The Polish parliament (Sejm) has passed a controversial amendment to the country’s Law on Broadcasting that the EBU and other media organisations have called outrageous.
On the same day (Wednesday, December 30) and just before the amendment was passed, the EBU, along with the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Association of European Journalists (AEJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Committee to Protect Journalists, published an open letter expressing outrage about the amendment, which they say was introduced by the majority party (Law and Justice – PiS) “for immediate adoption, without any consultation, abolishing the existing safeguards for pluralism and independence of public service media governance in Poland”.
The letter added: “The introduction of a system whereby a government minister can appoint and dismiss at its own discretion the supervisory and management boards goes against basic principles and established standards of public service media governance throughout Europe. If the Polish ‘parliament passes these measures, which may happen today (December 30), Poland will create a regressive regime which will be without precedent in any other EU country.
“We consider that the proposed measures will represent a retrograde step making more political, and thus less independent, the appointment of those in charge of the governance of public service media in Poland.
“We urge the Polish authorities to resist any temptation to strengthen political control over the media.
“To date, Poland can boast an excellent track record in terms of freedom of the media, which ranks in the top category in the Reporters without Borders World Press Freedom Index 2015 as well as in the 2015 Freedom House report on political rights and civil liberties. TVP reaches more than 90% of the Polish population every week and had about 30% of the TV broadcasting market in Poland in 2014, which is higher than in the case of most public TV channels in Central and Eastern Europe”.
In the Sejm, 232 members voted in favour of the amendment and 152 against, with 24 abstentions.
The amendment will result in the termination of the mandates of the current management and supervisory boards at TVP and its radio counterpart. It will also see a reduction in the number of members of both, as well as new appointments by the treasury minister ahead of the introduction of new national media organisations.
Significantly, it was reported by Wirtualne Media on January 4 that five TVP directors, including the heads of TVP1, TVP2 and TAI, handed in their resignations on December 31. Apparently, there has been considering their positions for a number of weeks.
A new director of TVP is likely to be appointed in the next few days. He is expected to be Jacek Kurski.