Findings: Data Disclosure

In response to concerns by critics that Media Authority is granted excessive and overly broad powers to demand data from media outlets, the Hungarian Government cites examples of media authorities with similar powers in Denmark, Estonia, Italy and Lithuania.

The expert assessments indicate that the Media Authority’s general data-disclosure powers over all media sectors appears to exceed those in three of the four cases cited. In all four cases cited, media authorities can require data from media outlets as a condition of registration and in the course of their regulatory oversight and investigatory activities. In two of these country cases cited (Italy and Lithuania) this power extends to all media sectors, including print and online press. However, in Lithuania, registration obligations for different media sectors are overseen by different media authorities, whereas in Hungary these obligations are managed by a single authority for all media sectors. According to the expert evaluations, the Hungarian Media Authority’s powers to demand an unlimited range of data and information from all media, combined with the power to assess financial and other penalties on media outlets for providing incorrect data or refusing to comply with data-disclosure requests, appear most similar to the powers granted to Italy’s AGCOM. As the expert report shows, AGCOM’s investigatory and sanctioning powers regarding data disclosure are in fact greater than those granted to Hungary’s Media Authority.

In all four examples, the data-disclosure rules are consistent with those granted to Hungary’s Media Authority in that the media authorities cited have the power to:

• require data from media outlets as a matter of registration;
• inspect compliance by media outlets with data provided in registration and/or licensing agreements;
• oblige media outlets to provide any additional information they deems necessary in the course of their regulatory activities, including corporate secrets and proprietary information protected by law.

In two of these four cases—Denmark and Estonia—data-disclosure rules apply specifically to those media for which registration is required: linear and/or non-linear broadcasters and audiovisual media but not traditional print and online press.

In Italy and Lithuania, data-disclosure rules apply to all media for which registration is required, inclusive of the print and online press:

In Lithuania, print media are required to provide information on ownership; failure to do so can result in administrative penalties. The Inspector of Journalist Ethics, a state official responsible for overseeing compliance with the Media Law, monitors compliance with the data by print outlets. The Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission (LRTK) oversees registration for broadcasters, on-demand audiovisual media service providers, and managers of information society media (Internet). By comparison, Hungary’s Media Authority oversees registration requirements for all media sectors; hence, in this regard, its authority appears to exceed those of the LRTK and the Inspector of Journalist Ethics.

In Italy, the Communications Regulatory Authority (AGCOM) can request data from all media sectors—including print and online press—both as a condition of registration and as part of AGCOM’s responsibility to monitor these media for compliance with Italy’s anti-concentration regulations. AGCOM may also fine media outlets a maximum of EUR 250,000 for failure to register or to disclose the requested information, or for providing false information. In the course of an investigation, AGCOM may also inspect the premises of the operator in cooperation with the financial or postal police. In the most serious cases, AGCOM may suspend the media outlet’s activity for up to six months. In Hungary, failure to comply with the Media Authority’s data requests could result in penalty fines of up to HUF 50 million (EUR 180,000) and refusal of registration and/or deletion from the register. AGCOM’s powers in this area therefore appear to be greater than those granted to Hungary’s Media Authority, and in Italy, the penalties for non-disclosure more severe.

Two of the four examples cited contain factual inaccuracies:

Estonia: the Hungarian Government inaccurately claims the Estonian media authority can “seize” data from media outlets. The Ministry of Culture, as the state authority overseeing the Media Services Act, can require media service providers to provide information and documents, including recordings of programmes, as part of its regular monitoring activities.

Italy: the Hungarian Government inaccurately cites both the current regulations on data disclosure in Italy, including the amount of the fines which can be levied by AGCOM in cases of non-disclosure.