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
’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.