Polish broadcasting regulator approves license for US-owned broadcaster

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By Alicja Ptak

WARSAW (Reuters) – The Polish broadcasting regulator on Wednesday extended an operating license for the popular US-owned anti-government news channel TVN24, but questioned whether it has the right to continue operating, asking the government for legal clarification.

Critics say TVN24 is a prime target in ruling party’s efforts to quash media freedom, with opposition politicians calling on regulator’s issue over broadcaster’s right to exploit a bottom-up bend election of the nationalists in power.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has long argued that foreign media distort public debate and do not serve Polish interests. Critics say the government only wants to control the media and restrict free speech.

“The resolution has no binding power … but it is a signal to the electoral core of the PiS that they will not give up by trying to take control of the independent press,” Jan Grabiec, spokesperson, told Reuters. speech of the main Polish opposition group Civic Platform. .

Since the party took office in 2015, Poland has fallen to 64th place, from 18th on the World Media Freedom Index.

It is not known what the next steps will be or what consequences they could have for TVN24.

PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE

The license of TVN24, which is Poland’s most popular news channel, was due to expire on September 26. His fate was uncertain after the lower house of parliament passed a bill last month to tighten the ban on companies outside the European Economic Area controlling Polish broadcasters.

The opposition-led upper house of parliament rejected the media bill, but the PiS leader signaled that the party would try to reverse the rejection before the end of September.

The PiS is fighting, however, to retain its majority in the lower house.

TVN, the parent company of TVN24, is owned by US company Discovery Inc through a company registered in the European Union in order to meet the requirements of the ban on non-European companies owning more than 49% of Polish media.

If TVN24 had not received the extension, it had to continue to operate under a Dutch license.

Although the regulator extended the license, it said in a separate resolution that it would ask the government for clearer legislation on the property issue, as well as legal clarification from the Constitutional Court.

“The license has been extended to ensure that TVN24 does not pass into Dutch hands, which means it remains under Polish jurisdiction,” Teresa Bochwic, deputy director of the Polish broadcasting regulator, said in a tweet. .

Discovery and TVN did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

(Reporting by Alicja Ptak; writing by Joanna Plucinska; editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Alex Richardson)


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