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Hungary: Ice-T and the New Hungarian Media Law

In a very sensitive environment because of the new Hungarian media law, which came into force on January 1, 2011, the Hungarian National Media and Infocommunications Authority started investigating Tilos (HUN), a non-profit radio station.

Since the Authority “places a strong emphasis on the protection of the interests of customers and users,” it also takes care of the young listeners, which was the case when they informed (HUN) Tilos Rádió that an investigation would be launched after monitoring the station's broadcasts. The monitoring found that the radio station played rapper Ice-T‘s songs titled Warning (intro) and It's On at 17:53 on Sept. 2, 2010.

The Authority objected to the fact that Tilos Rádió did not use any kind of age limit warning before playing the song. The letter mentions that the radio station had already been fined in 2003 and 2005 for broadcasting music with explicit lyrics. They attached a chart with the number of language certificates obtained between 2000 and 2009 suggesting that there might have been youth who understood the lyrics and because of their age might have been influenced by the content.

[…] In the tracks the events were portrayed by using the slang of a subculture which even if it wasn't totally understandable for the protected age-group, its harsh intonation prompting violence could generate a harmful effect on listeners who are under 16 years of age. Those with a better knowledge of the [English] language could have understood that the negative situation of African Americans, the use of the services of prostitutes, trade and use of drugs, and physical violence were portrayed by the artist as an everyday activity and a value. It's On evoked the ‘ghetto subculture’ by implying harmful behavioral patterns and worldview. […]

Ice-T, who tweets under the username @FINALLEVEL, learned through a tweeted Tumblr post that his music was “banned” in Hungary. His reaction was:

RT @rog_r: @FINALLEVEL Sorry, but you are officially banned http://j.mp/f73DhF > I love it! The world still fears me. hahaha !

Although the result of the monitoring is not without precedent, the National Media and Infocommunications Authority has to deal with a very high volume of attention because of the new media law, which has even received international criticism.

Tilos Rádió named the case “Ice-T gate” and collected the reactions to the news of the investigation. A number of blog posts pointed out that the lyrics which were attached in English and with the Hungarian translation to the letter from the Authority contained some mistranslations. A Hungarian blogger who posts translations of rap songs stated (HUN) that the Authority used a transcript of the lyrics that already contained some mistakes.

Despite the polemic that began at the end of 2010, Tilos Rádió has already received an answer to their official statement (HUN) against the investigation. The new letter of the Authority was also published (HUN) on a blog, Comment:com, dealing with media content. In their letter, the Authority emphasized that “maybe the brave but frequently anonymous freedom fighters of the internet can see reason that Ice-T is far away from Lajos Kossuth, the real [Hungarian] fighter of press freedom.”

Sixx of Comment:com highlighted a paragraph from the letter in which the Authority stated: according to the so-called Pacifica Foundation, Ice-T's song could be aired only after 10 PM. “If they don't do so, the American media authority – the Federal Communications Commission – would punish them with a fine which is certainly higher than the yearly budget of Tilos Rádió.”

The blogger of Comment:com pointed out that the U.S. decision mentioned by the Authority was no longer valid in the United States.

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