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6 top media executives resign in Hungary after owner predicts 'media war' against government

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BUDAPEST, Hungary — Six top executives of a media group controlled by a former ally of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban unexpectedly resigned on Friday after their boss said he would confront the government over a disputed advertising tax.

Chief editors, subeditors and a deputy CEO of news channel Hir TV, Lanchid Radio and daily newspaper Magyar Nemzet said that they were resigning for "reasons of conscience."

Their decision came after Lajos Simicska predicted a "total media war" against the government because planned changes to the ad tax could increase costs for his media group, among others, while also lowering costs for some.

The government said it was changing the tax after warnings from the European Union that it was unfair and affected competition.

State revenues from the tax in 2015 are expected to be around 6-10 billion forints ($22-$37 million).

Simicska, Orban's former university friend, was briefly head of the national tax authority during Orban's first term between 1998 and 2002.

Considered one of Hungary's richest people, he also has interests in advertising billboards and an unspecified stake in Kozgep, an engineering and construction company whose revenues have increased greatly through state contracts since Orban returned to power in 2010.

The executives' resignation comes a month after the state media company, MTVA, said it would launch new sports and news channels, including late-night news programs in English.

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