I came to begin this project because as an undergraduate research assistant, I have strong interests in formulating research questions and striving to find answers, not only for academic purposes, but also to apply them to real-world situations. During the fall semester of 2018, I began an independent study project pertaining to the culture of corruption in Eastern Europe. Shortly thereafter, I began working on a research project involving electoral behavior in Hungary as a result of populism, nativism, and economic uncertainty under the direction of Dr. Delton Daigle with the Schar School of Public Policy and Government. While this has always theoretically interested me, I was even more intrigued by how the results of my research could impact the people who are directly affected by structural problems in the region. Thus, I began wondering about another way in which Hungarians are directly touched by political problems: the media.
I found that media shapes perceptions of society, impacts beliefs on policy, and influences social and political behavior. However, I could not determine quite how. There was no source I could find that explained which news sources are funded by government cronies, what biases each media outlet holds, nor which cities have limited media accessibility. Then, I realized a potential solution: a database of Hungarian media that acts as a one-stop shop for analyzing these inquiries. It would help answer my questions of who controls media, and where it is made intentionally accessible or inaccessible.
Mapping the Hungarian media landscape has been a project that involves creating a dynamic database that will constantly develop and be updated after its inception, and can be actively used in future research pertaining to the influence of European media or case studies between different nations. As Hungarian citizens, this issue impacts myself and my family directly. Throughout the time I have spent in the nation, I have observed how individuals’ perceptions of Hungarian politics have been influenced by the media they are exposed to. Seeing first-hand how corruption can negatively impact one’s life and deteriorate one’s belief in a democracy, I have found that these issues must be acknowledged.
This research is especially important to me because I am a firm believer that everyone deserves a fair shot at life. I do not think society can expect everyone to achieve highly through hard work if some classes are pushing others down. This ties back to my studies at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, where we follow the teachings of Johan Galtung: he theorized that structural violence is a violence felt in people who are set up in systems of oppression, which can often be influenced by cultural violence and lead to physical violence. The lack of freedom felt by those in Hungary threatens the structures in which Hungarians reside and run the risk of deeply rooted structural violence.
Throughout the summer, I have been actively building a database on an online platform I created (www.mappingmagyarmedia.com ). I have also spent time in Hungary researching these problems empirically, especially through contacting media directors and writers from a variety of Hungarian news organizations. This has provided me with further insight on the history of power exchange in Hungarian media which contributes to my knowledge of the root causes of the problem.