Flash report 2: Hungary

Flash report 2: Hungary
After the first round of the analogue switchoff
A day after the analogue switchoff, the media authority's helpline received 14,000 calls, despite an extensive communication campaign preceeding the move. What are the first experiences of the analogue switchoff? A limited snapshot
In Hungary, after legally amending the target date of the analogue switchoff several times, the transition will be finalized in 2013. Even though Hungary is considered as the ‘homeland of cable’ based on platforms. According to the National Media and Infocommunications Authority’s (NMHH) data, in July 2013 (based on the data provided by the eleven main market players, which covers roughly the 88 percent of the market), over 65 percent of the households had a cable subscription (1).  By nature it was difficult to measure how many households had an aerial only and watched the analogue broadcasting, in May 2013 industrial experts estimated that there were around 4-500,000 such households (2).
The Preparation – subsidies and campaigning
The country-wide analogue switchoff takes place in two rounds. The first phase of the analogue switchoff was in July 31, 2013 in the middle strip of the country, while in the remaining parts it will take place on October 31, 2013.
The households watching televison via analogue terrestrial broadcasting are principally lived by the elderly people in the countryside with low social status and low purchasing power, who are not open to new technologies (3).  NMHH estimated that there would be 50–100,000 households to be subsidized, and each gets a subsidy worth of 25,000 HUF (86 EUR) (4),  which meant the setup of the set-top box or a deduction from the subscription fee.
The available budget of the digital switchover is eight billion HUF (27,641,490 EUR), which will cover the following large expenses: the subsidies for those in need (2,5 billion HUF, 8,637,965 EUR); the Hungarian Central Statistical Office (KSH) measuring those in need (two billion HUF, 6,910,371 EUR); and the Inter Media Group Ltd's (IMG) communication campaign and operation of the call center (1,9 billion HUF, 6,564,854 EUR) (5).  
IMG got the tasks of media planning and buying, executing tasks related to PR and the operation of a call center via winning a public procurement (6).  The company is related to Lajos Simicska, a long-time friend of the Prime Minister and former cashier of the governing right-conservative Fidesz party.
The campaign about the digital switchover can and could be seen on billboards, television and radio spots, internet sites and so on. A survey of NRC, a market research company, carried out among internet users (aged between 18–75 years) in July 2013 found that almost all respondents (99 percent) heard about the digital switchover; 90 percent of them from the television, 52 percent from the internet, 39 percent from the radio and 35 percent from billboards (7).
Think tank Standards Media Monitor analyzed the media purchasing of IMG between January and May 2013 and found that almost one-quarter of the then-total spending was spent at Publimont outdoor advertising, a company related to Lajos Simicska. In general, 81 percent of the total advertisement funds in this period were spent at a “companies affiliated with the political right.” As the authors put it:
Even without information about all the details of the campaign, the contours of the underlying political objectives are rather clearly discernible: the campaign spending, which is otherwise socially important and genuinely in the public interest, exhibits a strong bias towards the [political] right. The communication of digital switchover is palpably used as yet another means to channel funds to friendly media companies (8),  and it remains only to be hoped that at least some of the two billion forint budget allocated to this communications effort will be used to actually inform the households affected (9).
The authors by “yet another means to channel funds to friendly media companies” refer to the phenomenon happening in the media industry, i.e. since the 2010 elections, state advertising funds moved to right-wing media outlets 'bleeding out' government critical media outlets (10).  This phenomenon has been shown in case of the outdoor advertising (11),  radio stations (12),  and print press (13).  Based on 2012 data, it has been proved how well the media empire – including outdoor advertising, radio stations, print press, television stations – connected to businessmen belonging to the hinterland of Fidesz performed, even though the whole advertising market has been shrinking (14)
After the first phase
On August 1, 2013, the day after the first round of the analogue switchoff, the helpline of the media authority received 14,000 calls. Afterwards, on average 7-8,000 calls per day were received (15).  Those, who had not switched to digital broadcasting, a warning was displayed on the screen providing with the basic information, the phone number of the call center and the website of the digital switchover for five days after the analogue switchoff (16)
It is still early to draw the conclusions of the digitital switchover, but what can be seen already is that the switchover was beneficial for some government friendly companies and media outlets. Meanwhile the households in need get their set-top boxes – so after all no one will remain without television after the analogue switchoff.
The digital dividend is planned to be used as a mean to foster mobile technology. The preparation to the sale of the released frequencies has already started. As Krisztina Rozgonyi, former head of the National Infocommunications Authority (now part of NMHH) said: “Currently we can only hope that this [the sale of the frequencies] is not serving political needs and this frequency treasure will not become a victim of the governmental rush sale one year prior to the elections.”(17)
(1) National Media and Infocommunications Authority, Flash report on television, July 2013.
(2) Media Hungary conference, May 14–15, 2013.
(3) Ágnes Urbán, Digitális zűrzavar [Digital chaos], March 26, 2013, Hvg.hu.
(4) Gábor G. Varga, “Drága lesz a digitális átállás” [The digital switchover will be expensive], March 19, 2013, Nol.hu,  (hereafter G. Varga 2013).
(5) G. Varga 2013.
(6) Vállalkozási keretszerződés [Framework agreement], December 20, 2012
(7) “Mit tudunk a digitális átállásról?” [What do we know about the digital switchover?], Mediapiac.com, 2013, Nr. 7–8.
(8) About state funds in form of advertising in media outlets moving to the government friendly, right-conservative media outlets see Annamária Ferenczi, “Kormányzati intézmények és állami cégek médiaköltései Magyarországon, 2003-2011. Leíró statisztikák és megfigyelések” [Government Advertising Incomes in the Hungarian Media, 2003-2011. Descriptive statistics and observations.], Pp. 4–5, BCE Corruption Research Center, 2012, http://www.crc.uni-corvinus.hu/download/media_ah_2012_riport1_130430.pdf. And also Ildikó D Kovács and Attila Bátorfy, “Az állam a médiapiacon 2012-ben,” [The state on the media market in 2012], Kreativ.hu, December 19, 2012, http://www.kreativ.hu/media/cikk/az_allam_teljesen_ratelepedett_a_mediap....
(9) Szonja Navratil and Ágnes Urbán, “Targeted subsidies – data on the digital switchover campaign”, July 4, 2013, Mertek.eu
(10) Annamária Ferenczi, “Kormányzati intézmények és állami cégek médiaköltései Magyarországon, 2003-2011. Leíró statisztikák és megfigyelések” [Government Advertising Incomes in the Hungarian Media, 2003-2011. Descriptive statistics and observations.], BCE Corruption Research Center, 2012, http://www.crc.uni-corvinus.hu/download/media_ah_2012_riport1_130430.pdf (Hereafter Ferenczi 2012).
(11) Attila Bátorfy, “Közterületi pénzosztás az Orbán-korszakban” [Funds for outdoor in the Orbán era], June 27, 2012, Kreativ.hu.
(12) Attila Bátorfy, “Kétharmad jut a Nyerges-közeli rádióknak is” [Radio stations close to Nyerges got two-thirds too], November 5, 2012, Kreativ.hu.
(13) Ferenczi 2012.
(14) Attila Bátorfy, “Jobban teljesít a Fidesz-körüli média” [The media related to Fidesz performs better], June 3, 2013, Kreativ.hu.
(15) Több ezren kértek segítséget [Several thousands asked for help], Tv2.hu, August 2, 2013. 
(16) Az NMHH továbbra is segít az átállásban [The NMHH keeps helping in the digital switchover], Nmhh.hu, July 31, 2023.
(17) G. Varga 2013.
Media Integrity
Media Policy and Reforms