EU powerless in the case of KESMA, Jourová admits
The Hungarian independent media is up in arms. Věra Jourová, deputy president of the European Commission in charge of transparency and values, after years of postponement, admitted to Euronews on Monday, on World Press Freedom Day, that the commission is powerless against the Central European Press and Media Foundation (KESMA) conglomerate, which was created practically overnight in 2018, hungarianspectrum.org writes.
A few months after its formation, a commission investigation was launched in Brussels at the request of Benedek Jávor, representative of the City of Budapest at EU headquarters, and the Mérték Média Monitor, a workshop of media analysts who assess and attempt to influence media policies. They asked that “the politically biased targeting of advertising spending be considered illegal state aid.” However, it seems that the commission was unwilling to accept their arguments and stuck to its original rules governing economic competitiveness.
As Jourová explained, “Of course, I would like to move, but the current competition rules are designed to catch much bigger cases than that. In financial terms, the KESMA case in Hungary is too small.” Her explanation is only partially accurate. The real problem is that the European Union currently handles media companies solely as economic actors and not as vehicles of information and contributors to democracy. As such, it cannot make any moves against the kind of media concentration that occurred in Hungary when alleged owners of media outlets gave away their valuable holdings to create KESMA, made up of close to 500 news outlets. The final result was one independent daily paper, Népszava, one radio station in Budapest, which has since lost its frequency, and one semi-independent television station.
The only hope, which unfortunately doesn’t do any good in the short run, is that Jourová promised that next year a proposal will be made to regulate the EU media market. Apparently, new rules will be formulated, which will then be presented to the member states.
Current EU regulations are totally inadequate to handle the undemocratic manipulation of the media that is being carried out by several East European governments, most obviously by those of PiS in Poland and Fidesz in Hungary. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Polish government, which frequently imitates the schemes emanating from Viktor Orbán’s fertile mind, would, on the basis of Jourová’s admission of impotence, begin a similar concentration of pro-government media outlets and exert financial pressure on the media critical of the present Polish government, hungarianspectrum.org stresses.
Hungarian Minister of Justice Judit Varga ridiculed Jourová and the European Union on Twitter, saying, “How sad that there are rules which prevent politically motivated moves by the Eurocrats.” Varga wanted to know “why is it so frustrating for a commissioner that everything is working properly in a member state?”
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