The Hungarian Media Monitor provides policy-relevant data, news and analyses of the impacts of Hungary’s new media laws on the country’s media environment. The purpose of the Media Monitor is to contribute to and inform the current debates among policy makers, advocacy groups, and journalists over how to safeguard media freedom and pluralism at the domestic, regional, and European-wide levels. Through the Monitor, independent experts and scholars will provide ongoing monitoring and analysis of  the implementation of the 2010 legislation and its impacts on media ownership and media pluralism in Hungary. In the future, the Monitor will expand its coverage and analyses to other countries in the region and other European countries.

When first passed in 2010, the Hungarian media laws stirred fierce criticism over measures free-press groups and international policy makers say threaten media freedom and give Hungary’s new media regulator excessive control over the country’s media landscape. Numerous expert assessments of the legislation, including those conducted by the Council of Europe, the OSCE, and Center for Media and Communication Studies (CMCS), have clearly demonstrated the areas of the Hungarian legislation that are inconsistent with EU and European media regulation standards and norms.

We now have the opportunity to observe the implementation of the laws and their impacts on Hungary’s media environment, two years since the legislation was passed. In this period, there have been significant shifts within the country’s media market, along with indications of a growing dominance over the country’s media market by a small group of Government-linked companies, particularly in the radio sector.

These developments underscore initial concerns raised by numerous policy analysts regarding the potential impacts of 2010 media laws on media pluralism in Hungary. Among other key changes, the legislation introduced new rules on tendering and licensing, eliminated prior restrictions on cross ownership, and created a new convergent “super regulator” with wide discretion to shape Hungary’s broadcasting and telecommunications market. The combination of these factors has altered the conditions for access to and participation in Hungary’s media market in ways that could impact media pluralism and diversity in Hungary in both the short and longer term.

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This project seeks to generate a broader understanding of how media regulations and media regulators impact the media environments they govern. Specifically, we hope to elicit a more concrete understanding of how state administrative policies, in practice, can enable or hinder good media governance, fair market competition and a diverse, pluralistic media landscape.

Our aim is also to contribute to current debates over media freedom and pluralism in Europe, which has been driven in large part by concerns over the Hungarian media legislation. The controversy over Hungary’s 2010 media laws has triggered a broader debate among policy makers and civil society groups over how to ensure that the common democratic principles and standards on which the EU is based, and to which all member states are bound by treaty to uphold, are maintained and safeguarded at the national and pan-EU levels.

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This project is led by the Center for Media and Communication Studies (CMCS) at Central European University, in partnership with media-monitoring NGO,  Standards Media Monitor, and investigative reporting and pro-transparency NGO, Altatzso.  It draws together a team of media experts, policy researchers, market analysts and journalists to monitor and examine more closely the changes to Hungary’s media ownership landscape and media market since the 2010 laws were introduced.

Standards Media Monitor (Mérték Médiaelemző Műhely – MEM) is a Hungarian NGO committed to freedom of opinion and freedom of the press. The group’s aim is to monitor and evaluate the impact of the new Hungarian media legislation and other media policy decisions on the media market, media contents and journalistic practices, and more broadly to raise awareness about press freedom issues in Hungary. The group is composed of media lawyers, economists, journalists, researchers and academics who operate independent from business and political interest groups.

Átlátszó Center for Investigative Journalism is an award-winning watchdog NGO in Budapest which combines investigative journalism and civic activism to promote transparency in Hungary. The organization brings together journalists, lawyers, IT-specialists, academics and other independent experts who produce investigative reports, file freedom of information requests, fight for public data in courts, and help and defend whistleblowers who wish to shine light on corruption issues or other misuses of power. Átlátszó publishes all its relevant findings online, and organizes transparency campaigns with the involvement of the public. Since it was launched in 2011, the group has produced a series of ground-breaking investigations into business corruption in Hungary.

This project is funded with a grant from the Trust for Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE Trust)The CEE Trust was created as a mechanism for helping the transition from donor assisted to independent, active and viable organizations and networks, working for the public good.