The latest international Polish Chamber of Electronic Communications (PIKE) conference, held in the city of Poznan earlier this week, raised more questions than it offered answers.
The major talking point at the event was the issue of ‘de-concentration’ of the Polish media. While no one could offer a precise definition of what this actually meant, it was generally assumed it referred to the government’s plans to reduce the level foreign ownership in the Polish media industry.
This is particularly high in the print sector, which is largely German owned, and there was an understanding that any regulations that come into place would make the greatest impact there.
However, as no one needed reminding, TVN, one of Poland’s two main commercial broadcasters, is owned by Scripps Networks Interactive, which is in turn being acquired by Discovery Communications, already an important player in the Polish TV industry. Would the US company be forced to reduce its stake in TVN to a level of 20%, for instance?
Nobody wanted to liken what may happen in Poland to the situation that now exists in Russia with respect to foreign involvement in the local media. The French model, which also imposes strict limits on ownership levels, somehow seemed more acceptable, at least in Polish eyes.
There was also little if any mention of Orange, the country’s incumbent telco, which of course in French-owned. Or indeed Liberty Global, the leading cable operator in Poland (UPC Polska) and shortly expected to strengthen its position in the market by securing permission from the competition authority UOKiK to acquire Multimedia Polska, the number three operator.
Questions could have also been asked about the national transmission company EmiTel, which is owned by the investment group Alinda Capital Partners. The list goes on and only goes to show how big foreign involvement in the Polish media really is.
What is more, just this week the UOKiK announced that it is currently undertaking no fewer than six investigations into the concentration and structure of Polish media, looking at (amongst others), pay-TV and internet platforms.
While leading players such as Polsat and the public broadcaster TVP have nothing to fear as they are wholly Polish owned, others will be concerned as to what the future holds in store.
In my view, for what it’s worth, the Polish government will almost certainly introduce limits on foreign ownership. They may not be as harsh as some people fear, but neverthless come into place. What effect they have on the industry is anyone’s guess, but my fear is that it won’t be positive.