Nine countries issued a joint statement from their Budapest embassies taking Hungary’s government to task for pulling the plug on two radio stations with foreign owners, including Slager Radio, whose principal owner had been US-based Emmis Communications. Also, a resolution has been introduced in the US House of Representatives calling for Hungary to treat foreign investors fairly.
The joint statement from the embassies was reported by the Hungarian online political news site, Politics.hu. This week’s jerking of the licenses of Slager and German/Austrian-owned Danubius Radio was not the first time in recent months that politically-connected entities had seized business assets in Hungary owned by foreigners. The statement cited several recent instances “of non-transparent behaviour affecting investors in such areas as public utilities, broadcasting and elements of the nation’s transport infrastructure.” It was jointly signed by the ambassadors of the US, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland, who noted that most of the foreign capital invested in Hungary came from their countries.
Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) introduced a resolution that “(1) condemns the recent action by the Hungarian National Radio and Television Board that awarded the national community radio licenses; (2) encourages the Republic of Hungary to respect the rule of law and treat foreign investors fairly; and (3) encouragers the Republic of Hungary to maintain its commitment to a free and independent press.”
Leading up to that finale, the resolution noted that Hungarians revolted against Soviet rule as far back as 1956. Once the Iron Curtain fell, Hungary joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2005. Donnelly’s resolution noted that over $9 billion has been invested in Hungary from the United States since 1989, making the US the 4th largest contributor and largest non-European contributor to foreign investment in Hungary. And it notes that the Hungarian Investment and Trade Development Agency has termed foreign investment crucial to the nation.
It then cites reports from the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and The Economist regarding political corruption in awarding the radio licenses to new entities connected to major Hungarian political parties and rejecting the renewal bids of Slager and Danubius.
Donnelly, who proudly calls himself a “Blue Dog Democrat,” represents Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District. That does not include Indianapolis, where Emmis is based, but runs from South Bend to Kokomo.
RBR-TVBR observation: No one, it seems, is speaking out in defense of political corruption in Hungary. But now that the two major political parties have determined that they can get along well enough together, so long as they share their ill-gotten spoils, who is going to stop them?
Editor’s Note: Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan replied below but for follow up comments on Smulyan’s reply review ‘Emmis’s CEO Jeff Smulyan sets record straight…’