January 25, 2011
Népszabadság, the biggest Hungarian daily, has published the letter by Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes to the Hungarian authorities regarding the controversial media law.
The leaked document, dated 21 January, requires clarifications at this stage on three topics and requires an answer in the next two weeks, that is, before the next 4 February EU summit.
The obligation of balanced coverage is the first of the three topics for which the Commission rises questions. As it has been indicated already, the Commission objects that such an obligation, which is normal for TV stations or raadio broadcasters, to be applied also with respect to on-demand media services and blogs. These provisions could constitute an unjustified restriction of the freedom of expression and information, Kroes writes.
Secondly, Kroes asks clarifications on the country of origin principle, as the Hungarian law apparently provides for restricting retransmissions of audiovisual services from other member states if it is considered that they infringe the rules on protection of minors and incitement to hatred.
The third question raised concerns the registration of broadcasters, which includes not only broadcasters, which is common practice, but on-demand media services, internet sites, non-private blogs and economic analyses. This is considered an unjustified obstacle for media providers that want to establish themselves in Hungary or want to provide their services in Hungary from another member country.
As a Commission spokesperson explained yesterday, this does not mean that other questions should not arise and that in a more general context the media law would not be challenged as being in breach with article 11 of the EU Charter for fundamental rights. Meaning that Commissioner Viviane Reding would come to play with the bigger artillery.Georgi Gotev