B’casters battle in new Hungarian market

BUDAPEST — Only weeks after Hungary’s regulatory authority (ORTT) gave the greenlight for the birth of a commercial TV industry in this market, legal squabbling is bringing static to the Magyar remote control, and is bringing hope to U.S.-controlled media company CME that it can win a national frequency.

Three of this market’s top broadcasters are embroiled in legal battles over ownership of logos and licenses, and analysts warn that these lawsuits could alter Hungary’s current broadcast landscape.

The Irisz TV company, partly owned by Central European Media Enterprises (CME), which is chaired by U.S. media and cosmetics entrepreneur Ronald Lauder, has received a court date of Sept. 12 regarding its lawsuit alleging that the ORTT let political considerations influence its decision-making when it rejected two bids by Irisz for two national frequencies auctioned off by the state in early June.

The ORTT granted licenses and frequencies to a consortium led by Scandinavian Broadcast System (SBS) and Luxembourg-based CLT-Ufa.

CME’s court battle suffered a setback a week and a half ago when the presiding judge refused to issue an injunction preventing either SBS or CLT-Ufa from going on the air until a final judgment has been made. But the court did defy the ORTT by asserting that it has jurisdiction over the body, and can overturn ORTT decisions if improprieties are discovered.

That CME will get a day in court is good news for the U.S.-controlled broadcast company, even though analysts are skeptical that its suit will be successful.

Still, CME is determined to battle on in Hungary. “We’re making plans,” said one CME representative. “We’re not going to abandon this market. After all, we’ve already bought 9,000 hours of programming, which is a substantial investment, and have started dubbing it (into Hungarian). We have several options.”

CME is silent on the specifics of its “options.” CME’s Hungarian interests do possess a previously obtained license to go to air on a regional basis. Also, CME would not need a license to broadcast via cable or satellite in this territory.

In other legal wrangling, recent tender winner SBS is at odds with the state-owned Hungarian Television Network (MTV) over the SBS consortium’s plans to call its new commercial network TV2, similar to the name MTV2, which the frequency was known as when it was part of the MTV public broadcasting network.

The SBS consortium has attempted to patent both the TV2 name and logo.

SBS is reportedly anxious to win possession of the TV2 moniker in a bid to capitalize on viewer familiarity with the long-running channel. Losing exclusive rights to the MTV2 name would undercut the station’s appeal and accessibility when MTV2 is re-launched as a satellite network in September after SBS takes control of the terrestrial frequency MTV2 once used.

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