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Discovery voices outrage after Polish parliament passes controversial media bill

A ‘free media’ sign at a protest against the bill earlier this year (photo: Tomasz Molina via CC)

US media group Discovery has slammed the Polish parliament’s decision to pass a controversial bill that outlaws non-European ownership of local media companies.

The vote on the so-called Lex-TVN Legislation had not been scheduled to take place today but was added to the agenda at short notice.

A committee approved the plans in “a matter of minutes,” according to Reuters, although the bill must still be signed by president Andrzej Duda to become law.

The bill, if made law, would prohibit companies from outside the European Economic Area controlling Polish radio and TV stations.

The move has been met with fierce criticism from US media company Discovery, which has invested heavily in the Polish broadcasting industry and would stand to be the biggest loser if the law is passed.

It would force the factual giant to give up its control of broadcaster TVN, Poland’s largest private television network, and TVN24, the country’s largest independent news network, which has been a vocal critic of the government.

Some see the bill as an attempt to silence criticism of the government and there have been protests against the bill across Poland since it was proposed by the ruling Law & Justice party in July.

A spokesperson for Discovery said the “surprise vote” should alarm “anyone who cares about democracy and freedom of the press,” as well as “any enterprise investing in Poland.”

“Through this vote, Poland undermines the values that have connected Poland with Europe and uproots the foundation of the Polish-American relationship. We now appeal to the president of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, to keep his word and veto this legislation,” the statement said.

In August, the European Publishers Council and its members also expressed “extreme concerns” over the plans, adding that they would threaten the “reliability of the rules of the game” in Poland, which it said were essential for investors and media professionals.

TVN was co-founded in 1997 by Polish businessmen Mariusz Walter and Jan Wejchert and Swiss entrepreneur Bruno Valsangiacomo. It is owned by TVN Group, which was acquired by US-based Scripps Networks in 2015. Discovery subsequently bought Scripps, and TVN Group has been a subsidiary of Discovery since March 2018.


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