Hungarian media watchdog targets LGBTQI TV campaign

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks during an event organised by the Konrad-Adenauer foundation in Hanover, Germany, 28 June 2011. [EPA/JULIAN STRATENSCHULTE]

Hungary’s media authority has initiated proceedings against RTL Hungary media group for broadcasting an advert aimed at boosting acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender queer and intersexual (LGBTQI) families.

The National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH) said on Thursday (4 March) it was launching legal proceedings, claiming the broadcast was not suitable for children.

The advert, which first aired in December, features LGBTQI couples reacting to homophobic comments posted online.

It came in response to an increasingly hostile environment for so-called rainbow families, including changes made to Hungary’s constitution in November which defined that a “mother – a woman, the father – a man”.

Hungary barred citizens from legally changing their gender early last year, and introduced legislation that would limit adoption to married couples, cutting paths to adoption for gay couples.

The Háttér Society group behind the campaign says the media authority is purposely trying to silence LGBTQI groups.

“The purpose of the Media Authority is to silence LGBTQ organisations so that there can be no meaningful social debate on this issue,” the group’s managing director Tamás Dombos told RTL.

“We think this campaign video was an important part of social dialogue. It does not contain items that would cause any disadvantage or harm to minors,” he added.

Dombos has previously said the government had moved on to targeting LGBTQI groups because the rhetoric against migrants was no longer having the desired effect.

“My estimation is that the anti-migration campaign was no longer working,” Dombos told EURACTIV, adding that the government was “testing” the communication potential in various minority groups and the “LGBTQI was the one that stuck out the most.”

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Hungary’s controversial media law, one of the first bills enacted after Fidesz came to power in 2010, lists among the goals of public service broadcasting promoting “respect for the institution of marriage and family values.”

However, the law was not used to curtail the broadcast of LGBTQI-friendly material until last year, Dombos said.

There has been a notable absence of LGBTQI-friendly content on national broadcasters since 2010. Last year, the government had to fend off allegations that Hungary had pulled out of Eurovision because it was “too gay.”

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At the same time, the protection of the social majorities is increasingly stringently enforced.

Last January, a channel was fined for broadcasting a segment in which liberal Budapest politician Péter Niedermüller complained that if Hungarian society were to “peel off” groups to discriminate against, including migrants, Roma and others, it would leave only a “horrifying formation in the middle, these white, Christian, heterosexual males.”

Similarly, Coca Cola was fined last year for running a banner ad campaign showing kissing LGBTQI couples, because the posters had the potential to “impair the physical, mental, emotional, and moral development of children and adolescents.”

Broadcasters are also practicing self-censorship. In 2014, RTL Klub, Hungary’s largest independent channel owned by the RTL Hungary media group was reported to have cut scenes of two young men kissing from a teenage drama series.

[Edited by Josie Le Blond]

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