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The man with whom the civil service was permanently abolished in Hungary is stepping down

  • On 6 May, Duna Médiaszolgáltató Nonprofit Zrt.
  • Dobos was the first head of the state media service provider created by merging Duna TV, Magyar Rádió, MTV and MTI.
  • In the democratic history of the civil service, no one has concentrated as much power in the hands as Dobos has been able to exercise in the past seven years.
  • Dobost also exercised this power – and put the public service in the service of Fidesz.

The issue of the impartiality of the public media has been at the forefront of political debate in every cycle since 1990 – a few years ago in 444 we tried to explore the dilemmas of the history of the civil service – and the debate has intensified over the years. Fidesz lost the elections in 2002; Viktor Orbán cited the “left-wing media predominance” that characterizes both market and state media as the main reason for the defeat.

In that year, Orbán – although the Hungarian Radio had been led for years by the general manager Katalin Kondor, which he supported – almost initiated a referendum to get the opposition to receive independent public service channels. And in the fall of 2006, Fidesz politicians not only withdrew from parliament, but also began boycotting Nap TV broadcasts. And at least they were called.

Following its two-thirds victory in 2010, Fidesz’s first task was to pass a new media law that, in parallel with the establishment of a new convergent authority, completely transformed the system of oversight of the public service media and ensured the unshakable influence of government parties over the state media.

This total dominance, both in terms of content and staffing, immediately erupted: in four years, thousands of people were fired from the public media, including Attila Mong and Zsolt Bogár, who had been silent on the radio against the abolition of media freedom; The falsification of Daniel Cohn-Bendit’s press conference and the expulsion of former Chief Justice Zoltán Lomnici from Híradó already in 2011 signaled that new times were coming on public television.

A right hand in left-wing public media

Menyhért Dobos had been in the public service media for more than forty years at that time. Born in 1950, he graduated from the Jenő Landler Telecommunications Technical School with a degree in Telecommunications Industry and was not even twenty years old when he got a job as a video and audio technician at Hungarian Television. Until the change of regime, he worked as an image engineer before moving up the ranks: first as a media manager and then in 1993, during the MDF government, he was elected chairman of the MTV Civil Service Council. He was later mentioned in the right-wing press, for example in the Weekly Response founded around Fidesz, and remained in the position after 2000: Károly Mendreczky became the first secretary of the then television president. And although he was already considered a partisan, he was able to stay in place after the change of government, in fact:

In 2003, while Fidesz was constantly protesting against the bias of the public service media, Dobos was appointed public director of MTV. His duties included editing and supervising church, religious, minority, public, and cross-border programs. It was no secret that he was one of the people in the opposition in the public media; keeping it was a similar gesture to the right, like leaving on the screen a rather radical opinion show of Beatrix Siklósi’s Night Shelter. Dobos used his influence and took on an increasingly political role in the service of Fidesz.

In February 2006, for example, he warned József Debreczeni, the editor-in-chief of the program entitled Lapozó, to express his negative opinion about Viktor Orbán’s evaluator. After the incident, Debreczeni left public television and told Népszava that Dobos wanted to tip his show in Fidesz, and pressure was put on András Giró-Szász, a member of the opposition, to be a regular guest on the broadcast.

As the delegates had a proportionate seat in the then Media Authority, the National Radio and Television Board, the government side had to make constant concessions to Fidesz. Dobos had an important executive role in articulating these, and he became more and more spectacular in his second Gyurcsány cycle. For example, he was the protagonist of the conflict of interest investigations that have been taking place on public television since 2007, specifically in the Sunrise edited by Tamás Gyárfás – so much so that Dobos also took the two big cannons on the left, András Bánó.

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