While media professionals and experts from across Europe are gathering in Brussels today at the first ever Pan-European Forum on Media Pluralism and New Media to examine what is seen as a decline in media diversity, the launch of a new English-language news portal in Hungary underscores an unprecedented vibrancy in local media.
“The Daily” (www.thedaily.hu) bills itself as “your independent English news for Hungary,” and, according to an email sent out to a wide variety of expatriates this weekend announcing the launch, is “set to bring you all the news that matters about Hungary and lots more besides.”
The new website joins a “media ecosystem” of existing publications and online communities aimed at local English-speakers including All Expats Budapest, Budapest Agent, The Budapest Business Journal, Budapest Index, Budapest Resources, The Budapest Times, Budapest Week, Expats Hungary, Expats in Hungary, Hungary EXPATS, XpatLoop, as well as this and other websites of the All Hungary Media Group and numerous others.
Indeed, according to Helen Locke, a researcher at Central European University‘s prestigious Center for Media and Communication Studies who recently completed a study of English-language media in Hungary, the local expatriate community may now possess the world’s most pluralistic media. “Thanks to a steady growth in the number of titles and a steep ongoing decline in the number of expatriates, our data suggest that in a few short years we could even reach the pluralism ‘holy grail’ of one publication for each and every reader.”
While some might find it impractical to have dozens of publications competing for the attention of just a few thousand readers, Locke counters that the uniqueness of The Daily’s content is proof of its added value. “Over the past few days they’ve scooped the existing competition with prominently featured articles about houseboats made in Slovakia by a man born in Hungary, a temporary ban on lighting outdoor fires in some outlying countryside districts, and a densely-written, 900-word press release about a Hungarian company utilizing trend-setting spherical storage tanks for bio-methane gas,” she said. “Some of these will invariably be of interest to one person, which, as I’ve said, is the whole point.”
As for how such free-to-read publications could become financially viable with only a few – or one – regular reader, Locke said this was outside the scope of her studies. “I never really thought about this – I guess they should just do like everyone else and get a grant,” adding that a lack of revenue to support such a sprawling media landscape raised the intriguing possibility that there may now be more foreigners employed in media studies in Hungary than in the media itself, which in turn might make necessary the creation of a new department of media studies studies.