HírTV (means “News TV”) has been a proper, right-wing news channel. But on August 1, 2018 a pro-Orbán oligarch still took it over and announced sweeping changes. HírTV may have been a proper, right-wing news channels, but they were critical of Orbán so they had to go. Even worse, they will be made a precedent of because they dared to turn against Orbán.
HírTV has been owned by Lajos Simicska, a long-time friend of PM Orbán and a key player in creating a Fidesz-centered oligarchy. Simicska grew wealthy running Fidesz’ economic circles and winning innumerable public tenders. He is a key figure in understanding Hungary’s decline into oligarchy. But after the previous elections in 2014, Simicska fell out with Orbán and Orbán turned Hungary into a family-owned business – without Simicska.
Simicska had, however, personally owned Orbán’s media interests. It didn’t matter who owned them before the divorce, but since 2015 Simicska’s media portfolio became a sore spot for Orbán because they have become critical of his regime. And Orbán doesn’t forget.
Simicska went on to back Jobbik as Orbán’s potential challenger at the elections. His media and advertising empire backed Jobbik with all their might – but they had no chance.
The opaque war between Simicska and Orbán ended after the 2018 elections, with a total surrender of Simicska. Simicska sold all his businesses to former business partner Zsolt Nyerges, who is known to be loyal to Orbán. Simicska’s daily paper, Magyar Nemzet, and his weekly magazine, Heti Válasz, have already been shut down, but HírTV operated until the end of July.
On the 1st of August, however, Nyerges visited HírTV’s headquarters, and called the staff meeting to announce that the channel would be changing leadership. The editorial chief is going to be Gábor Liszkay, a media figure loyal to Orbán. They immediately announced the closure of 12 shows, some journalists have learned on the day that they were fired. They cancelled all political programs and played Orbán’s last speech instead all day.
The fate of these journalists is worse than usual in the Hungarian media war. It is unsure if they would even be allowed to return to work if the change loyalties. They weren’t just independent or left wing – those are welcome to turn coats. They have once chosen to turn on Orbán and Orbán doesn’t forget. These guys will be made a precedent of, no doubt about that.
Until then, the first news emanating from the ‘reformed’ editorial room: they are no longer allowed to use the word ‘gay’ and a memo was issued that they have to say ‘homosexual’. Because the illiberal alt-right Christian democrats love a good thought control as much as the next fellow, it is their version of political correctness.
The question on everyone’s mind is how long before Orbán gets to Index.hu, the biggest, still independent news portal. Simicska used to own an option to buy it and called it after the fallout with Orbán – then quickly turned it over to a foundation to which he has no access to.
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