Simicska says he plans 'media war' with Fidesz


A proposed new advertising tax regime would mean a higher tax bill for the thus-far government-friendly media outlets owned by Lajos Simicska (pictured), and he was quoted by Hungarian daily Népszava today as saying that he would retaliate with a “total media war” against the ruling Fidesz party.

Fidesz faction leader Antal Rogán reportedly said that the party decided at their two-day retreat in Mezőkövesd, which began yesterday, to back the new tax, proposed by Cabinet Chief János Lázár.

With the approval of the proposal, the currently progressive tax, maximized at 50%, would be capped at around 5% and would be extended to more media outlets. As a result, taxes for the media outlets owned by Simicska could grow five-fold, Népszava speculates.

Simicska is reported to be affiliated with the following media outlets: Magyar Nemzet (online and print daily), HírTV and Class FM radio station. These outlets have all been relatively government-friendly in their coverage since Fidesz came to power in 2010, but Simicska says that will change if the advertising tax is amended. 

The tax, which was established in June, put RTL Klub TV alone in the highest bracket of 50%. RTL Klub had said that the tax targeted them because they were critical of the government, and they took their complaint to the European Commission's Directorate-General for Competition. They also increased their criticism of the government in news reports, and garnered dramatically improved viewership in the process.

On January 30, Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán confirmed reports that the Hungarian government was in talks with RTL Klub's owner, German RTL Group, about lowering the advertising tax, supposedly in exchange for reduced criticism. Contradicting earlier reports that RTL Klub might agree to soften criticism of the Hungarian government, RTL Group spokesperson Oliver Fahlbusch told online daily Luxembourger Wort yesterday that the Hungarian commercial channel is committed to continuing its “independent news coverage in any case”.


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