Hungarian businessman Miklós Vaszily, the chairman of pro-government TV2, said on Tuesday he had bought a 50% stake in Indamedia, a holding company which controls the advertising revenue channels for independent news site Index.hu reports Reuters.
Vaszily, 47, said in an interview with business website Portfolio.hu that he considered himself a strategic investor in the group. Asked what changes Index could expect, Vaszily said it just had to remain the most significant news outlet in Hungary. Indamedia owns several online portals, as well as the firm which sells advertising space for Index.hu.
Vaszily was formerly chief executive of another large independent web site, Origo.hu, which turned into a pro-government outlet under his management after changing hands in 2014. He subsequently became chief executive of the Hungarian state media conglomerate, widely seen as a government mouthpiece, before joining TV2.
Since he took power in 2010, Orbán has focused on extending his influence over the media, using legal levers, ownership changes, and channelling advertising money towards media outlets giving more loyal coverage. The Index is the largest news portal in Hungary critical of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán after a major shake-up of Hungary’s media sector in recent years left most major outlets under the control of the government or pro-government business leaders.
“Their role is to operate a media company that is independent of all political sides and likeable for readers of all world views, and to be the largest. That’s the expectation of them,” Vaszily told Portfolio.
The economic impact of the coronavirus is expected to accelerate the shake-up of the media. As in many countries, the media sector in Hungary has suffered a major blow from the pandemic, as advertising has all but evaporated. Independent titles like Index generate nearly all their revenue from advertising, while pro-government media has more stable revenues partly from taxpayer funding.