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Hungarian court decision could favor Emmis station

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A popular radio station in Hungary operated by Emmis Communications Corp. until late 2009 might return to the air following a court decision favoring the Indianapolis-based company. 

A Hungarian court on Tuesday ruled that a regulatory decision by the country’s government to kick two radio stations off the air, including one operated by Emmis, was unlawful.

The decision, which can be appealed, stems from a civil suit brought by Danubius Radio, which, along with Emmis’ Slager Radio, lost its bid to renew its broadcasting rights.

The court on Jan. 19 will hear a similar complaint brought by Emmis.

Hungarian officials took the national radio station operated by Emmis off the air in November and awarded the license to one of the country’s political parties.

Emmis won the broadcasting license for Slager Radio in 1997. It was consistently the top-rated radio station in Hungary, reaching 3.5 million listeners per week in a country with a population of 10 million, the company said.

The decision by the country's National Radio and Television board to award the operating license to a Hungarian political party has brought “enormous” international pressure on the government to reverse the decision, Emmis said.

In a resolution passed Dec. 8, the U.S. House of Representatives condemned the actions and “encouraged” the Hungarian government to “respect the rule of law and treat foreign investors fairly.”

Slager brought in revenue of $23.9 million in the fiscal year ended Feb. 28, 2008, Emmis said, and $6.4 million in the six months ended Aug. 31, 2009.
 

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