President Andrzej Duda has refused to sign the amendment to the bill on radio broadcasting and television which would have locked non-EU foreign owners out of the Polish media market.
The law was seen as a vital effort by many conservatives to remove foreign influence from Poland’s national media landscape. In other countries such as Germany, foreign media owners are severely restricted from owning media outlets, yet German companies own significant shares in Polish media companies, many of them with a hostile viewpoint towards Poland’s conservative parties.
After vetoing the amendment, Duda has now directed the bill back to parliament for further consideration.
“This means that I am vetoing the bill and therefore, closing the subject. I am returning it to parliament for further consideration,” he said during his Monday briefing. According to commentators, there is little chance of parliament garnering the majority necessary to overcome the presidential veto.
Simultaneously, Duda appealed to parliament to pass a solution “as much as possible above political divisions” which would “limit the ability of shares owned by foreign subjects in companies which hold media licenses.”
The president explained that one of the arguments he considered was the international treaty between Poland and the United States signed in 1990 concerning mutual economic and trade relations. He also questioned whether the short period of 6 months was fair for companies to sell their shares.
The law would have prevented companies outside the European Economic Area from holding a controlling stake in Polish media companies, which would have forced the U.S. media corporation Discovery to sell its majority stake in TVN, one of Poland’s biggest private TV networks openly supporting the Polish opposition and criticizing the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.
The U.S.’s Charge d’Affaires to Poland, Bix Aliu, who had previously strongly criticized the Polish parliament for passing the law, had thanked Duda for vetoing it.
“Thank you, President Andrzej Duda for your leadership and engagement in the name of common democratic values and protecting the investment environment in Poland. Allies are stronger together,” he wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, PiS MP Piotr Kaleta critically evaluated Duda’s decision.
“This is, of course, a negative surprise to me. I thought that if the president did have his concerns, he would direct the bill to the Constitutional Tribunal. The court could then legally evaluate the law, as this is why we have such an independent and constitutional institution,” he told conservative portal Niezalezna.pl.
“I am seeing here a bit of a capitulation from the president. I thought that considering all of his arguments and doubts, it would be possible to clean up the media situation in Poland. Unfortunately, something else happened,” Kaleta stated.