New media law to end TV chaos

Networks see ratings, ad-revenue freefall

BUDAPEST — The new media law, to be drafted in the coming weeks, is expected to deepen Hungary’s commitment to an unencumbered commercial TV industry and strengthen its public TV sector.

Insiders say the goal of revamping the existing media statute, passed Jan. 1, 1996, is to bring order to Hungary’s ailing and impoverished state broadcasting system.

Since its passage and the launch of national commercial terrestrial TV networks RTL Klub, controlled by RTL Media, and SBS-controlled TV2, pubcaster Magyar Televizio (MTV) has gone into a ratings and ad-revenue freefall.

MTV is a distant third behind the two nets in ratings; its ad revenue plummeted from $77 million in 1997 to $7 million in 2002.

The reason for much of the rot is said to be serious flaws in the way MTV is supported by the state and in how public funding is managed.

MTV is a fiscal black hole. The net has received more than $650 million in government funds in the past five years and still teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, dependent on state bailouts for its survival.

According to a report published this month by the State Audit Office, loopholes in the current media law are the reasons for fiscal neglect at the network.

Hungary’s commercial broadcasters also are critical of the current law because it allows the partial financing of MTV from the Broadcast Fund, created by commercial TV broadcast licensing fees.

Lawmakers point out that public broadcasting system MTV, Magyar Radio and satellite net Duna Televizio are owned by foundations beholden to Parliament.

This has created a legacy of weak management and political meddling in all three, critics say.

Although all argue the law needs to be changed, there is little agreement on the scope of reform. Reforming the existing media law, finessed in 2002 to meet the media standards of the European Union, will ensure it reaches the house for a vote at the earliest possible date.

But some critics say the law is too flawed and needs to be redrafted from scratch. “It’s impossible to improve the existing law’s regulations,” says MP Ivan Peto, head of Parliament’s culture and press committee. “The new law needs to be based on completely new ground.”

More TV

  • Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce

    Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce GLAAD Media Award Nominations

    Mj Rodriguez and Nico Santos are set to announce the nominees for the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards. The “Pose” star and “Crazy Rich Asians” funny man will make the announcement during a live-stream from the AT&T Hello Lounge at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 25. “The images and stories recognized by the [...]

  • Naomi Watts

    Naomi Watts to Star in Jason Blum-Produced Quibi Series 'Wolves and Villagers' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Naomi Watts has been cast in the lead role in the upcoming Quibi series “Wolves and Villagers,” Variety has learned exclusively. The exact plot of the short-form series is being kept under wraps, but Quibi co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg has previously described the show as “Fatal Attraction 2.0.” Jason Blum is executive producing the series, with [...]

  • HBO's 'Breslin And Hamill' Documentary Drops

    HBO's 'Breslin And Hamill' Documentary Drops Trailer

    “Revolutionary,” “superstars,” “the voice of true New Yorkers” — that’s how Spike Lee and other influential figures describe journalists Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill in the trailer released for HBO’s “Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists” documentary. The film, which premieres Jan. 28 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, follows the two newspaper columnists whose dedication and wit [...]

  • Riverdale Chapter Twenty-Six

    TV News Roundup: 'Riverdale' Sets 'Heathers' Musical Episode

    In Thursday’s roundup, “Riverdale” is set to tackle “Heathers: The Musical,” and Freeform has announced its second annual summit. DATES  The musical episode of the CW’s “Riverdale,” featuring nine songs, will air Wednesday, March 20 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. On the show, Riverdale High School takes on “Heathers: The Musical,” with queen bees Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), [...]

  • The Bone Collector

    NBC Orders 'Bone Collector' Drama Pilot 'Lincoln'

    NBC has ordered the drama pilot “Lincoln,” formerly known as “The Bone Collector.” Based on the internationally bestselling book series, “Lincoln” follows legendary forensic criminologist Lincoln Rhyme, who was seriously injured during his hunt for the diabolic serial killer known as the Bone Collector. Called back into action when the killer re-emerges, Lincoln forms a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content