Hungarian court rules radio licensing unlawful


A court in Budapest has ruled that Hungary’s broadcasting regulator, the ORTT, violated the law in awarding a national radio license for frequencies previously occupied by foreign-owned Danubius Radio. A similar case is pending regarding the frequencies formerly occupied by Slager Radio, whose primary owner is Emmis Communications.

The ruling does not necessarily mean that Danubius will get its license back. According to the Budapest Business Journal, the court ruled that the ownership structure of Advenio, which won the former Danubius license for what is now called Class FM, did not conform to Hungarian law. But, it also held that the ORTT was not required to break the contract signed with Advenio after the disputed tender process.

The court ruling is almost certain to be appealed. Whether it could ultimately lead to Danubius receiving monetary damages or even its license back is anybody’s guess. This is all new territory for the Hungarian legal system.

Critics accused the ORTT of rigging the bidding process to award the former Slager license to Neo FM, aligned with the ruling Socialist Party, and Advenio, aligned with the country’s other major party, Fidesz.

Slager and Danubius left the air in November, but that only ignited international condemnation of Hungary. The ambassadors of nine countries, including the US, condemned the action. More recently, the US House of Representatives also demanded that Hungary respect the rule of law and rights of foreign investors.

In a recent exclusive commentary on RBR-TVBR, Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan explained how the dispute developed and got to the point of Slager being taken off the air.