Poland's largest private news broadcaster TVN24 is allowed to retransmit.

His license has been extended by the National Radio and Television Council shortly before it expires next Sunday.

The body ruled by the national conservative ruling party PiS had delayed the decision for a year and a half.

The reason given was concerns about the ownership structure of the station, whose parent company is the American Discovery group.

Thomas Gutschker

Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.

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The broadcaster itself, the opposition and journalist organizations in Poland saw the real reason for the delay, however, as the attempt by the PiS government to bring the Polish media market under its control.

This concern will not be eliminated by the extension of the license, because the decision was accompanied by a declaration by the supervisory board threatening to withdraw the license.

The case of TVN24 had raised concerns about freedom of the media in Poland in the United States and led to serious resentment between Warsaw and Washington.

According to the Polish media, relations between the two countries are currently worse than they have been in the 30 years since the end of communism.

During the ongoing licensing process by the radio and television council, the PiS had tried to enforce a law that would have forced the American owners of TVN24 to sell their shares in the station.

"Threat to Freedom of the Media"

So far, the rule in Poland has been that companies based in the European Economic Area are exempt from the 49 percent limit for foreign capital in radio and television broadcasters. This is the case with TVN24; the station belongs to a holding company based in the Netherlands. According to the new version of the law known in Poland as “Lex TVN”, which the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, adopted in mid-August, media companies based in the EU should also be subject to the capital limit if they belong to corporations from outside. This would have made the current ownership structure illegal.

Immediately after the Sejm passed the law, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken published a statement in which he spoke of a threat to media freedom, which was "fundamental to bilateral relations". The law was rejected by the Senate, in which the opposition has a majority. President Andrzej Duda has meanwhile indicated that he could veto the law if the Sejm passed it again. In the accompanying statement on the license extension, the Radio and Television Council is now announcing measures to enforce the rules on ownership structure that have not become law, if necessary via the Constitutional Court.

In the six years of its reign, the PiS has made several attempts to force foreign owners out of the Polish media market. "The media in Poland must be Polish," said PiS chairman Jarosław Kaczyński 2020. PiS achieved success in this endeavor at the end of last year when the Passau publishing group had its subsidiary Polska Press, which included 20 regional newspapers and several Internet portals sold the state oil company Orlen. In the meantime, the editors-in-chief have been replaced by sympathizers of the ruling party for three titles.

The EU Commission announced on Thursday that it is taking Poland to the European Court of Justice over another case involving media freedom.

In May 2020, the director of the National Telecommunications Regulator was prematurely dismissed after the government changed the Telecommunications Act.

Actually, his mandate would have run until at least September 2021.

According to EU law, contract terms that lead to early dismissal may not be changed retrospectively.

"This is an important safeguard to ensure the independence of the national regulatory authority from political pressure," argues the EU Commission.

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