submitted work once again, Klubrádió determined that every page displays a signature as required and each page of the material is numbered sequentially from 1 to 235.
The decision of the Media Council does not contain the stipulations prescribed by the Court: it did not eliminate Autoradio ltd. [the disputed first-round winner for the spot] and did not declare a new winner accordingly. Furthermore, the [Court] decision declared the validity of the tender, based on which it unequivocally follows that the Media Council cannot disqualify all the applicants.
The current disqualification of all the bidders for three frequencies is proof positive of the Media Council’s complete incompetence in that the Court by its decision did not enact new legislation but obligated the Council to adhere to the existing one.
This latest attempt on the part of the Media Council cannot be taken as anything but another example of the arrogance of the power that be in its immeasurably low standard of efforts to eliminate the critical media.
Two MPs of the main opposition Socialists said the day after in a statement that members of the Media Council should resign in the light of Thursday’s decision. If Klubrádió did not make a mistake in its bid, then the Media Council’s only aim was to silence the station, said Ildikó Lendvai and László Mandúr. If all the 11 bids were indeed formally deficient according to Thursday’s decision, “the Media Council is professionally illiterate” since it had earlier approved them, the opposition lawmakers added.
As Hungarian Spectrum describes, the backround of this story is the following: Klubrádió is currently broadcasting on 95.3 MHz, but more than two years ago the owners of the station, in anticipation of the expiry of their lease for that frequency, put in a bid for another available frequency. The station won the bid for 92.9 MHz and a contract was drawn up and signed by the CEO of Klubrádió. Meanwhile there was a change of government and the much disputed Media Authority was set up. That all-powerful and completely Fidesz-directed and dominated organization refused to sign the contract. Since Klubrádió couldn’t have been certain about the fate of the 92.9 MHz frequency, they also reapplied for their current 95.3 MHz. Some eleven applications reached the Media Authority for this frequency. Klubrádió came in second behind an unknown new company called Autórádió, most likely a front for some people of Fidesz background. So, Klubrádió was in limbo. On the one hand, there was an unsigned contract on 92.9 MHz and, on the other, a lost bid for their current frequency. Klubrádió sued, and the judge decided that Autórádió’s bid didn’t conform to the formal requirements. What were these formal requirements? In this case at least, it meant that the owner of the nonexistent Autórádió didn’t sign every page of the application and/or didn’t number every page of the document. We may laugh at this whole business, but that gave the court an easy way out. The Media Authority didn’t give up, though, as we will see later.
Meanwhile the Media Authority decided to appeal the ruling of the court on the fate of the 92.9 MHz frequency on the grounds that the ruling didn’t stipulate the date by which Klubrádió should take possession of the station. It asked the court to declare a verdict of nullity. The final ruling of the appellate court on this issue will apparently be handed down on July 12.
The Media Council wasn’t finished with its harassment of the only opposition radio station in Hungary. When the court decided that the winner of the 95.3 MHz frequency, Autórádió, didn’t conform to the “formal requirements,” the Media Authority immediately hinted that in its opinion Klubrádió was guilty of the same. Klubrádió’s CEO András Arató was madly looking for missing signatures and/or page numbers and found none. But the Media Authority is resourceful. Last Thursday it decided to disqualify Klubrádió from the application process altogether on the grounds that they didn’t sign the blank backs of the pages of its application.
Finally, Hungarian Spectrum quotes from the exchange of letters between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Clinton’s letter was written on December 23, 2011 and Orbán’s answer on January 6, 2012.
Clinton mentioned the case of Klubrádió:
As for the Media Law, we share concerns expressed by the OSCE, Freedom House, and a recent international mission of press experts that the law concentrates too much power in the hands of a politically-appointed Media Council. Also, the recent non-renewal of a popular talk radio station’s license raises concerns about the commitment to ensure diverse voices in the media realm.
What was Orbán’s answer? After refuting the charge that anything was wrong with the Hungarian media law he went on to the topic of the Klubrádió:
Without going into specific details I would like to dispel your doubts regarding the frequency-tender of the talk radio you mentioned. Although the Media Authority works independently from the government in Hungary, I requested information about the decision of the authority upon receiving your letter. On the basis of this, let me inform you that the competition has been conducted with full transparency, and the Media Authority has done its utmost in order to preserve this important news outlet: the applicant has received full marks on subjective criteria where deliberation was possible, but the applicant has not made a competitive financial offer. Therefore the Media Authority could not have declared the applicant you have mentioned winner without violating the theory and the practice of free market competition.
Source: MTI, Hungarian Spectrum
Last Updated on Monday, 09 July 2012 12:31