Two elections in Hungary – EU-related news in the campaigns

Executive Summary

In the period between 15 February and 25 May only 8% of news dealt in some shape or form with the European Union. More than two-thirds of news items dealing with the EU appeared between April 7 and 25 May, during the EP campaign period which followed the Hungarian national election of 6 April. There was hardly any mention of the EU during the campaign for the election to the Hungarian Parliament, even though the assessment of the European Union and the desired relationship therewith was one of the most significant cleavages between the government and the opposition.

An overwhelming majority of EU-related news items had little to do with the Union itself; it merely discussed the EP election as an exclusively domestic political event.

There was hardly any discussion in the Hungarian media of issues initiated by the EU or political debates within the Union. News items framing certain issues as Hungary v. Brussels were not at all rare, however. News items that genuinely dealt with the Union tended to be published in the business sections of online newspapers, but even there they were rather infrequent.

The share of news items which mentioned something that had been built using EU funds, or which referred to EU funds in any context, was a mere one in seven of all EU-related news. This is all the more remarkable since there was no major public construction project in Hungary that did not receive funding from the European Union.

The EU was presented as a positive example in only 6% of written and 8% of broadcast news.

In 62% of EU-related news the Union was presented exclusively in the context of domestic politics, and this was especially true of the EP campaign period.

The share of EU news presented as foreign politics items was highest in the public radio show called Déli Krónika (Noon Chronicle). This observation also meshes with the fact that foreign politics generally play a greater role in the public radio’s news stream.

EU-related news items associated with the government side tend to be more focused on factual statements than EU-news linked to the left-wing opposition alliance. Opinions tend to prevail in the latter; they typically involve criticisms of the government or some positive assessments lauding the EU’s role. Factual statements by the government side tend to appear in news involving foreign politics, addressing the use of EU funds or discussing the formal workings of the EP election.

Nevertheless, EU-related news items involving government politicians also often paint a negative picture of Union, while opposition politicians never sought to convey an image of the “EU as Moscow.”

Two important elections were held in Hungary in the first half of 2014. The official campaign period of the parliamentary election began on 15 February and lasted until 6 April, the day of the election. Practically the very next day, on 7 April the campaign for the election to the European Parliament commenced, and ended on 25 May, the day of the European ballot. The staffs of Mertek Media Monitor and Prospect Foundation tracked the news streams of the most relevant Hungarian media outlets in the designated three and a half months period.

Two elections in Hungary – EU related news in the campaigns