Chris Dziadul looks at Poland’s rocky start to the year
Poland’s television industry looks like it is about enter a period of upheaval.
The new Civic Platform (PO)-led government that took power last November plans to push through a new media law that will probably lead to changes at the top at the public broadcaster TVP. It could also result in the effective dismemberment of the National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT), transferring many of its powers to the Office of Electronic Communications (UKE).
The government believes that these actions are needed to de-politicise broadcasting in Poland, and there could be some substance to its argument.
However, from an industry perspective, other, equally pressing matters also need to be addressed. In the area of digital broadcasting, for instance, the country appears to be slipping behind other leading markets in the region: Russia finally agreed a digital transition plan late last year, while the Czech Republic has put its well-documented digital channel licensing problems behind it and is rolling out DTT services. Even much smaller countries such as Estonia and Lithuania are making significant progress, in the former case with an MPEG-4 platform launched just over a year ago.
There is clearly a logjam in Poland, and it remains unclear as to whether or not this planned legislation will solve it.
TVP, it has to be said, plays a much more important role in Poland’s TV industry than most other regional public broadcasters do in their respective countries. Getting the policy on TVP right is therefore important for the Polish market as a whole, not just the public sector.
The government has already hinted that it may either scrap receiver licence fees or make their collection more efficient: at present, only around 40% of TV households bother to pay them.
There has also been talk about part-privatising TVP, though this would probably prove politically unacceptable and meet with strong opposition from the general public.
Hopefully this period of upheaval will prove to be only short lived, not just for TVP and regulators but industry as a whole. Indeed, by the end of the year it might be little more than a fading memory, with TVP’s long-awaited DTH platform finally up and running and the launch of a national DTT service just round the corner.