Fact Check: NO Evidence News Outlet Telex Thrives On Foreign Cash


  • szerzõ: Lead Stories
Fact Check: NO Evidence News Outlet Telex Thrives On Foreign Cash Reader Funded

Is Hungarian news outlet Telex mostly supported by money from foreign sources? No, that's not true: Financial statements filed by Telex's parent company reveal that a small minority of its 2022 revenue came from foreign donors and business partners. The lion's share came from reader contributions.

The claim appeared in a video (archived here) on TikTok on November 11, 2023, under the title (translated from Hungarian to English by Lead Stories staff) "Telex and freeloading!" The account belongs to Bence Apáti, a choreographer who doubles as a partner of Megafon Center, which produces social media content in support of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Apáti shows a clip from a video posted on Telex's Facebook page on October 30, 2023, soliciting donations from readers. He says (translated from Hungarian to English by Lead Stories staff):

We can either dig deep into our pockets, or you can watch the latest reaction from Apáti, and we can laugh at [Telex] together. They've already received so much money from abroad that their bank account can hardly bear it. And still they play the downtrodden beggar ... This show is boring!

Orbán's media allies frequently accuse Telex of serving the interests of its foreign financiers due to its critical coverage of Hungarian politics. At the time of writing, Parliament was considering a bill to create a Sovereignty Protection Office that would monitor organizations that "engage in or support activities to influence the will of voters using foreign funding."

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:


(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Fri Nov 17 15:44:18 2023 UTC)

Telex's parent company, Van Másik, filed two financial reports with Hungary's Justice Ministry in 2022: one for the first nine months of the year, when it was a limited liability company (Kft.), and one for the final three months when its legal status changed to a private company limited by shares (Zrt.). Both documents are available for download here.

The two reports show that Van Másik's total revenue for 2022 was 1.2 billion Hungarian forints ($3.5 million). Only 21.8 million forints came from foreign organizations that support media freedom. Chief among them was Free Press for Eastern Europe, a Prague-based group supported by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which donated 10.6 million forints.

Van Másik also banked 223.5 million forints from what it calls "service exports" to foreign entities, most of which are based in the European Union. This brings its total foreign-sourced revenue to HUF 245.3 million, or 20 percent of its 2022 gross income.

Nearly half of Van Másik's 2022 revenue, 533.7 million forints, came from reader donations. Telex said it receives support from "more than 50,000" individuals in its Sixth Transparency Report, published on July 10, 2023. Assuming all these people contributed funds in 2022, the average donation comes to 10,675 forints, or $31.

The financial reports do not specify what percentage of reader donations originated from foreign bank accounts. Lead Stories has reached out to Telex for clarification and will update this story if they reply.

Starting in 2022, Telex has been running a training program for aspiring journalists, Telex Akadémia, which is funded by a two-year grant of $740,740 from the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. The finances are managed by Ne Hallgassunk Nonprofit Kft., a not-for-profit entity owned by Van Másik, according to its 2022 financial statement, available for download here.

Telex's Sixth Transparency report stresses that the company does not use any of the Bureau's money to finance its day-to-day reporting operations. Even if it did, annual support from the U.S. government would amount to 129 million forints -- just 11 percent of Van Másik's 2022 revenue.

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