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Community TV without real community connection.

A dissertation about Hungarian community TV system.

Source: Gabriella Velics

Date: 10. January, 2022

Lajos Puporka successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation about Community Televisions in Hungary’s Media Scene on 5th January, 2022. at Eötvös Loránd University, Doctoral School of Philosophy,

Doctoral Program in Film, Media and Cultural Theory. Lajos Puporka has a background as a journalist and editor of different Rroma media production.

All the committee members has academic position in different universities, but more interesting

that they are deeply committed to community media not only in theory but practice. The online

process was led by Prof. Dr. Péter György (leader of the doctoral program) the supervisor and

consultant of the Ph.D thesis was Dr. Gergely Gosztonyi (member of CMFE’s Expert Group). The

thesis has been evaluated by Ágnes Urbán (Mertek Media Monitor) and Henrik Hargitai (founder and leader of EPER Radio, Eötvös Loránd University). Next to Gábor Polyák, Gergely Szőke and Ferenc Hammer who all have strong connection to this topic as researchers, Gabriella Velics (vice president of CMFE) was also member of the committee.

The process was another milestone in Hungarian academic life as only a few dissertations have been written about community media so far. Gosztonyi and Polyák wrote about media regulation from the viewpoint of law, Velics wrote about community radio about the viewpoint of communication and sociology.

Puporka’s dissertation examines the role of community television in the Hungarian communication scene. His research was based on a questionnaire filled by 40 local and regional community TV broadcasters from the total of 77. The main outcome of the dissertation is that operational difficulties occurred not only on financing but on the base of inappropriate media regulation and local political settings.

Some point from the dissertation to think about:

  • When choosing community status, local social media providers chose the higher bidding option, the exemption from the broadcasting fee, and finally, a favorable contract with cable providers. The research showed that for most of the district community televisions, the exemption from the broadcasting fee was considered, for the most part, followed by the statutory obligation of broadcasters to enter into a contract and a more significant opportunity to tender.

  • In the case of local community television, with a few exemplary exceptions, they are entirely influenced by local politics. The subject matter of their program is limited to some aspects of the public service criteria. Most of them broadcast local political events. Their funding depends almost exclusively on local government. Recorded experience shows that local community channels are largely municipally owned, often through multiple ownership links. The operating costs are also paid mainly by the local governments of the local settlements, and their advertising and distribution revenues are not typical.

  • The relationship of televisions to their audiences is questionable. It was not always the case, as research analyzing the work of television in Pécs and Gazdagrét in the early 1990s showed that many people watched the broadcast, and the audience was actively involved in the production of the program. Puporka made a hypothesis that the emergence of new online media may have had a significant negative impact on this process. Partial exceptions to this finding are district community religious channels, which have indicated that they are in constant contact with denominational churches representing believers. In addition, they declared, these organizations do not influence their operations. The research reveals that television owners and journalists decide on the content that appears in the media. They are similar to the mainstream media in their role as gatekeepers. They declared themselves independent in their political position. With very few exceptions, their role as community organizers is negligible.

  • With one exception, regional community televisions organize the activity on an economic basis, which reflects in the corporate form of the operating media service provider. These companies are profit-oriented and strive to maximize their revenue. Nearly three-quarters of them are limited companies, a quarter is limited liability companies, and only one television operates in a non-profit economic form. The majority of local community linear audiovisual service providers in Hungary also belong to the for-profit business sector.

  • Based on net sales, half of the regional linear audiovisual service providers in the district barely produce the financial resources necessary for their operation. The other half of the service providers are economically viable and suitable for secure financing of day-to-day operations. 35% of local community linear audiovisual media service providers are among the minimal television operators: the net sales of these small companies do not exceed HUF 30 million annually. About 40 percent of the local social media service providers have a turnover of more than HUF 30 million, which suggests that their ownership includes local governments or that the municipalities finance their activities based on a framework service contract. The research did not find any examples of donations or community funding. None of the local community television would receive a fee from the cable provider for the production of the program stream. They would be unable to survive in the absence of subsidies.

  • Community service providers are not significant employers for registered employees. With one exception, the number of employees with a permanent employment contract does not exceed 10 in district community television. A district community television does not even have a registered staff member and compiles its entire program from outside orders. Most full-time employees have a degree and employees with secondary education work in the technical staff. Wages are practically in line with the Hungarian average. They earn around HUF 300,000 per month (~850 euro). As for the everyday life of local community television, we can say that they produce their programs with a small number of employees. A quarter has only four internal employees, with 25 percent working even less. There is also a television here with no internal staff, and outsiders produce all programs. In terms of qualifications, most television workers have a tertiary qualification. There is not to be proud of salaries, as the majority does not reach the monthly net of HUF 200,000 (~560 euro). It is a welcome fact that, albeit infrequently, volunteers appear on both types of media. These are mainly young people interested in the media.

  • Many warn that local community television doesn't have a future because the spread of social media is pushing them out of their communities. The local community television leaders and advocacy NGOs strongly emphasized the impact.

  • The first Rroma television in Hungary also operates as a commercial channel and does not aim to represent the community or its interests. Its primary purpose is music and entertainment. As Puporka has seen, the launch of television was not free from political repercussions either. Its theme proves that its target isn't to build the identity, unify the community, and increase its political clout. There is no Roma among the leaders. A strange situation has arisen that the only gypsy television operates like a commercial channel does not seek to nurture the Rroma's culture and serves no purpose other than entertainment.

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