The independent Polish media fears a new blow from the ruling: where is it applied?

According to the Financial Times, TVN SA, which belongs to the US conglomerate Discovery, applied for the renewal of the channel’s broadcasting license back in February 2020.

But after 17 months, a decision has not yet been made – and in less than three months the current license will expire.

“That’s the reality”

MPs from the Conservative ruling majority party explain the possibility that TVN24 will not renew the license very simply – that the channel and its owners simply do not meet the legal requirements.

However, the TV leadership sees the postponement as the result of the government’s increasingly active efforts to stifle the independent media, especially since TVN24 is really critical of the rulers, who in turn see the channel as their main opponent.

A list of possible actions will be prepared by September, and one of the possible options is to start a business from Poland.

“We have a lot of licenses and we scrupulously follow all the rules,” a Financial Times source told TVN. – If everything went normally, we would have received an update a long time ago.

Reuters / Photo by Scanpix / Will TVN renew its broadcasting license?

The license for our other channel was renewed in November, although we applied for an update at a similar time. “

According to the source, if the broadcasting license is not renewed by mid-July, the company’s management will start ringing the alarm bells louder. A list of possible actions will be prepared by September, and one of the possible options is to start a business from Poland: “This is the reality.”

Would there be a big conflict?

Critics say the Conservative ruling coalition, led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s Law and Justice Party (PiS), has made the public broadcaster TVP its tool since it came to power in 2015.

“Scanpix” nuotr./Jaroslawas Kaczynskis

In addition, the rulers made sure that state-owned companies did not order advertising in the media, which is critical of the government. On the contrary, orders fly to the pro-government media.

Finally, earlier this year, the government came up with a tax on advertising revenue. More than 40 Polish media organizations soon staged a 24-hour protest and condemned the proposal, calling it a threat to independent journalism.

Twitter photo / Gazeta Wyborcza portal in February

Twitter photo / Gazeta Wyborcza portal in February

However, a possible refusal to renew the TVN24 license would amount to a much more serious escalation, experts say.

“I would imagine that this is a psychological game – to pull to the last second. However, I do not believe that the license will not be renewed, as there would be a huge conflict.

The move would obviously be political, as it would wipe out a billion-dollar investment and damage Poland’s relations with the United States, “the head of another media group said.

There is no basis – just pretexts

The Polish State Radio and Television Council (KRRiT) comments poorly on the situation.

True, its spokeswoman for Wirtualnie Media said last week that the board had asked for more information about a future merger between Discovery and WarnerMedia, AT & T’s subsidiary.

Under Polish law, a broadcasting license can only be issued to companies in which the share of foreign capital does not exceed 49%.

„Scanpix“ / AP nuotr./Kompanija „Discovery“

„Scanpix“ / AP nuotr./Kompanija „Discovery“

However, an exception to this provision is allowed if the broadcaster’s direct shareholder is located in the European Economic Area. Discovery operates TVN24 through Polish Television Holdin, which is headquartered in the Netherlands.

In recent weeks, some PiS parliamentarians have been debating that such maneuvers are against the law. But other observers are skeptical.

Discovery operates TVN24 through Polish Television Holdin, which is headquartered in the Netherlands.

“I do not think there is a formal reason not to renew the license. There are only certain pretexts, – says Tadeusz Kowalski, a professor at the University of Warsaw and a media expert. – Not renewing the license would be a very bad decision.

The number of independent media groups is already declining, which is very worrying. I view this very negatively – as a threat to the quality of public debate in Poland. “

The style does not last long

Since 2015, when PiS came to power, Poland has fallen from 18th in the World Press Freedom Index to 64th. Armenia, for example, now stands higher.

Reporters Without Borders, which compiles such a rating every year, noted in a recent comment that not only state media control but also the decision of the state oil concern PKN Orlen to acquire the media group Polska Press should be discussed. True, in April the court suspended such plans.

Photo by Orlen / Orlen Group of Companies

Photo by Orlen / Orlen Group of Companies

Reporters Without Borders also noted “the government’s campaign of hatred against critics, which was directed exclusively at the private channel TVN.”

Proposals to tax advertising revenue were also hampered at a time when media companies were hit hard by the pandemic.

The government withdrew from such a plan earlier this year, adding that the proposals would be reconsidered. However, no new ideas have been heard yet, so the media business does not expect the current respite in the relationship between the rulers and the media to last.

“It has been calmer in recent months, but it reflects the government’s own internal problems – the three parties are angry with each other. But it should not dazzle us – when they agree, they will return to us, “warned one head of a private media company.

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