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Mária Vásárhelyi The Workings of the Media: A Brainwashing and Money-Laundering Mechanism If we subscribe to the tenet that a diversely informed public opinion that makes decisions on the fate of the political community forms the basis of democracy, then we can confidently say that the fundamental elements of democratic operation are absent in Hungary. The media landscape, as it stands today, clearly hinders the formation of a thoroughly informed public opinion. One of key principles of the 1989 political changeover was to dismantle the information monopoly controlled by the regime. A quarter century after the fall of communism, Hungary is once again just a tiny step away from having a new, insulated media monopoly entirely serving the interests and satisfying the expectations of the ruling power. The findings of a public opinion poll conducted among the adult population in dictatorship-era 19861 reveal that 28% of the population regularly or sometimes tunes in to a foreign “hostile” radio station—Radio Free Europe, BBC, Voice of America, etc. Currently , not even half this ratio get their information from alternative news sources not directly or indirectly controlled by the government. Viktor Orbán first experienced the harsh reality of falling from grace in the eyes of the media on the night following the electoral defeat of the Fidesz Party in 1994. The eulogizing media attention that surrounded his party during the first years after the political changeover, which had propelled Fidesz to the top of popularity rankings and slated it as the sure-fire winner by the middle of the cycle, quickly dissipated after the party headquarters case, and on the eve of the elections ending in embarrassing defeat for the party, as press conferences were being held at all party headquarters, i6 Maffia II 00 book.indb 491 2016.12.07. 15:47 492 TWENTY-FIVE SIDES OF A POST-COMMUNIST MAFIA STATE Orbán was sitting alone in his room in Lendvay Street. It is perhaps at this juncture that he decided that should his political career survive, he would become the draconian ruler of the media, instead of its sweetheart. The fact that the media is pivotal not only in acquiring and securing power, but also in diverting public funds to private pockets may have also become clear to the student hall residents that went on to comprise the party’s circle of economic allies during this first cycle. Armed with this experience and knowledge, Fidesz had already undertaken the construction of its media policy during the Horn administration of 1994–98. The role Fidesz assumed in passing the 1996 media law and the scandalous tender award procedure conducted for the two commercial television concessions already outlined Fidesz’s media policy, which was anything but liberal and democratic. In 1996 they played a pivotal role in the parliament passing a fundamentally antiliberal and antidemocratic media law that paved the way for the distorted and corrupt development of the media market, molded to serve the interests of partisan politics. Likewise, the party had a major role in the outcome of the tender award procedure for the two national commercial television spectrums, which reeked of corruption , and saw the professionally and financially soundest tender be swept aside merely because both Fidesz and the socialist MSZP Party had associated the tender with liberal interest groups close to the SZDSZ Party. The decision on the distribution of spectrum was shaped by this conspiracy theory. As a result, one spectrum was obtained by a bidder—RTL Klub—whose tender should have been dismissed from the start on grounds of conflict of interest, as later confirmed by a binding court ruling, while the other winner was TV2, whose economic background was wholly opaque and which submitted a professionally questionable tender. This decision defined the standard of Hungarian commercial television for decades. In reality the adoption of the media law and the outcome of the spectrum tenders was the final rehearsal of the background dealings between MSZP and Fidesz that shaped the media until 2010, driven by a shared fear of the common enemy: the independent, liberal media. In order to understand how the media market could collapse so rapidly, in less than a year, and become putty in the hands of Fidesz—a brainwashing and money-laundering contraption, a tool for party propaganda and the diversion of taxpayer forints to private bank accounts, the leading facility for creating and running the central power field—we must take a retrospective look...


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MARC Record
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