SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 29 July 2021, Thursday |

Polish media law faces uncertain future amid coalition splits

On Wednesday, the Polish Media Law faced an unclear future due to divisions in the ruling coalition over a plan that could result in the loss of a license for a US-owned TV channel critical of the government.

The ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party has long claimed that foreign interests possess too much of the media, distorting public discussion, while critics claim that the government is attempting to tighten media control and curtail free expression.

Last week, PiS legislators proposed changes to Poland’s Broadcasting Act that would ban firms from outside the European Economic Area from gaining control of Polish radio and television stations.

According to opposition lawmakers, this would mean TVN and its news channel, TVN24, which are owned by Discovery, would lose their licences. PiS says the law aims to stop countries such as Russia and China taking control of Polish TV and radio stations.

In response to concerns voiced by critics, the Accord party, PiS’s junior coalition partner, proposed a change that would allow companies from countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to own more than 49% of shares in Polish media companies.

The United States was among OECD’s founding states.

“We are persuaded that these solutions are good and do not change the fundamental purpose of the bill,” Magdalena Sroka, Accord’s spokesperson, told Reuters.

One of the PiS lawmakers behind the original proposal, Marek Suski, said on Wednesday that the future of the bill was uncertain due to a lack of support within the ruling coalition.

“They behave as if they were in opposition and not in the coalition,” Suski told private channel Republika TV, referring to Accord’s proposal, state news agency PAP reported.

He expressed optimism that the law will receive the necessary support and that “colleagues will not attack us, but rather collaborate with us.”

Sroka claimed that her party was not targeting anyone and that its proposal was an attempt to start a conversation.

“We can see how hot this topic has grown emotionally. It has sparked a public debate, prompting our proposition “she stated.

Poland’s state-owned refiner, PKN Orlen, recently purchased a newspaper publisher from German investors, giving Warsaw additional control over 20 local dailies with over 17 million daily visitors on their websites.