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Discovery to take legal action against Polish government over TVN dispute

Discovery is taking legal action against the Polish government after it approved changes to the country’s broadcast law that would force the US factual giant to give up its ownership of Polish broadcaster TVN.

JB Perrette

Discovery claims the Polish government is violating the bilateral investment treaty between the US and Poland with the bill, which was approved by the Polish government earlier this week.

The draft legislation, designed to prevent non-European owners from having controlling stakes in Polish media companies, must go to the Polish senate for approval before it can be passed into law.

The bill marks the most significant effort yet by the government to take Polish media out of foreign hands, which it has said is necessary for national security. Critics have argued it marks a threat to media freedom.

Discovery believes Poland’s failure to renew its licence for TVN, Poland’s largest private television network and owner of independent news network TVN24, undermines the freedom of the press, Poles’ access to factual news and reliable information, and a stable business environment for international investment.

A ‘notice of dispute’ was sent to Poland’s president Andrzej Duda earlier today. Discovery said Poland’s conduct violates several obligations under the treaty, which was signed between the US and the Republic of Poland in March 1990.

The obligations include fair and equitable treatment, non-impairment by arbitrary and discriminatory measures, non-discrimination in granting licences, and the prohibition on expropriation without compensation.

“Over a number of years, the current Polish government has targeted TVN in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner as part of a broader crackdown on independent media and in direct violation of legal protections around freedom of expression,” Discovery said in a statement.

JB Perrette, president and CEO of Discovery International, added: “Discovery has successfully operated and invested in Poland for nearly 25 years, making us now one of the biggest international investors and employers in this incredible country.

“The current Polish government’s damaging and discriminatory actions, however, leave us no choice but to bring charges under the US-Poland bilateral investment treaty. We are deeply committed to safeguarding our investment in Poland and its people, defending the public’s interest in independent media and the rights of freedom of expression.

“Discovery, as a protected investor in Poland, is afforded important rights and freedoms under the US-Polish treaty. We do believe this legislation will have a chilling effect on US and European investment into the Polish economy, and we will aggressively defend our rights.”

Discovery took ownership of TVN in 2018 following its acquisition of Scripps Networks Interactive, which bought a 52.7% stake in the broadcaster in 2015. Discovery owns TVN via a Netherlands-based subsidiary, but the changes to the broadcast law would still affect TVN as the subsidiary is ultimately owned by a non-European player.

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