Is foreign investment in Central and Eastern European broadcast media under threat?
A speech late last month by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the president of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, certainly sounded a few alarm bells. In it, he suggested that regulations such as those found in France, which are probably among the strictest in any EU country, should be introduced in Poland. They limit foreign ownership to 20% and would undoubtedly have an impact on the Polish TV market, not least the national broadcaster TVN, which is wholly owned by Scripps Networks Interactive.
Interestingly, it was reported at the same time by the Polish edition of Newsweek that a state owned company had attempted to buy TVN24, TVN’s flagship news channel.
A 20% foreign ownership limit on Russian media came into effect at the beginning of 2016 and has had a huge effect on the country’s TV industry. Modern Times Group (MTG) effectively pulled out of the market by selling its stake in CTC Media, having earlier abandoned the DTH platform Raduga TV, which it jointly owned with a Russian partner.
Meanwhile, major international content companies have effectively been forced to enter into 20/80 joint ventures in order to stay operating in the country.
Elsewhere, MTG has just pulled out of the Czech market after 12 years, selling its 50% stake in FTV Prima, one of the country’s top two commercial broadcasters, to the local company Denemo Media. The rebranded DTH platform Nova Digi TV is also under Czech ownership, having previously been part of Romania’s RCS&RDS.
While CME and RTL are still very much flying the flag for foreign investment in Central and Eastern European broadcasting, they, too, have come under pressure. Witness, for instance, the difficulties RTL Klub found itself in in Hungary two years in a dispute over a new ad tax.
Nothing dramatic is likely to happen anytime soon. However, there is certainly a feeling of change in the air.