The European Commission (EC) informed the public last week that it will take a closer look at the new draft bill concerning broadcasting licenses in Poland.
“We are aware of the new legislative notice which changes the rules by which broadcasting licenses are distributed. We must look at the draft more closely, and we will monitor whether it will be acceptable. We expect member states to ensure that their personal politics will not influence the existence of an independent, free and diverse media ecosystem,” stated EC spokesman Christian Wigand.
He added that in this context, the EC is observing the situation associated with American-owned TVN24, whose license has not yet been renewed. “We are following the situation of media freedom and pluralism in Poland with increasing concern,” he said.
Wigand underscored that media pluralism is necessary in order to evaluate the responsibility of governments and to monitor democratic processes.
On Monday, EC vice president Vera Jourova also commented critically on the new bill and used the opportunity to promote the idea of an EU media freedom act.
Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller emphasized that Poland (just like many other EU countries) has restrictions when it comes to ownership of media companies.
He explained that the new bill is meant to tighten up existing laws and will concern all media companies in Poland. “The project makes it so that no company outside of the European Economic Area will have a majority capital in media companies in Poland. This situation is similar to those in Germany, Austria or France,” he said.
Muller also affirmed that there is no risk of negatively affecting relations with the United States over the new law.
“The same solutions are present in Germany, Austria and France, and no one is claiming that someone over there is trying to abolish the alliance with the other EU states or the US,” he pointed out.
Last Wednesday, a group of Law and Justice (PiS) MPs filed a draft bill amendment to the law on television and radio broadcasting. In the draft, it was emphasized that “licenses for broadcasting radio and television programs may be given to foreign persons whose headquarters or residence is located within European Economic Area member states, under the condition that such a person is not dependent on any other person located outside the European Economic Area.”
American-owned liberal TVN is currently in talks with the Polish National Broadcasting Council concerning the extension of its license. TVN’s owner is the American company Discovery, which manages the television station through Polish Television Holding BV, which itself is registered in the Netherlands.