Politics in Hungary

By Peter A. Toma; Ivan Volgyes | Go to book overview

9 The Media as Instruments of Political Socialization

In Communist Hungary, the regime utilizes television, radio, newspapers, journals, books, film, theater, and music to reach the citizenry with political messages designed to inculcate socialist values. As the monopolist of power, the Government directly or indirectly owns all means of communication. It controls the media very carefully to prevent them from being used as negative agents of political socialization.

The regime exercises its power in a variety of ways. By staffing the various media organizations (publishing houses, radio stations, television networks, etc.) with trusted Party members, the Party is able to control the content of the messages relayed. By employing punitive measures against those authors whose works are antisocialist or otherwise not in accordance with the wishes of the Party, the regime wields a judicial weapon to control what is written and who writes. In addition, by empowering trusted Party editors to decide which plays will be performed or which books will be printed, the Party exercises financial as well as political control over the media, limiting the number and types of independent inputs to the communication process.

According to Professor Richard Fagen, however, this overwhelming control of communication "does not mean that the content of the media shapes political behavior in any direct and easily predictable manner, even in tightly controlled systems such as the Soviet polity. . . . However, the existence of a national mass media, with all that implies in increased message capacity, speed, and pervasiveness, changes in a basic way a system's potential for political communication. 1 The Hungarian Communist regime has had only limited success in orienting the behavior and values of the citizenry through the mass media.

The following examination of the various media of political communication in Hungary includes an analysis of the themes of political socialization em

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