Hungary’s Radio Slager, majority owned by Emmis Communications, won a court decision that the action awarding its frequencies to another bidder was illegal. But that doesn’t mean Slager is going back on the air. In fact, no one really knows what it means.
A judge in Budapest ruled a week ago that the ORTT, the Hungarian equivalent of the FCC, violated the law in conducting the bidding for the frequencies and that the winner, now operating as FM 1, was not legally eligible to bid.
But what impact does the court ruling really have? In reporting on the case, the Hungarian business website RealDeal noted that the court also ruled that the ORTT was under no obligation to scrap the FM 1 contract. That was the same as in a previous ruling concerning the other national radio award, which took away the frequencies of foreign-owned Danubius Radio.
This is all new territory for the Hungarian legal system. The country was formerly part of the Soviet bloc, but is now a member of the European Union. Speculation is that the owners of Slager and Danubius may eventually win monetary damages. Less likely, it seems, is that they will get their radio licenses back.
Asked about the situation, Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan told RBR-TVBR that the question now is how the ORTT responds to the court ruling.
RBR-TVBR observation: Those are the pitfalls of operating in media in a foreign country. In this case, the domestic politicians clearly had the advantage over the foreign investors, at least in being able to push through a deal that violated their own laws regardless of the consequences.