Despite heavy layoffs, public TV hires reporters from pro-government TV station

Hungary’s public media management company, the Media Services and Asset Management Fund (MTVA), stirred controversy in early November over reports it had hired reporters from conservative station Echo TV despite ongoing plans to downsize. Echo TV is owned by top Fidesz donor Gábor Széles, who also owns the national pro-government daily newspaper, Magyar Hírlap

In response, the MTVA confirmed that its news office had “expanded with a few excellent professionals, so that the news shows of M1/M2 and Duna TV and the platforms of the radio news service can provide even more professional and complete reporting to the viewers and listeners of public media channels and its mobile platforms.”

According to and other outlets, these hirings come as MTVA plans to lay off 250-260 workers as part of the MTVA’s ongoing restructuring. In the summer of 2011, the organization laid off 900 staff and reporters, which included prominent political journalists, in two waves of downsizing. During the first round, the MTVA hired reporters from several conservative media outlets, including the former news director of Echo TV, who later sparked a national scandal for digitally “airbrushing” out the face of the former president of the Constitutional Court in an interview aired on a public TV newscast. In June 2012, the MTVA also hired the former CEO of Echo TV to serve as the news director for the public media.

The MTVA oversees the assets of and funding allocations for Hungary’s public media. The body  is managed by Hungary’s Media Council, which is responsible for approving the MTVA’s annual subsidy policy and for determining the rules governing how MTVA’s assets can be used, managed, and accessed by the public media.