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Hungaryʼs Hír TV turns pro-government again

The Hungarian media landscape continues to head in a pro-government direction. In the latest move, Hír TV has announced significant changes indicating the termination of its government-critical tone.

Hír TVʼs political leanings have evolved along with the fortunes of businessman Lajos Simicska, until very recently its owner.

Once one of the closest allies and friends of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, three years ago, they broke ties abruptly.

Simicska had become one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in Hungary through his companies in various sectors that received generous government contracts for many years.

Simicska also owned several media outlets, openly pro-government in tone until the rupture with Orbán, when they suddenly became critical towards ruling party Fidesz and the government.

It was also the moment when the Simicska-controlled companies saw a severe backlash in the number and value of contracts they won from the government. 

Shortly after the third consecutive landslide Fidesz victory in the general elections in April this year, Simicska took radical steps. Within his media conglomerate, he first closed down a daily newspaper and a radio station, then stopped financing a political weekly magazine. The last outlet to continue operating unchanged was the Hír TV news channel. 

Finally, one month ago he announced he was selling all his companies to his business partner, Zsolt Nyerges. Although he was known to have better relations with Orbán than Simicska, it was unclear if he would make changes at Hír TV.

Terminations and Resignations

That was made clear yesterday, when Nyerges called the staff together at the channelʼs offices. During what was reportedly a very short meeting, the management announced the immediate termination of contracts and in some cases the resignation of some of the editors and anchors who were openly government-critical.

Meanwhile, news portal index.hu reported that a United States media tender published last year "for projects that increase citizens’ access to objective information about domestic and global issues in Hungary" has been canceled.

The program, which had a budget of USD 700,000, had been expected to start in May this year, but it has been canceled "by the new heads of the State Department, appointed by the Donald Trump administration", index.hu learned.