GLOBAL BRIEF: Hungary embraces TV times - After a sluggish start, the TV market is finally taking off, Richard Cook reports

Remember when the Berlin Wall came down? When Eastern Europe was overnight opened up to the commercial and cultural pressure of the West?

Remember when the Berlin Wall came down? When Eastern Europe was

overnight opened up to the commercial and cultural pressure of the


Well, it turns out, it didn’t quite happen overnight.

Not in Hungary anyway. It took until last week for Hungary to be dragged

kicking and screaming into, if not the 90s, then at least the right half

of the 20th century.

Last week, Hungary got its first commercial TV station. In fact, just to

show its eagerness to catch up, it got its first two commercial

stations, following a fierce tender process. Oh, and it got a host of

new satellite and cable services - a total of nine channels.

’Hungary wanted to learn from the mistakes made by the rest - not just

of Eastern Europe, but of the whole world, in creating its media

framework,’ explains Pierre-Emmanuel Maire, head of Ammirati Puris

Lintas Budapest, who is responsible for advertising one of the new

terrestrial channels.

’I’ve been here since 1992 and the country been deliberating about the

right way to take its broadcast industry since before then.’

Certainly some of the bigger media names have got involved. A new

channel called MTM was won by a consortium that included Scandinavian

Broadcasting System in which ABC/Disney has a big stake, while Magyar

RTL, a consortium featuring Pearson, CLT and a number of Hungarian

businesses, picked up the other licence, the RTL-Klub channel. Each made

bids of more than dollars 60 million to secure their licence.

It doesn’t look a bad investment. Maire estimates that the total

Hungarian TV ad market will be worth around dollars 250 million next

year, compared with the dollars 188 million that was spent with the two

state-run channels this year.

The private stations might account for dollars 150 million between


And although Hungary might have embraced commercialism, it hasn’t

forgotten the lessons of the past. Content of all the stations is

subject to rigorous standard controls, while a hefty news content is

enshrined in each broadcasting licence. Freedom, after all, isn’t just

about the freedom to make money.


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