Hungarian court’s decision favors Emmis

A Hungarian court on Tuesday ruled in favor of Emmis Communications Corp. in its bid to get a popular radio station it operates in Hungary back on the air.

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

But the court said the country’s National Radio and Television board illegally awarded the contract, meaning Slager submitted one of just two qualifying bids to operate Hungary’s two national radio licenses.

The other was submitted by Danubius Radio, which the same court ruled in favor of earlier this month after the station also lost its bid to renew its broadcasting rights.

“We feel vindicated that the courts struck down the regulatory decision, and ruled in favor for our claims,” Emmis Chairman and CEO Jeff Smulyan said in a prepared statement. “The people of Hungary believed in Slager, and we trust we’ll be back on the air soon.”

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 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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