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The procedure for selecting a new president for Magyar Rádió seems to be following the rules of absurd drama. Phantom civil society organisations suddenly take physical form to cast the deciding vote on the question of who will run public radio. Fortunately, press freedom does not depend on the radio being run by the Socialists and/or the Free Democrats instead of Fidesz.

We've already seen false vice-presidents, interim leaders and anti-leaders, cases before the company courts, threats about withdrawing state funding - all of which cast the Media Law in the best possible light. This law created an ownership and management structure which is seemingly designed to paralyse both itself and the institution it is meant to oversee.

This is not the first time that the whole system has ensured that there was a months-long interregnum between leaders, both at the radio and at Magyar Televízió. What is clear is that all this is down to some (faux-)naive ideas floated at the time of the regime change in 1989. The idea was that civil society would help keep politics and public broadcasting apart. Thus the professional management at our public broadcasters is chosen by such serious bodies as the "National Association of Pupils of the Sisters' Schools named after Our Lady," and the "Alliance of Left-Wing Roma in Hungary," not to mention the "National Association of Agricultural Research Centres," or the "Regnum Marianum Sports Club."

'Civil' oversight just drives an organisation to the brink of collapse, but it certainly does not guarantee unbiased news reporting. It is time to accept that this original idea has failed. Even leaving the decision in the hands of the parties would be better than this.

Whatever you think of politicians, they at least have been authorised by the people to take care of national assets. But who on earth let these phantom organisations decide on the radio's leadership? And there's nothing to stop party supporters from setting up dozens of fake civil society organisations to 'pack' the voting council.

 

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