The Hungarian parliament recently amended the Media Act to harmonize it with the relevant EU directives. As a result, Hungary and the EU finally closed the accession negotiations of the audio-visual and cultural policy chapter.
Several important changes to the Media Act's provisions become effective in October 2002. Others – such as the Media Act's new enlarged scope and its provisions on the promotion of European productions and cooperation with the EU Commission will become effective on Hungary's EU accession. In line with EU requirements, from Hungary's accession to the EU, more than 50% of a television broadcaster's total annual broadcasting time must be comprised of European products.
Before the amendment, the Media Act was the subject of much criticism, principally because its legal terminology was not aligned with that of EU law and its definitions were unclear or circular. One term which the amendment clarified and aligned with EU law is "sponsoring". Previously, in many instances, sponsor announcements were considered as a disguised advertisement. The new definition of sponsoring will probably clarify the permitted scope of sponsoring activities.
The amendment introduces more sophisticated provisions regulating teleshopping and the right to broadcast events of major social importance.
The amendment also introduces further advertising restrictions including rules protecting minors' physical, mental and moral development.
However, the amendment left unchanged those provisions that apply the same rules to broadcasting and to radio advertising. Accordingly, Hungary's radio advertising regulations remain stricter than those of the EU.
Further technical adjustments of the Media Act, to reflect EU law, are anticipated. These are likely to be implemented following technical consultations with the EU Commission.