Duna TV, the Hungarian public satellite television service based in Budapest, will begin broadcasting its programs to North American viewers in 2001. Duna TV, which primarily offers news and cultural programming, currently reaches audiences throughout Europe and in Israel.
On December 12, the Hungarian parliament approved a budgetary amendment to allocate 800 million forints (US $2.7 million) to cover start-up costs and guarantee operational costs of the North American broadcast, including all parts of the U.S. and Canada, for three years.
“We were thrilled to hear the news of the Hungarian government’s commitment,” said Edith Lauer, Chairman of the Board for the Hungarian American Coalition. “On behalf of Coalition members, and all Hungarian Americans, I would like to thank Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and members of parliament for recognizing both the need and opportunity for Duna TV programming in North America.”
The Hungarian American Coalition has played a leading role in achieving the North American broadcast. Leaders of the Coalition, together with officials at Duna TV, recognized the vital potential of Hungarian television to inform and link Hungarian-Americans with those in Central Europe. The Coalition and Duna TV formed a partnership and began promoting the need for a North American broadcast as early as 1994.
“It’s truly a worthy cause,” said Zsolt Szekeres, project leader for the Coalition. “Duna TV will be a godsend for Hungarians in the U.S. and Canada, bringing us into daily contact with the everyday reality of Hungary and the surrounding countries.”
In October 1998, the Coalition petitioned Prime Minister Orbán about the broadcast and began to seek the support of the Hungarian government. Coalition leaders continued to raise the Duna TV issue at every forum.
“The Coalition’s energetic efforts really have been crucial in keeping this issue on the table,” said János Horváth, a Fidesz Member of Parliament, himself a Hungarian-American.
Between 15,000 and 25,000 viewers in the U.S. and Canada are expected to subscribe to Duna TV, based on the results of a 1998 market survey funded by the Hungarian American Coalition and Duna TV. The North American broadcast will consist of a daily six-hour segment, repeated four times per day. Trial broadcasting will start in Spring of 2001, with full service targeted to begin on St. Stephen’s Day, August 20, 2001.
“Hungarian-Americans are a diverse and talented group, from young professionals and scholars to third-generation children of immigrants with a keen interest in Hungarian affairs,” said Coalition Board Member László Hámos of the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation, who also advises Prime Minister Orbán. “It is about time that Hungary reaches out to this very important diaspora.”