Hungarian RTL Klub vows to fight the government

History

Stung by an advertsing tax that critics say directly targets their TV stations, Hungarian RTL Klub is taking the battle to the government, with open criticism.

The advertising tax, passed by Parliament yesterday, hits all media companies in the country. But the graduated tax hits hardest at RTL Klub, the country’s largest independent broadcaster. RTL Klub is the only outlet that must pay a 40% tax on advertising revenue. Meanwhile, a special amendment to the bill, gives a big tax break to RTL’s closest competitor, TV2, which is generally seen as being friendly to the ruling Fidesz party.

Before yesterday’s vote on the advertising tax, RTL Klub was occasionally critical of the government, but also apparently wary of making enemies among those in power. That station has grown more critical of the government over time, and according to last night’s newscast and RTL’s web site, the channel is taking the gloves off.

RTL Klub started the battle yesterday by picking on Gergely Gulyás, chairman of the Hungarian Parliament’s lawmaking committee, who had defended the advertising tax. Gulyás said that the ad tax is “health-care tax” for commercial television channels as they are doing “great social harm” with mindless programming. RTL Klub noted that last year, Gulyás requested a free ticket to sit in the audience for the “Hungarian X-factor” TV show, and watched the taping live at RTL’s studio.

The next victim of RTL Klub was Lőrinc Mészáros, mayor of Felcsút, which is Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s home town and the site of a new football stadium with a seating capacity that is said to be larger than the town’s population. RTL broadcast a report about how Mészáros suddenly became very welathy in the last couple of years. An RTL Klub reporter sought Mészáros to ask him questions, but the mayor was not available. Mészáros once told Hungarian paper Heti Válasz that the “Good Lord, luck and Viktor Orbán” have played a major role in him becoming so successful.

In its effort to reach as many people as possible with its open criticism of the government, RTL Klub, which is part of German media conglomerate Bertelsmann, has made the news show of RTL II, their secondary channel, available for viewers who are not subscribers. 

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