Beleaguered net ups vet

Insiders hope Ragats will end b'caster's scandals, downsizing

BUDAPEST — Imre Ragats, longtime executive for Hungary’s ailing state television network MTV, has been elected the net’s chairman by the Hungarian Television Public Foundation.

Ragats replaces Karoly Mendreczky, who resigned last summer, and insiders hope this will end a year of scandals and downsizing by the struggling broadcaster, which saw its commanding market share shrink after the birth of commercial TV in 1997.

The board has attempted to elect a chairman four times but failed to secure two-thirds support.

MTV has been dogged by financial mismanagement. Last August it was revealed that $3 million had been spent on “consultants” who had done no work.

Ragats made public an internal probe that fingered key advisers of then-Prime Minister Viktor Orban for the abuse.

On June 12, the state audit office issued a report damning the station for “handling the billions it is entrusted with in a careless way.”

Auditors stated that the network’s advertising revenue fell from $79 million in 1997 to $8.5 million today. Only the broadcasting law has kept it from bankruptcy.

The government is offering a $28.5 million cash injection, but executives warn this will only keep the network operating through the summer.