Emmis loses license to operate Hungarian station

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

Indianapolis-based Emmis won the broadcasting license for Slager Radio in 1997. It is 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 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. A resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives has been introduced.

“We are deeply disappointed, not only for Emmis and our people, but most of all for the people of Hungary,” Emmis Chairman and CEO Jeff Smulyan said in a written statement. “Whenever freedom and democracy are taken away, every citizen suffers immeasurably.”

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

Emmis is now turning its attention to seeking relief in the court systems of Hungary and the European Union, and joining with the country’s prime minister and president in denouncing the process as “politically corrupt and contrary to the interests of the Hungarian people.”

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