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The National Media and Infocommunications Authority of Hungary

The National Media and Infocommunications Authority (Nemzeti Média és Hírközlési Hatóság - hereinafter the NMHH) is an autonomous regulatory body which was set up by the Act CLXXXV of 2010 on Media Services and on the Mass Media (the Media Act). At present, the Authority has 630 employees at 4 locations in Budapest and 5 additional cities in the country: Szeged, Pécs, Debrecen, Miskolc and Sopron. Taking the approach of "good stewardship”, the Authority follows the principle of responsible financial management. An independent administrative organ of the NMHH, the Media Council is primarily tasked with ensuring democratic publicity in media, as well as maintaining a healthy balance between the interests of audiences and of the media based on media governance legislation. The institution of the Commissioner for Media and Communications also operates within the framework of the Authority. While violations and legal remedies require intervention by the Authority, the Commissioner may be consulted on matters where consumers' interests, rather than rights, are prejudiced.

Tasks of the NMHH

The activities of the National Media and Infocommunications Authority are diverse, while the work of the organisation as a whole is driven by the objective of ensuring that in the Hungarian communications and media market, users and service providers are both satisfied. It is the task of the NMHH to monitor whether the organisations, companies and entrepreneurs providing communications services in Hungary perform their activities in compliance with the relevant rules. The scope of such monitoring includes service providers' general contracting terms, i.e. the backbone of the contractual relationship between providers and subscribers. The Authority monitors the functioning of providers' customer services, their troubleshooting activities, the handling of subscriber complaints, and whether providers apply solely the procedures afforded by law for the management and collection of debts. If the Authority observes a case of non-compliance during its surveillance activity, it takes measures to have the violation eliminated and to ensure that the operations of the given provider adhere to the relevant regulations in the future. By doing so, it protects the rights and rightful interests of subscribers and users, and upholds fair market competition. Otherwise, providers following improper practices could gain an unfair advantage over their competitors. Additionally, electronic communications providers are required to report on the quality of their services on an annual basis, to be aggregated by the NMHH. Consumers can access the data on the NMHH website to gain an overall picture of the quality and operation of the services, which may help them in their choice of the most suitable subscription. The NMHH's task is to verify devices in Hungary that may influence telecommunications services, for instance by causing disturbances in the operation of mobile phone or mobile internet networks. As part of this effort, experts of the NMHH examine the compliance of manufacturers, importers and distributors with the applicable regulations.

Operated by the NMHH, the Age Rating Committee is responsible for ensuring that all films distributed in Hungary are rated into one of the six age rating categories as per the relevant law. Working in smaller task groups, the 26-member committee essentially watches all films slated for distribution in Hungary and then rates them by age categories. The NMHH also operates a media literacy centre, called Magic Valley.

Activities of the NMHH Media Council

With the participation of the Office of the NMHH, the Media Council:

  • monitors the activity of media providers through annual reports
  • verifies adherence to the stipulations of public contracts and payment of the media service fees by providers
  • assesses annual advertising spending figures in the Hungarian media market
  • evaluates developments in the advertising market

Subject to a two-thirds majority vote of MPs present, the Media Council's President and its four Members are elected by the National Assembly for a term of nine years. The Media Council decides on the allocation of the frequency assets available to radio and television media services in Hungary. In every case, there are rights to legal remedy; in other words, in case of disputes, the final decision rests with the court. Providers may bid for frequencies, i.e. media service licenses. The primary criterion in the evaluation of the bids is to preserve media pluralism and diversity. The Media Council supervises the legitimacy of the use of these frequencies and ascertains that the activities of providers adhere to the provisions of the Media Act and the public contracts.

The objective of the Media Council is to protect the rights and interests of viewers and listeners, i.e. to ensure that Hungarian media consumers can enjoy programmes compliant with the law. To this end, the Council urges television and radio stations to provide services in compliance with the Media Act, which offers a clear framework to providers. Therefore, the number of violations has steadily decreased since the Act entered into force four years ago, which demonstrates that media service providers strive to be compliant. Consequently, the amount of penalties imposed by the Council for such violations has declined.

The Media Council's primary consideration is to ensure that Hungarian media consumers can have equal opportunities in accessing information and cultural assets. Since 2011, the Council has been running the Hungarian Media Patronage Programme, which provides funding for independent, Hungarian non-feature films, as well as for covering the operating costs of local and regional television and radio stations.