Emmis’s CEO Jeff Smulyan sets record straight on Hungary radio


Nine countries issued a joint statement from their Budapest embassies now RBR-TVBR has the first hand exclusive insight from Smulyan on this very heated controversy ‘Hungary silencing radio outlets’.

Since there are so many experts on this, perhaps I can clarify a few things. First, we only asked for a transparent system when we went to Hungary 12 years ago. We got a transparent system then in 1997. That has obviously changed.

We fully prepared to pay the highest price for our license, and since we had by far the highest gross income (roughly 60 per cent of all dollars in the market), our percentage bid would have produced by far the most money for Hungary…and would have been the highest based on Hungarian law.

The standards were changed after the bidding process started, which said that the highest percentage would be the winning bid. In effect someone could promise 50 percent of nothing and be the winner over someone providing 12 per cent of millions of dollars.

This is what happened. The Chairman of the ORTT (Hungary’s FCC) recognized this as a flawed process and demanded the bids (which were sponsored by the two political parties) be thrown out. By the way, Hungary’s Prime Minister and President also called the process very questionable. When the parties voted for their proxies, the Chairman of ORTT resigned and called this a “major scandal”. Perhaps it would also be helpful to know that both Slager and Danubius were visited by party officials in the weeks before the bids were due and were told, “either give us control, or you will lose your license”.

In meeting with Prime Minister Bajnai, I mentioned that the request made of us was a crime in my country, and as a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, would make it illegal for us to accept the request, (which we obviously would not have done anyway). The Prime Minister stated that this was, “also a crime in Hungary.”

You should also know that one of the parties, Fidesz, nationalized a water company owned by the French several months earlier. The French Government and the European Union have registered protests over that case as well.

We entered Hungary under the rules of the Hungarian system. We were proud of what our people accomplished, Slager had nearly 4 million listeners a week, and won numerous awards for our civic involvement. I will be forever grateful to our employees and our listeners. When freedom and democracy are taken from people, everyone suffers, and I am very sad for Hungary.

Jeff Smulyan

RBR/TVBR observation: The conversation and opinions on Emmis’s loss in Hungary have varied wide and far. To read these opinions and post comment on the report read: ‘International condemnation for Hungary silencing radio outlets’