Hungarian court OKs lifting of b’cast ban

The Magyar high court paved the way last week for the birth of a private regional TV sector in Hungary by ruling that a law lifting the ban on local radio and TV licensing does not violate the country’s constitution. This could be good news for U.S. and West European investors eager to buy stakes in Hungary’s emerging broadcast industry.

On June 29, the Hungarian Constitutional Court ruled as constitutionalthe Law on Frequency Management, which parliament passed April 27.

This decision is expected to expedite the partial lifting of the radio-TV frequency and licensing ban which has suppressed Hungary’s private media industry since the moratorium was established by parliamentary decree in July 1989.

Private TV and radio moguls should be able to obtain licenses and frequencies from the Hungarian Ministry of Culture to broadcast within local markets of up to 100,000 in the countryside and up to 500,000 in Budapest.

The law does not apply to the moratorium at the national level — a TV and radio market that has been controlled, since the collapse of communism, by Magyar Televizio (MTV) and Magyar Radio.

Hungarian President Arpad Goncz responded to the court decision by immediately signing the frequency management bill into law. After its passage in April, President Goncz referred this bill to the high court to ensure its consistency with definitions of freedom of the press and free speech.

Hungary doesn’t have a law to govern the TV and radio sector, and the government has stated the country won’t get one until after the next national election in 1994.

According to critics, the government does not want to pass a media law because a full-scale broadcast industry would dilute the influence of Hungarian state TV and radio.

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