Something quite extraordinary happened in the Polish media this week.
An unprecedented protest by the country’s leading commercial TV and radio broadcasters, internet portals and publishing groups saw screens blacked out and replaced by the words “Media bez wyboru”, or Media without choice. Alongside it came an open letter addressed to the political establishment criticising a proposed “premium” tax on internet and conventional advertising that will in the signatories’ view undermine the industry and limit media consumers’ choice.
The tax, which was announced by Poland’s Prime Minister earlier this month, is aimed at supporting Poland’s national health service and will lead to the creation of a fund for culture and heritage in the media sphere. Although the government says it is aimed principally at global media corporations, its critics argue that it is a direct threat to independent media in Poland.
The list of 40 companies that participated in the protest reads like a who’s who of the Polish media industry. It includes Polsat, TVN, Puls, Canal+, Eleven Sports Network, Ringier Axel Springer Polska, Bonnier Business, RMF, Kino Polska TV, ZPR and Polska Press, as well as a number of smaller players.
Needless to say, there was a price to pay for the action. It has already been estimated that the participants lost a combined total of over PLN5 million (€1.1 million) in ad revenues by blacking out their screens or pages for up to 24 hours. In the TV sector, Polsat’s and TVN’s loss was TVP’s gain, with the public broadcaster enjoying large ratings for its main channels.
The protest also attracted some local criticism. TVP, for instance, described it as being aimed at protecting the interests of leading international media groups that have no desire to contribute to Polish society.
Whether it will have any effect or not remains to be seen. As things stand, the tax will come into effect on July 1 and is expected to raise up to PLN800 million next year.
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