MTVA chief discusses layoffs, censorship charges

The top manager of Hungary’s public media discussed staff cuts and charges of state censorship in an interview in pro-government newspaper Heti Válasz.

István Böröcz, the CEO of the Media Services and Asset Management Fund (MTVA), said that staff restructuring would be completed by the fall of 2013. As many as 900 public media workers were laid off in two waves of firings, in the summer and autumn of 2011. The third wave of dismissals from Hungary’s public media, which began in December 2012, is expected to involve 195 workers, mostly production staff and workers aged 50 or older.

“There is a limit under which we cannot go,” Böröcz said of the staff reductions. “But we are still working on how many people that means. It is through deep analyses that we are getting closer to seeing how many people are necessary for a given production.”

Böröcz maintained that it has been possible to compensate for the 900 layoffs because the public service media staff was bloated and included a number of non-productive workers. Outgoing public media staff have said that MTVA is hiring outside contractors to deal with the extra work.

In early January, the MTVA apologized to writer Peter Esterházy, who claimed he was censored by editors of a public radio station.  The MTVA later said that the editor’s decision did not constitute censorship. “The editor had a right to decide what gets in the program and what does not,” he said. Böröcz also said that the MTVA was not directly involved in the editor’s decision. “We would have made a mistake if we had told him what to put in and what not to.”

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 Fund’s annual plan and subsidy policy and for determining the rules governing how MTVA’s assets can be used, managed, and accessed by the public media.