Hungary's TV2 lays off staff, others plan streamlining

By Laszlo Kriston

    With the global economic downturn reaching Hungary's media sector, Hungary's commercial TV channel TV2 (www.tv2.hu) announced the start of wide-scale restructuring and corporate streamlining.

    The ProSiebenSat1-owned TV2 is laying off 35 employes, less than ten percent of its 538-workforce.

    Writing it off as a cautionary measure, CEO Zoltan Vardy stated in an official press release: "The TV2-holding," which includes other assets besides the channel, "is generating profit and its operations are stable. These actions are necessary to take in order to prepare for a future which we do not yet know exactly, for no one can really calculate the extent of the (credit) crisis and how long it will last." Vardy estimates the lay off will result in cost-savings worth several hundred million forints.

    The state-subsidized cultural channel, Duna Television (www.dunatv.hu), which recorded a loss of 1.5 million euro (HUF 400 million) in the first three quarters of 2008, is considering laying off about 100 of its 400-plus staff; however, that action will depend on how the overall economic crisis unfolds. Rival channel, RTL Klub (www.rtlklub.hu) has not announced a similar move, but its representatives stated in the local press that the company has put a stop on new hirings.

    TV2 has also abandoned plans to launch a new channel, FemTV for female audiences in January, according to leading Hungarian news portal Index.hu. A planned start has been pushed back to 2010.

    Despite the lay off, TV2 is still preparing to open its own media school (TV2 Akademia) early in 2009, to bring new talents into its staff -- an initiative that Sanoma pioneered in Hungary through Sanoma Mediaakademia, a corporate vehicle to scout new talents in the field of print and online media.