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Class FM gets new owners in media market shakeup

Sláger Rádio Zrt. announced in a press conference this afternoon that they have purchased ownership of Class FM, one of the country’s largest radio stations, by buying the station’s owner, Advenio Zrt. The move apparently takes the station out of the hands of ownership that has become less government friendly.

According to Michael McNutt, chairman of the board of Sláger, the sale was finalized on May 17. He said that Class FM would not change its name or its format. The new owners apparently need to reach an agreement with the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH), and McNutt said they are confident of doing so. McNutt said his company did not have any political bent.

Earlier this month, there were news reports that the NMHH could take Class FM’s frequency away, due to alleged infractions of the media law. Observers said the motivation for the actions of the NMHH might have been political: Once a government-friendly broadcaster, Class FM’s news coverage has been more critical of the ruling Fidesz party over the last year.

Before this announcement, Class FM was said to be controlled by Lajos Simicska, the former media oligarch who has had a falling out with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán just over a year ago. The many media outlets owned by Simicska used to report pro-government news, but since his split with Fidesz, Simicska’s media have been critical of the government. In apparent retaliation, the government has been pulling contracts from Simicska. His construction firm, Közgép, which had been one of the most successful firms when it came to winning government tenders, has been prohibited from even bidding for government work.

Recent reports have indicated that Fidesz is seeking stronger control of the media by influencing ownership. McNutt denied speaking to members of either party, saying that this purchase was not about politics.

Sláger Rádio was a radio station that lost its frequency in 2009, in a controversial decision by broadcast authorities. Sláger Rádio Zrt. had been the owner of that station.