“How much is the VAT on UHT and ESL milk from January 1st, 2019?”
— An actual question on Hungary’s ‘Who wants to be a millionaire‘ on Orbán’s propaganda channel
This was an actual question for 500 000 forints (approx. 1600 euros) on Hungary’s ‘Who wants to be a millionaire‘ as the show restarted on TV2, one of the propaganda channels in Orbán’s media holding.
It isn’t exactly a general knowledge question, that is quite clear, and not one that belongs on a TV quiz. But that is where we are now – and it explains everything you need to know about the mental state of those who work at the media outlets that had been gobbled up by Orbán’s holding company.
And why taxes are an issue? Because taxation in Hungary is pretty high to begin with.
The unannounced austerity that followed the election spending of 2018 includes some more tax increases from January 1st – all on things that are difficult to explain in the first place – and the government propagandists apparently feel the need to deny it. Hungary is also home of a world record 27% headline VAT rate. So a few lame exceptions on types of milk must be communicated. Headlines like “The milk will be cheaper” and “Families will save thousands on milk a year” (in forints, don’t get carried away) have appeared – giving PTSD to survivors of Soviet-style propaganda pre-1989.
Pushing this obvious propaganda question into the show is telling. It shows the fearful subservience of employees of media outlets in Orbán’s massive holding that eclipses every other media company in Europe.
The fear from public ridicule is outweighed by the fear from not going far enough. No one ever got fired for being overzealous or obviously lying.
- When a loyalist reporter of the public TV (also run by Fidesz) faked a report (court says so) – he was promoted and now runs the public broadcaster (MTVA).
- When the self-appointed Hungarian Breitbart was drooling about the sexual appeal of wife and teenage daughter of an opposition politician, the website’s founder proudly bragged that it may have been in poor taste but consequences never come for being too loyal.
But when a journalist of a local newspaper (also taken over by an Orbán loyalist) thought it is probably safe to merely mention the fact that there was a protest in their town – he lost his job.
No wonder the public TV employees locked themselves in the studio when protesters surrounded the building and kept discussing pigeons on live TV, never once mentioning that a protest was taking place outside of their building. Or anywhere else.
They weren’t afraid of the opposition MPs who entered the building. They were afraid of the consequences. No one knew if those above wanted them to even mention the protests – let alone allowing the MPs the read their 5 lame points.
Anyone who takes the initiative or even pretends to act like a normal journalist can lose their job. But no one had ever been fired for being ridiculously loyalist and subservient. Hence the question on ‘Who wants to be a millionaire‘. A perfectly logical thing to happen, and no one has to raise a tear gas cannon to make them produce these shows.
As the right answer was revealed and the contestant raked in the money, the show’s new host felt compelled to add that the VAT of fresh milk had already been low, and now two other types of milk have followed suit.
Thank your Party and government, folks!