€46.3 million spent on advertising by ’propaganda ministry’ in the last quarter of 2018
The Hungarian government keeps spending huge amounts of money on propaganda. According to our research, the ministry led by Antal Rogán spent 14.7 billion Hungarian forints (approximately €46.3 million at today’s exchange rate) on promoting the government’s ideas in the last quarter of 2018. Almost half the spending was devoted to political ads run by the government, while the rest was put towards corporate ads of state companies, such as Exim bank, energy provider MVM and the national postal service.
All of the campaigns were run by the two companies owned by Gyula Balásy. He is the only one with whom the National Communication Bureau (NKOH) is willing to work since two businessmen (Csaba Csetényi and Tibor Kuna) apparently fell out of favor with the government.
NKOH is a department of the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister and it is led by Antal Rogán. This ministry is responsible for the ‘communication campaigns’ of the government thus it is often mentioned as the ‘propaganda ministry’ in Hungary.
Our research is based on the data that NKOH published in the official EU public procurement bulletin about its advertising expenditure of Q4 2018.
All of the contracts we reviewed are part of the framework agreement that initially allocated a yearly spending of €78.8 million which later to skyrocketed to multiples of the original amount.
The original framework agreement with NKOH included companies by three businessmen: Gyula Balásy, Csaba Csetényi and Tibor Kuna. However, the contracts of the Csetényi and Kuna were terminated in the summer of 2018 leaving Balásy as the only advertising partner of the bureau, and as such, the sole beneficiary of the exorbitant sums spent on communication by the state.
According to the latest bulletin, Balásy’s companies were commissioned by NKOH for projects worth a net total of €46.3 million in Q4 2018.
Out of this sum €21.9 million was allocated for political campaigns of the government, while the rest was put towards corporate ads of state companies and bureaus.
Here is a breakdown of the biggest amounts of taxpayer money spent on advertising:
- €7.6 million for communication activities aimed at boosting the image of Hungary in 2018 and showcasing the historical and cultural heritage of Hungary and the Carpathian Basin on behalf of the Hungarian Touristic Marketing Communication Agency.
- €1.1 million for an international and domestic gastro-touristic campaign and the post-communication tasks regarding the Visegrad Group (V4) presidency on behalf of the Hungarian Touristic Agency Plc.
- €4.6 million for advertising and media agency tasks regarding the promoting of government securities on behalf of ÁKK Plc., the state organization in charge of managing Hungary’s debt.
- €1.2 million for communication and event organization tasks on behalf of EXIM Bank in 2019.
- €1.4 million for the third part of the communication campaign of the Year of Families 2018.
- €2.2 million for advertising and media agency tasks related to the communication activities of KKBK Plc., the government agency responsible for high-value infrastructure and investment projects.
- €1.9 million for communication agency tasks on behalf of natural gas provider NKM Földgázszolgáltató Plc. and electricity provider NKM Áramszolgáltató Plc.
- €102 000 for communication activities on behalf of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology and event organization.
- €179 000 for communication activities on behalf of MNKH Magyar Nemzeti Kereskedőház Plc. in 2018 – 2019.
- €1.5 million for communication activities of the Hungarian postal service in Q2 2018.
- €538 000 for communication activities on behalf of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry regarding its program “Career choices, career paths”.
- €384 000 for Preventive campaign of ND Nemzeti Dohánykereskedelmi Nonprofit Plc – the tobacco distribution company.
- €0.8 million for communication and event organization tasks on behalf of HungaroControl Zrt., that is, the country’s air traffic controller.
- €98,000 for media planning and purchasing tasks, PR and online agency services on behalf of the National Healthcare Services Center.
- €31,000 for media agency and production tasks on behalf of Kincsem Nemzeti Ltd. concerning the event ‘Ügetőszilveszter 2018’ – that is, advertising the New Year’s Eve horse racing event.
- €463,000 for media agency tasks on behalf of the National Food Chain Safety Office aimed at promoting consumer awareness.
- €31,000 for communication activities including production tasks and graphic design on behalf of Hungarian Horse Race Betting Organizer Ltd.
- €59,000 for event organization on behalf of MVM Informatika Plc., a branch of state energy giant and electricity provider MVM.
- €68,000 for event organization, communication and media agency tasks on behalf of E-Mobi Elektromobilitás Nonprofit Ltd., a company providing charging stations for electric and hybrid cars.
- €77,000 for advertising, media agency, PR and agency services on behalf of Budapest Corvinus University in 2018-2019.
Owned by Gyula Balásy, New Land Media Reklám Ltd. and Lounge Design Ltd. have been prospering spectacularly by virtue of state-funded projects.
The net revenue of New Land Media Reklám Ltd. shot up from € 4.7 million in 2016 to € 81.3 million in 2017, while the revenue of Lounge Design Ltd. rose from €2.5 million in 2016 to €9.8 million in 2017. As news portals 444 and 24.hu reported, the two companies turned a combined profit of €7.2 million in 2017 for Gyula Balásy. The figures for 2018 are yet to be disclosed.
Written by Brigitta Csikász
English version by Péter László. You can read the original, Hungarian language story here.
Company data was provided by Opten.
Cover photo: The entrance to the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister. By Szebáld Szakál/Átlátszó