MTV defends holding awards show in homophobic Hungary: ‘We will stand with our LGBT+ siblings’

The MTV Europe Music Awards will go ahead in Hungary, despite the country’s recent passage of anti-LGBT+ legislation.

MTV said Tuesday (19 October) that the ceremony will be an opportunity to make a stand for LGBT+ rights worldwide, using the European nation that is seeking to diminish them as a backdrop.

“We’re looking forward to using the event to amplify our voices and stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ siblings,”said Chris McCarthy, president and CEO of MTV Entertainment Group Worldwide, in an interview with The Associated Press.

The CEO stated he will not tolerate any government censorship of the telecast: “We’ve made it very clear and we have from the beginning…. we do not allow editorial input as it relates to the artists.”

“That’s always a condition regardless of whatever country we go into,” he continued.

Hungary has faced widespread backlash for introducing a measure that banned the “promotion” of LGBT+ lives to minors under the pretence of fighting pedophilia.

The measure, which passed in June this year, has been condemned by human rights groups for wrongly linking homosexuality with paedophilia, and creating a weapon that can be used to ostrasise Hungarian residents based on their sexuality or gender identity.

A majority of European Union leaders have come out against the move, stating that it goes against the EU’s values and that discrimination will not be tolerated. Measures have since been taken against the country by the 27-nation bloc.

In a September interview with AP, Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto said the new law is intended to protect children from ”homosexual propaganda”. He went on to say that the EU’s decision to delay billions in economic recovery funds for Hungary as a sanction was akin to “blackmail”.

This legislation is only the latest in recent discrimination against members of the LGBT+ community in Hungary, with Hungarian lawmakers banning the legal recognition of transgender citizens in 2020.

MTV says Hungary decision was difficult

MTV made the plan to hold the show in the nation’s capital, Budapest, prior to this legislation, and says the decision to stick to their Hungarian location was a difficult one.

The company released a memo to staffers as a pre-emptive measure against anticipated criticism, explaining their reasons for going ahead with the destination.

“This [decision] may surprise anyone who knows that in June of this year, Hungary passed anti-LGBT+ legislation banning television content featuring gay people during the day and in primetime,” allowing it only to run overnight, McCarthy said in the memo.

McCarthy, a gay man, said his immediate and personal reaction to the law was to move the event to another country, but changed his mind after consulting with LGBT+ advocates globally, including in Hungary, and internally within MTV.

It was a “very clear” decision, said McCarthy in the memo. Instead of leaving Hungary, “we should move forward, using the show as an opportunity to stand in solidarity with the LGBT+ community in Hungary and around the world as we continue to fight for equality for all.”

Growing up in Pennsylvania steel mill town in the 1990s, McCarthy said he felt alone as a gay man until he saw LGBT+ characters like Pedro Zamora on MTV’s The Real World.

“I started to think, ‘this might be OK,’” he told the AP, highlighting that he hoped to provide the same opportunity to see representation to young people in Hungary, who are otherwise deprived of this due to the new restrictions.

The EMAs will honour young LGBT+ activists with the MTV’s Generation Change Award, which will be given in partnership with the activist group All Out. McCarthy hopes this move will help amplify the group’s campaigns for equality.

Going ahead with the EMAs in Hungary is “absolutely the right decision,” given the nation’s “concerted onslaught” on LGBT+ rights, said Matt Beard, executive director of All Out.

The move “gives fuel to LGBT+ communities living in Hungary an incredibly precious sense of international solidarity that comes from a big global media event like the EMAs,” said Beard.

The MTV EMAs have been held in multiple nations since launching in 1994 with a ceremony in Berlin hosted by Tom Jones. Last year’s ceremony was a virtual one due to the pandemic.

The host, nominees, and performers for this year’s ceremony have yet to be announced.