Neo FM goes off the air

Neo FM, one of Hungary’s two national commercial radio stations, ceased broadcasting November 10 after losing a court battle with Hungary’s Media Council over an unpaid broadcasting fee. Neo is closely linked to Hungary’s Socialist Party. The station’s closure leaves only one national commercial radio in operation in Hungary, Class FM, a station a majority owned by Fidesz-linked businessman Zsolt NyergesBoth Class FM and Neo FM were granted their licenses in 2009 by Hungary’s former media regulator, ORTT, in a highly controversial tender competition. Hungary’s Constitutional Court has since ruled Class FM’s license award as unlawful because the company’s ownership structure violated the former (1996) media law’s provisions on media concentration and should have been disqualified from the tender competition.  

Neo FM, which had been engaged in a legal dispute with the Media Council over its outstanding broadcasting fee, filed for bankruptcy in August 2012. It made a final bid to stay open by taking the case to the Budapest Municipal Court, and managed to delay its closing, but after losing this appeal, the station went off the air at midnight on November 10. Its closure leaves open the possibility that the Media Council will announce a new tender competition for national frequency. 

In 2009, Neo FM and Class FM were awarded their licenses over incumbent operators, Slager Radio and Danubius Radio, which were the country’s top two national radio stations. It has been widely reported that the decision came as a result of an inside deal brokered between the Socialists and Fidesz and their representatives on ORTT to give each party its own national frequency. ORTT’s president, László Majtény, resigned in protest of the decision.