In the latest stage of the long-running saga in which opposition-leaning broadcaster Klubradio and Hungary’s media authority (NMHH) have disputed the outcome of a frequency bid, the municipal court of appeal on Wednesday repealed a decree by the NMHH, which declared the station’s bid for the Budapest 95.3 MHz frequency invalid on formal grounds.
The court, in what is the third and final ruling in connection with the case, said that as the authority had already earlier ruled the bid’s content valid, it could not at a later stage come to the opposite decision citing formal grounds. The ruling cannot be appealed.
In its justification, the court said that the reason for overruling NMHH’s decree was due to a “serious breach” of the rules of procedure.
The Media Council of NMHH invited bids for the 95.3 MHz frequency in July 2011.
The winner of the frequency in December 2011 was Autoradio Broadcasting. Klubradio appealed, and a Budapest court found in a final ruling in March this year that the Media Council had wrongly awarded the frequency to Autoradio since its bid failed to meet the formal requirements.
Following the court decision, the Media Council on July 6 declared all 11 bids submitted for the three frequencies, including 95.3 MHz used by Klubradio, invalid for failing to meet the formal requirements of the tender procedure. Klubradio insisted it met all former requirements and appealed the Media Council’s decision, which a court of appeal annulled, obliging the media authority to declare Klubradio’s exclusion in a resolution.
In August, the media authority declared in a resolution Klubradio’s bid for the frequency invalid for formal reasons.
The court’s third legal ruling on Wednesday was made in connection with Klubradio’s appeal of the media authority’s August resolution.
However, NMHH said all three court rulings made it clear that Klubradio’s bid was invalid on formal grounds.
The rulings show that the procedure was successful but produced no valid bid, the authority said in a statement on Wednesday. Under the media law, if there is no valid bid, the procedure as a whole should be declared invalid, it said.
Andras Arato, the broadcaster’s chief executive, said the option left to NMHH is to declare Klubradio the winner of the bid.
“This decision would be in line with the freedom of the press declared in Hungary’s Basic Law and the principle of diversity of programmes stipulated by the media law,” he said.
The opposition Socialists said that “time was ripe” for members of the NMHH Media Council to resign.
Lawmaker Ildiko Lendvai accused the Media Council’s members and employees of “acting on a political command, one to destroy Klubradio at any cost”.
The green LMP party welcomed the ruling. Lawmaker Gergely Karacsony said it reflected the weakness of the Orban cabinet that “it is unable to tolerate opposition views and it feared citizens the most.”
The radio currently operates under a temporary licence on three regional frequencies, including Budapest.