Lower house discusses contested media reform bill

Poland's Sejm (lower house) on Wednesday decided to progress on to the second reading of an amendment to the Broadcasting Act that would introduce a ban on non-European ownership of domestic media.

The draft amendment, tabled by MPs from Law and Justice (PiS), the dominant party in Poland’s United Right coalition, specifies that only entities headquartered in European Economic Area (EEA) countries can be granted a broadcasting licence, provided they are not dependent on entities from outside the EEA.

Discovery, a US company, is the owner of TVN, Poland’s largest independent television channel, that has been critical of the Law and Justice-led government. Many observers believe the amendment to the media bill is aimed at silencing the station. TVN24, a news channel owned by TVN, has been trying to renew its licence since February 2020. Its current licence expires on September 26.

A prominent ruling party (PiS) MP, Marek Suski, said in the Sejm on Wednesday that his party will submit amendments to the contested bill, extending the transition period, so that a "certain station (TVN - PAP) can adjust its shares to Polish regulations."

Thousands of people protested across the country on Tuesday in defence of media freedom, objecting to the draft legislation.

Last week, a group of prominent US senators warned the Polish government against passing the legislation, which they say would impede Polish-US trade and defence ties.