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President signs laws on new state-owned media structure

Hungary's new President Pál Schmitt on Tuesday signed legislation on restructuring telecom and media oversight as well as state-owned media companies.

The amendments were approved by Parliament on July 22. They were published in the official gazette Magyar Közlöny on Tuesday, after being signed by the president and took effect on Wednesday.

The legislation will merge telecommunications watchdog NHH with broadcasting authority ORTT to create the National Media and Telecommunications Authority (NMHH).

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán appointed on Tuesday Annamária Szalai, a former member of the ORTT, to head the NMHH which will be responsible for frequency distribution, telecommunications and media oversight. Szalai's appointment takes effect on Wednesday and is for nine years.

A new Media Council will operate within the NMHH.

The amendments will also convert state-owned radio broadcaster Magyar Rádió, public television companies MTV and Duna TV, and the Hungarian News Agency (MTI) into non-profit companies and place them under the ownership of the newly created Public Service Foundation. Six of the foundation's board members will be elected by Parliament, while one member and the chairman will be named by the head of the NMHH.

Previously, the radio and television broadcasters were owned by state foundations and MTI was owned directly by Parliament.

The CEOs of the non-profit companies will be selected by the Public Service Foundation's board from two candidates per company proposed by the NMHH head and approved by the Media Council.

The three opposition parties in Parliament - the Socialists (MSZP), the green-liberal Politics Can Be Different (LMP) and the radical nationalist Jobbik party - have voiced concern over the law and said they would seek an opinion from the Constitutional Court. (MTI-Econews)