available languages: english October 2, 2016

Press Release 

Hungary’s public TV backed government position 95% of the time during EU-refugee referendum – new research

Hungary’s state-owned TV network M1 showed a strong pro-government bias in primetime news programming during the referendum campaign on EU refugee quotas, despite a legal duty to show balanced coverage. New research published today reveals that 95% of airtime allotted to refugees and the referendum endorsed the government’s position, and 91% of related news items were negative about refugees.

The study, which monitored news across the country’s five main TV stations from 8 – 22 September, found the state broadcaster also allotted the greatest airtime and prominence to refugees and the referendum. M1 headlined with related issues in 86% of news shows, as well as dedicating 42% of news programming – more than double the average amount of time allotted by all five channels at 18%.

Michael Meyer-Resende, DRI Executive Director, says: “The biased tone and lack of balanced debate makes M1 seem like an extension of the ruling party’s no campaign. For six years Viktor Orbán has systematically dismantled democratic checks and balances. We’re seeing the results of that now.”

TV2, a station bought earlier this year by businessman Andrew Vajna with close government ties, exhibited the second strongest pro-government bias.

Table 1: tone of news items on refugees in the referendum context

The percentage of news items dealing with the refugee issue and the referendum based on the overall tone (negative, neural, or positive) of each item.

Channel Negative Neutral Positive
M1 91 9 0
TV2 83 4 13
RTL 42 46 12
ATV 65 30 5
HírTv 36 35 29

Table 2: number of news items covering refugees and the referendum

The number and share of individual news items on the refugee issue and the referendum by television channel.

Channel M1 Tv2 RTLKlub ATV HírTv
Number 154 46 30 62 80
Share 41% 12% 8% 17% 22%

Table 3: airtime allotted to refugees and the referendum

The average length of news items dealing with the refugee issue and the referendum by news programmes (in minutes), and the share of total news programming on each channel.

Channel M1 Tv2 RTLKlub ATV HírTv
Length (min) 23.3 5.4 3.4 5.9 9.9
Share of airtime 42% 10% 5% 17% 18%

Table 4: prominence allotted to refugees and the referendum

The slot in which news items dealing with the refugee issue and the referendum first appear among all topics in a given news show.

Channel M1 Tv2 RTLKlub ATV HírTv
1st news item 86 0 0 50 29
2nd – 5th news item item 14 0 7 43 64
6th or subsequent item 0 100 93 7 7

Table 5: percentage airtime that supports the government’s position

The proportion of time allotted to presentations of positions that favour the government’s stance in terms of dealing with the refugee issue and the referendum.

Channel M1 Tv2 RTLKlub ATV HírTv
Percentage of time that supports or promotes the government’s position 95% 89% 39% 46% 53%
Percentage of time that supports or promotes a position that is different to the government’s 5% 11% 61% 54% 47%

Table 6: average airtime that support’s the government’s position

The average time allotted, respectively, to the presentations of positions that favour the government’s stance and of positions that differ from the government’s view, dealing with the refugee issue and the referendum (in seconds).

Channels M1 Tv2 RTLKlub ATV HírTv
Average length of content that supports/promotes the government’s position 118 55 29 38 40
Average length of content that supports/promotes a position that differs from that of the government 6 7 46 44 35

Table 7: percentage of news items that show plurality of voice

The share of news items which feature both voices which endorse the government’s view and voices which promote a view that differs from that propounded by the government.

Channels M1 Tv2 RTLKlub ATV HírTv
The joint appearance of conflicting opinions 6% 30% 47% 21% 26%

Table 8: percentage of news items that encourage voter turnout

Share of news items that deal with the issue of turning out to vote as a percentage of all news items that address the referendum.

  Encourages to turn out

 

Encourages not to vote

 

Both Not mentioned
M1 76% 10% 6% 8%
TV2 46% 0% 29% 25%
RTL 15% 8% 8% 69%
ATV 19% 19% 17% 45%
HírTv 19% 8% 16% 57%

Table 9: percentage of news items that encourage voting a certain way

Share of news items that encourage viewers to vote a certain way as a percentage of all news items that address the referendum (or also refer to the referendum).

  Encourages to vote “no”

 

Encourages to vote “yes”

 

Encourages to submit an invalid vote Presents several potential viewpoints

 

Does not indicate how one should vote

 

M1 59% 7% 0% 7% 27%
TV2 42% 4% 0% 21% 23%
RTL 8% 0% 0% 15% 77%
ATV 14% 6% 0% 19% 61%
HírTv 11% 0% 5% 11% 27%

The statistics are based on monitoring the evening news shows of five national television channels between 8 and 22 September. M1 is state-owned public television, TV2 is controlled by businessman and ally of the Prime Minister Andrew Vajna, RTLKlub is owned by Germany’s RTL Group, ATV is controlled by evangelical church ‘Faith Church,’ and HirTV is controlled by Lajos Simicska, former ally of the Prime Minster, now opposed.

RTLKlub (9%), Tv2 (7%) and M1 (5%) drew a significant share of viewers, while the two satellite channels boasted smaller ratings (approx. 2%). This research was commissioned by Democracy Reporting International and carried out by Mertek Media Monitoring Budapest.