Klubradio to appeal media authority’s rejection of bid for new licence

Private broadcaster Klubradio on Friday said it will appeal the Hungarian media authority's rejection of its bid for the 92.9 MHz frequency in Budapest in all possible Hungarian and international courts.

The Media Council of Hungary’s National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH) on Thursday closed a tender for the 92.9 MHz frequency without declaring a winner. The council rejected Klubradio’s offer for failing to comply with several requirements even though it was the sole bidder.

The station popular with opposition listeners said in a statement that it considered the Media Council’s “excuses” against its bid “unlawful”.

It said independent media outlets critical of the government had lost most of their ad revenue in the early part of the last decade, arguing that “the ad market ceased to function as a market”.

“The state became the dominant player, and it spent billions in taxpayer money on supporting its loyal lapdog media,” the statement said.

Klubradio said it had been forced to take out loans for several years to cover its operating costs, putting its finances in the red. However, the station’s finances balanced out from the middle of the decade thanks in large part to donations. Klubradio said it had been able to cover its expenses for the last half decade. It added that it had never faced bankruptcy or been in liquidation during that period and was not in debt to any tax authority.

The broadcaster said that while the Media Council had cited its “flawed business plan” in its justification for rejecting its bid, it only owed money to its owner, which was prepared to waive the debt.

Klubradio also argued that while the council had said it would have been a risk to grant a licence to a station funded from listener donations, it had operated that way undisturbed until the council stripped it of its licence.

The broadcaster said it had become “clear” that the tender for its former frequency had been “for show from the start”.

The Media Council, citing public company records, on Thursday argued that because Klubradio had a history of “illicit business operations”, a petition for the compulsory winding up of the company could be launched at any time under the corporate regulations in force.

The council also pointed out several errors in Klubradio’s programme plan. It said the plan failed to comply with “the fundamental requirements of radio broadcasting” and contained anomalies which “cannot be accepted in the case of any bid”.

The council argued that under Hungary’s media law and the principle of equal treatment, it could not overlook the errors in Klubradio’s bid.

Last month, the Budapest Municipal Court rejected a legal challenge by Klubradio against a decision by the NMHH not to renew its licence. The court said that under the relevant law, the Media Council had no room to consider Klubradio’s appeal due to “repeated offences” committed by the broadcaster.

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