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English Section

Polish bid to tighten media ownership rules ‘perfectly normal’: PM

19.07.2021 19:15
A new Polish bill aiming to tighten foreign ownership rules for media firms is a “perfectly normal” legislative move, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.Photo: PAP/Łukasz Gągulski

He was taking questions from reporters after a group of lawmakers with the country’s ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party earlier this month submitted a bill saying that television and radio license holders cannot be directly or indirectly controlled by owners based outside the European Economic Area.

“A law that allows the Polish regulator to check whether the acquisition of a dominant stake in a media organization can go ahead is a perfectly normal legislative move in any self-respecting country,” Morawiecki told a news conference on Monday.

He argued that similar laws existed in the United States, France, Austria and “several other Western European countries.”

“Let's treat ourselves as a serious European country, not as one that can be freely entered by any investor who would be able to control public debate through buying up media shares,” Morawiecki said.

We want our public debate to be diverse; we are, of course, under tremendous pressure from the media. And we accept that because this is what democracy is all about. But we do not accept investors coming here from abroad and being able to buy majority stakes without the consent of the Polish regulator.”

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has long claimed that foreign entities own too much of the country’s mass media and distort the public debate. But critics say that the lawmakers seek to gain control over the country’s biggest private broadcaster TVN, a US-owned news outlet known for being critical of the government.

If the planned law is approved, Discovery, which owns TVN, could be forced to sell the station, according to reports.

Voting on the draft is scheduled for later this week.

A newspaper warned last week that the proposed changes to Poland’s media laws, if approved by parliament, could harm Warsaw’s relations with Washington.

Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jacek Sasin said last week that the new media proposal aimed to provide “tools to protect the media market from an aggressive takeover by Russian or Chinese capital."

Sasin told private broadcaster Polsat News last Monday that the "mass media should not become a mouthpiece for spreading views that may threaten Poland's security.”

(jh/gs)

Source: PAP