Poland’s leading private news channel renewed its license at the last minute


Newsletter: Europe Express

The Polish media regulator has renewed the license of the country’s main private news channel, TVN24, after a 19-month delay that fueled concerns over pressure on independent media in Poland.

The decision, taken just four days before TVN24’s existing license expires, means the channel, whose often critical government coverage has angered officials, can continue broadcasting in Poland.

However, as a sign that the pressure on TVN, which is owned by US media conglomerate Discovery, is unlikely to ease, the media regulator also released a resolution on Wednesday evening that companies outside the European Economic Area should not. own more than 49 percent of a Polish broadcaster.

The resolution also said the head of the media regulator should ask the government to pass new legislation on foreign ownership of broadcasters, as well as seek legal clarification from the constitutional court.

TVN called the decision to extend its license “bittersweet” and said it proved “that there had never been a legitimate reason to refuse or delay the license”.

However, he expressed concern that the media regulator is using the accompanying resolution “to challenge current media ownership rules” and warned that this “undermines the democratic legislative process itself”.

“It appears that the Polish authorities are seeking to establish new rules on media ownership as a way to bypass legislative processes,” he said in a statement. “The rule of law, freedom of the press and the stability of foreign investments are still seriously threatened.

The delay in renewing TVN24’s license comes amid wider pressure on independent media which has caused Poland to drop from 18th to 64th in the World Press Freedom Index – below Malawi and l ‘Armenia – since the conservative nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party took office in 2015..

During its years in power, the PiS reduced the public broadcaster to a slap in the face, used a state-owned oil group to buy out some of the local media, and channel publicity from state-owned companies to supporting media groups.

The government also presented proposals earlier this year for a new tax on advertising revenue, which triggered an unprecedented blackout by private media groups to protest the move, which they saw as a serious threat – and targeted – for independent journalism.

In an escalating pressure on TVN, PiS deputies in the lower house of parliament also passed a bill in August that would force Discovery to sell its stake in TVN.

The bill was later rejected by the opposition-controlled upper house, and Polish President Andrzej Duda also expressed reservations about it. But PiS officials have previously indicated they will try to revive the bill later this month.

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