Discovery Inc. May Have to Sell Polish Broadcaster if Ban on Foreign Media Owners Passes

Discovery Inc. may be forced to sell its Polish TVN24 channel if proposed legislation changes from the Polish government pass. The potential changes would ban non-European companies, like the U.S.-based Discovery Inc., from owning Polish media, the Associated Press reported.

Proposed by the governing Law and Justice party that took power in 2015, the changes were published Wednesday on Poland's parliament website. Opponents say that the proposed legislation is an attempt to restrict media like the TVN24 channel, which reports on alleged government scandals and controversy.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki voiced his support for the changes Thursday, stating that they have a purpose of blocking foreign associations from "influencing the media debate, influencing public opinion...without the approval of the Polish regulator."

"Every serious country should have such instruments," Morawiecki said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Discovery Inc.
The right-wing Law and Justice party have filed in parliament changes to Poland's media law that would ban non-European ownership and are seen as are aimed against Discovery Inc. and the TVN24 news channel, openly critical of the government. Seen here are the Warsaw headquarters of Poland's TVN broadcaster. Czarek Sokolowski/AP Photo

Critics say the party has turned state TVP broadcaster into its mouthpiece and wants to limit media ownership by foreign investors.

A top Law and Justice figure and European Parliament member, Joachim Brudzinski, argued that TVN journalists lack objectivity, often taking the side of the government's opponents.

TVN responded with a statement saying that the proposed changes were "intended to silence us and to deprive the viewers of their right to choose."

"Under the false pretense of a fight against foreign propaganda, an attempt is being made to limit the freedom of the media," the TVN statement said. "We will not surrender under any pressure and we will remain independent in acting on behalf of our viewers."

The proposed changes come as Discovery Inc. has been waiting for over a year for the extension of TVN24′s license that expires Sept. 26. Discovery bought the broadcaster in 2018 from another U.S. media concern, Scripps Networks Interactive, and manages TVN through Polish Television Holding BV, registered in the Netherlands.

The head of Poland's media regulator, Witold Kolodziejski, confirmed the body was in talks with TVN24 over its concession and was analyzing opinions by experts, but also said he favors the interpretation of the law that requires non-European investors to own no more than 49 percent stakes in Polish media companies.

Deputy Infrastructure Minister Marcin Horala insisted on Onet Rano news portal that the proposed changes are "not about closing TVN." He suggested that the current owner could sell some of the shares to a European investor if its license is to be extended.

The proposal, for which the ruling party's coalition partners say they had no advance warning, has drawn vehement criticism.

A lawmaker for the opposition The Left party, Joanna Senyszyn, said on Twitter that Law and Justice lawmakers have "filed a draft law that is aimed at eliminating TVN and TVN24 from Poland's media market. We give no consent to that."

Polish PM
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that a proposed ban against foreign media owners would prevent foreign bodies from “influencing the media debate." Morawiecki is seen here at a press conference during a Heads of State meeting of the Visegrad group on June 30, 2021, in Katowice, Poland. Omar Marques/Getty Images