5 minutes – out of a 50-day campaign. That’s how much time the public broadcaster gave to each opposition party in 2018.
The public broadcaster was fined for completely shunning opposition politicians. Not just during the campaign, but ever. The token fine inspired them to make a token effort: they gave 5 minutes to each party to present themselves.
5 minutes – out of a 50-day campaign.
That’s 5 out of the 72 thousand minutes of the 2018 election campaign.
The public broadcaster doesn’t leave anything to chance. They never invite opposition politicians – not even when the news is about them. For all their viewers know, opposition doesn’t exist – except when they are plotting to unleash an apocalyptic invasion of migrants replacing Hungarians and letting them rape.
The National Election Committee found it a tiny bit too much and decided to act like the bastion of democracy. They issued a token fine (3000 euros) for the hardline pro-Fidesz editing practice. The fine would be paid for by the taxpayer so that could hardly move them, but the Committee also forbade continuing the practice. So they gave 5 minutes to each party that made it to the national ballot list. Five real minutes.
So opposition politicians went in and discussed what is never discussed on public media: the corruption of the Orbán-clan, the absence of dissenting views from the public broadcaster, and – in the case of the satirical joke party – their program.
The representative of the satirical joke party showed up in his chicken costume and spent the party’s five minutes with loud clucking. He showed up their main election promise (free beer) on a piece of paper. This guy had actually made it as a candidate in a chicken outfit. He says he is wearing a suit so he would be taken seriously.
The satirical joke party is not really trying to get into parliament and donated their state campaign funding for worthy causes, such as the samizdat movement, trying to counteract the information monopoly of Fidesz on the countryside – by distributing photocopied news. (If you have a 1980s flashback, I’m with you.)
The public broadcaster receives mind-boggling resources and opened countless new TV and radio channels – all pushing the government’s agenda 24/7 – while the realm of independent media is shrinking continuously. The quality of the service, however, is what you would expect from a servile crew.
After their start, they quickly became the butt of jokes for doing only weather reports due to the lack of journalists and reporters. But even in those weather reports, they managed to feature 4 Thursdays in a row and frost and heat alert for the same day. Once they announced that multiplying two prime numbers will give you a third one (in the solution key to the national high school graduation math test).
Most recently they have been on an anti-West rampage and can’t stop interviewing people who allegedly had to escape the declining West because the migrants were raping them. It doesn’t even matter if the claims and the interviewees turn out to be fake, the Hungarian public broadcaster doesn’t have a reputation to maintain. Yet, they are widely regarded as a source of public affairs information (47% in 2016) and enjoy the trust of many voters.
In 2018 they can spend 80.7 billion forints (270 million euros) on this “public service”.
UPDATE – The public broadcaster defended their decision not to invite opposition politicians:
- Because it would be against their freedom of speech.
- Because it is the opinions, not their representatives that must be represented in the public media.
As sound as the arguments that once public money is given to the central bank’s foundations “it loses its public quality“, and that politicians’ wealth declarations “serve transparency, not accountability“.