Under the changes, contracts for radio frequencies must be signed by the Media Council of the National Media and Infocommunications Authority NMHH, and earlier contracts made under the previous law will expire at the end of 2012.
The amendment also relieves the Media Council of its obligation to conclude a broadcasting contract once a tender process is completed.
In connection with an appeal to the Constitutional Court submitted by the ombudsman, parliament decided that the mandate of the head of the Media Council — the top body of Hungary’s media watchdog NMHH — should be annulled if parliament fails to elect them within 30 days of their nomination to the post by the prime minister.
Zoltan Lukacs, deputy leader of the Socialists’ parliamentary group, told a press conference on Friday that the Socialists objected to the amendments to the media law approved by parliament for final vote. Lukacs said the amendments failed to address the gravest concerns regarding the media law, the powers and composition of the Media Council.
Lukacs said if these amendments are passed into law next week, “press freedom will be in the hands of President Janos Ader”. He called on President Ader not to sign the law, as a protector of the constitution.
He added that the amendments were detrimental to left-leaning talk radio Klubradio and that the government had set out to silence the radio.
The small opposition LMP party also voiced criticism over the amendments.
Gergely Karacsony, the party’s deputy parliamentary group leader, told a press conference on Friday that under the amendment, Klubradio could end up losing its frequency in Budapest despite the fact that it had won two frequency tenders. He referred to the stipulation that the Media Council would no longer be forced to sign a broadcasting contract once a tender is completed and earlier contracts would expire at the end of 2012. Based on this, Karacsony said, Klubradio could lose its 92.9 frequency earlier issued by the ORTT, the NMHH’s predecessor.
He added that it should be the media authority’s task to implement laws rather than to change them.