Propaganda machine

Hungarian government spent €48 million on propaganda in first three months of 2019

The government of Hungary spent 15.4 billion Hungarian forints (approximately 48 million euros at today’s exchange rate) on spreading its messages in the first three months of this year. The majority of this money, more than 10 billion forints (approximately 31.2 million euros) were spent on a campaign publicizing ’decisions about the future of Europe implemented in Hungary and abroad.’ This is, most probably, the infamous anti-EU billboard campaign with the photos of Jean-Claude Juncker and George Soros.

Atlatszo has been tracking how much money the government of Hungary is spending on propaganda. Officially, this money is spent on informing citizens about the decisions of the government. However, many times this means that taxpayer money is used to spread the messages of the governing Fidesz party.

€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.

We publish a summary of state advertising spending every quarter – and here are the latest data! The source of the information is the official EU public tenders’ database. The money is spent by the Cabinet Ministry of the Prime Minister, led by minister Antal Rogán.

Who were the contractors that were paid 15 billion HUF?

The work was done by two companies: New Land Media Reklám Kft. and Lounge Design Kft. Both are owned by businessman Csaba Csetényi. The two companies were paid 15.4 billion HUF (approximately €48 million at today’s exchange rate) for the work they did in the first three months of the year.

We have covered how Balásy’s companies have been winning more and more public tenders. In 2015 New Land Media Reklám Kft had a net turnover of 1.5 billion HUF (approximately €4.67 million). A year later its turnover was 25.8 billion HUF (approximately €80.4 million). Similarly, Lounge Design Kft. had a net turnover of 780 million HUF (approximately €2.4 million) in 2016 and 3.1 billion HUF (approximately €9.66 million) in 2017.

As and both reported, Balásy’s two companies made a 2.3 billion HUF (approximately €7.2 million) profit after taxes in 2017.

What was the money spent on?

Most of the money,  more than 10 billion HUF (approximately €31.2 million) was spent on publicizing ’decisions about the future of Europe implemented in Hungary and abroad and other government decisions important for citizens.’

Most probably this is the anti-EU campaign that included the infamous billboards and ads with photos of Jean-Claude Juncker and George Soros. This campaign caused significant tension between the leadership of the European People’s Party and Viktor Orban’s Fidesz.

A total of 31 government agencies were allowed to spread their messages in the first three months of 2019 using the 15 billion HUF.

Besides the anti-EU campaign, the government spent money on promoting its pro-family policies: 1.18 billion HUF (€3.67 million) was spent on these ads.

The Ministry for Innovation and Technology spent 240.94 million HUF  (€751,000) on promoting environmentally friendly waste management.

The Hungarian Fashion & Design Agency Non-Profit Ltd. (Magyar Divat & Design Ügynökség Nonprofit Zrt.) was given 155 million HUF (€483,000) to promote its Budapest Central European Fashion Week.

The fashion agency is led by a friend of Ráhel Orbán, the prime minister’s daughter.

A few more examples: the tax authority was given 400 million HUF (€1.25 million) to advertise the electronic tax filing system; the Hungarian Tourism Agency (Magyar Turisztikai Ügynökség Zrt) was given a total of 129.35 million HUF (€403,000) ; state energy giant MVM got a total of 160 million (HUF €498,000) ; the public service media conglomerate was given 100 million HUF (€311,000) ; police were given 74.8 million HUF (€233,000) for a radio campaign to promote road safety.

Written by Brigitta Csikász

English version by Anita Kőműves. You can read the original, Hungarian language story here.