Findings: appointing public service media directors
In response to the concerns over the Media Council's role in appointing directors of Hungary's public service media outlets, the Hungarian Government cites examples from six EU-member and European countries in which it states public media directors are appointed without tendering: Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Switzerland, and the UK.38
The expert assessments indicate that the Hungarian Government's general statement is accurate: in a majority of these six cases the directors of public service media outlets are appointed without tendering. However, the experts also note that this style of appointments is prone to both political influence and public criticism. Hence, with these examples the Hungarian Government is comparing its system to a practice with notable deficiencies with regard to the Council of Europe's recommendations regarding the independence of public media from political interference.
In addition, the expert analyses indicate that the specific examples cited by the Hungarian Government do not sufficiently correspond with the body responsible for and/or the system of appointing public media directors in Hungary. The analyses of the examples provided by the Hungarian Government indicate that in a majority of cited cases, there exist one or more tiers of formal "checks" aimed to minimise the government's direct influence over these appointments, despite that appointments are still politicised and often criticised as such, according to the experts.
In five of these six cases cited, the system in Hungary appears to have fewer of these formal safeguards in place, as the body responsible for appointing directors of Hungary's public media outlets is limited to choosing one of the two nominees selected by the Media Council chairperson, who is, in effect, an appointee of the prime minister.
However in France, the system of appointments to directors of public media outlets appears to have the fewest safeguards from governmental influence than all of these cases, including Hungary's. Following changes to the appointment system in 2009, the director of France Télévisions is appointed directly by the French president, upon approval by the country's media authority and in consultation with relevant parliamentary committees. This new appointment system has raised serious concerns from free-press groups and would also appear to not meet the Council of Europe's above-mentioned recommended standards for the independence of public media.
Findings: centralisation of public media news production
In response to the criticism of the centralisation of news production of Hungary's public media, the Hungarian Government cites examples of similar public media systems from three EU-member states: Austria, Italy, and the UK.39
The expert analyses indicate that the Hungarian Government's examples regarding the centralisation of public media news production in these three cited cases are partially accurate: in two of three examples cited, Austria and Italy, the experts report that while there is a certain level of centralised news production at the national level, some or much of the news content is also produced regionally, with partial or full editorial independence. In both systems, regional stations feature a mix of centrally produced national news content, and local content produced by separate editorial teams; national stations also carry content produced regionally. In Austria, each of the country's nine federal regions has its own independently operated radio and TV production facilities, headed by a director responsible for making editorial decisions. In Italy, the public service broadcaster, RAI, has four regional centres responsible for local news production. In addition, the expert states that the decentralised structure of the country's public broadcasting system is formally stipulated in the law and in the RAI's current service contract; as such, only multimedia content for online use is currently produced centrally. The Government's description of the BBC is more accurate, as news production within the BBC has been increasingly centralised across platforms and channels over the past decade.
Experts in Italy and the UK also note that the centralisation of news production has been a source of significant controversy. In Italy, the expert reports that the decentralisation the country's public media system has been part of a decades-long effort to decrease political control of the Italy's public TV channels. The expert also states that concerns over the centralisation of news programming can be traced to the system of appointing directors to Italy's public media outlets. Because both the board of directors and general director of RAI are appointed by the Italian Government, editorial content often reflects the political ideologies of the current party in power. In the UK, the restructuring and centralisation of the BBC has been heavily criticised for favouring market demands at the expense of programming diversity and pluralism. Hence, based on the analyses of these examples, the centralisation of news production within Hungary's public media appears to be consistent with a system that experts report can be prone to political influence and/or can diminish media pluralism and diversity.
Findings: public service media funding
In response to criticism of the Media Council's role in managing the new fund for Hungary's public service media, the Hungarian Government cites a similar system from one EU-member state: Finland.40
According to the expert assessment, the Hungarian Government's claim that the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority (FICORA) is responsible for managing the finances of that country's public media system is not accurate. FICORA's role in managing public media financing is purely administrative: it collects the annual license fees from households and businesses for the State Television and Radio Fund. FICORA has no authority to set the level of overall funding for public media, to allocate funding to public media outlets or to determine for what activities the funding is utilised. The expert reports that FICORA has no other relationship with the Fund other than to collect license fees. The Finnish Government determines the installments and times of payments from the State Television and Radio Fund to the YLE. The Finnish Government has no authority over how this funding is used by the YLE; the YLE itself decides how these funds are distributed to various public media outlets. In addition, the Fund itself has no appointed members but rather is run by two state auditors.
By comparison, Hungary's Media Council manages the country's new public service media fund, the MTVA. The chairperson of the Media Council appoints the Fund's director general, deputy directors, the chairperson and the four members of its supervisory board. The Media Council is responsible for approving the Fund's annual plan and subsidy policy and for determining the rules governing how the MTVA's assets can be used, managed and accessed by the public media.
Hence, the expert analysis indicates that the Hungarian Government's comparison between the Media Council and FICORA in terms of their respective roles in managing public media assets is inaccurate. FICORA's relationship with Finland's State Television and Radio Fund is substantively different than the Media Council's management of the MTVA. These bodies are vested with different powers in managing the assets and controlling funding of each country's public media system.
38 See "Criticism 9" in "Criticisms and answers formulated on the subject of the proposed media act examined in a European context," Ministry of Public Administration and Justice, December 20, 2010 available at:
39 See "Criticism 8" in "Criticisms and answers formulated on the subject of the proposed media act examined in a European context," Ministry of Public Administration and Justice, December 20, 2010, available at:
http://www.kormany.hu/en/ministry-of-public-administration-and-justice/news/criticisms-and-answers-formulated-on-the-subject-of-the-proposed-media-act-examined-in-a-european-context 40 See "Criticism 14" in "Criticisms and answers formulated on the subject of the proposed media act examined in a European context," Ministry of Public Administration and Justice, December 20, 2010, available at: http://www.kormany.hu/en/ministry-of-public-administration-and-justice/news/criticisms-and-answers-formulated-on-the-subject-of-the-proposed-media-act-examined-in-a-european-context