Media Council head on Klubradio case: ‘I believe in the rule of law’

The head of Hungary's Media Council on Thursday defended a decision not to extend the broadcast licence of opposition-leaning Klubradio, saying the country's top media authority "did not take the frequency away" from the station and it would still have a chance to operate in the future.

In a statement, Monika Karas denied that the station had been discriminated against, saying the Media Council had made several conciliatory gestures towards Klubradio, but ultimately the authority had to abide by the country’s media law. All Media Council decisions can be appealed, she said.

All radio broadcasters are held to the same standard, Karas said, adding the authority showed neither negative nor positive discrimination.

Karas denied press reports suggesting the council had “taken away” Klubradio’s frequency, but rather the radio had been awarded a licence for a specific period of time which it had enjoyed without interruption.

She said the extension of the licence without an application was not permitted by the media law due to various violations of the law by the broadcaster. The Media Council’s head said her authority’s decision on the matter was therefore circumscribed by the law.

Karas said the broadcaster itself acknowledged the breaches by not appealing the decisions against it at the time.

Hungary’s media market, she said, was free and diverse, with 393 television stations, 156 terrestrial radio stations, 78 internet radio channels, 6,731 printed media and 3,540 internet outlets offering information to the Hungarian public.

Karas said that notwithstanding the international spotlight on the KlubRadio case and the “hysteria” surrounding it, the Media Council could not be expected to treat Klubradio with any special favours. Klubradio, she added, was the only radio to operate through a tender for ten years instead of seven.

All council decisions can be challenged in court, she added. In a law-governed state, neither the Media Council nor Klubradio “can circumvent the law”, she added.

If the station makes a successful application, then it has the option of using the same frequency or any other frequency in the future, she said.

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