Hungarian daily Magyar Hirlap closes down


Hungary's media is in a state of rapid change. One of the four national daily newspapers, Magyar Hírlap was closed down by its Swiss owner Michael Ringier just over a week ago. But 72 hours later in move unprecedented in Hungary, a new daily was on the streets - with the name "The Point-European Newspaper".

First published in 1968, a flagship of liberal ideas and freedom of speech around and since the democratic changes 15 years ago Magyar Hírlap had failed to yield profit to the owner. However, as the paper's executive editor Peter Ipper explains losses were not Mr. Ringier's only problem:

"According to Hungarian regulations, one owner cannot have an overwhelming majority of the market and by purchasing the majority shares of another daily newspaper. The Ringier publishers basically have two of the four running papers, so this is an overwhelming portion of the market's share. Therefore the Hungarian Regulatory Authority has ordered that they have to get rid of one of those papers. Now, whether they sell it or close it down is up to the owners."

Following a mere 7 day notice the owner closed down not only the paper but also the building that the 85 member staff had worked in. As the owner kept all the editorial rights the staff immediately decided to form a company, find a printer, offices and a new name, The Point-European Newspaper.

"The reason is that Magyar Hírlap was the original name and that is why we chose to express a certain continuity and continuation of the type of newspaper we want to produce. We are trying to aim at an audience that is younger than the previous one. But we don't want to scare away our former readers. It has not only been an independent daily but has also been a fairly intellectual paper. This means that we try to produce a quality newspaper with reading material for people who like to read and not only look at pictures and captions, especially our weekend supplement where we have lots and lots of interesting reading material for people."

Executive Editor of The Point-European Newspaper, Peter Ipper. Peter says the entire staff of former Magyar Hírlap stayed together and offered to work free for a period of 4 to 6 weeks for The Point. While the price of The Point is 150 forints at the moment, already above the average price of dailies, plans are to sell the paper for One Euro, about 250 forints.