Media, much like other market entities, operates in a particular political situation but has a particularly privileged role. Our Western neighbors know this very well because they protect their media like a hawk and do not give any foreign investors access to them.
Meanwhile, we are dealing with total paranoia in Poland. When PKN Orlen, the national gas company, repurchased Polska Press from its German publisher , the liberal-left media whose owners are not necessarily Polish citizens, began screaming in outrage. The purchase of the German media publishing group by Orlen was the most important media event in 2020. It suddenly turned out that over 170 papers have passed into Polish hands, including 20 local press outlets along with 500 websites, printing houses and an information agency which operates the papers regionally. Members of the media who feel threatened by this transaction have gone hysterical, although they did not mind that for years that public opinion in Poland was formed by foreign publishers. Polska Press had nothing to do with Polish ownership apart from its name. Its owner was the German holding Verlagsgruppe Passau. For years, mainly German investors took over Polish media outlets for relatively low prices and conducted their own policy using them. The incredible “cutting the line” vaccination scandal shows how important national ownership is for media outlets within Poland.
The behavior of media conglomerates owned by foreign capital, such as TVN and Onet, is proof that we would never have even learned of the scandal if 90 percent of the media ownership was in foreign hands. It was media owned with Polish capital who first published the information concerning the vaccination scandal and publicized who is cutting the line for a vaccine. A dozen or so people who were not health care sector workers, social assistance home workers or administration staff in medical facilities received vaccines from the Medical University of Warsaw‘s additional dosage pool. These people included singer Magda Umer, actors Krystyna Janda, Wiktor Zborowski, and the quite young Maria Seweryn and — what is most interesting — the co-founder of liberal television network TVN Mariusz Walter and a member of TVN’s board, Edward Miszczak. How foreign-owned media would report on this issue can be seen through the reaction of Tomasz Lis, the editor-in-chief of Polish edition of Newsweek. He believed that “Magda Umer’s explanation makes the issue clear. The artists most probably fell prey to a hideous provocation. They should, of course, be more careful and not readily accept proposals. That’s all there is to say.” There are many more such explanations of the scandal. This only proves that the vaccine affair would never have seen the light of day if foreign capital ruled Polish media.
Title image: Alicja Jakubowska,left, the head nurse at the Interior Ministry hospital in Warsaw, is getting the coronavirus vaccination by doctor, Artur Zaczynski, right, as a first person in Poland, Warsaw, Dec. 27, 2020, AP.