Poland’s President Andrzej Duda Monday vetoed a media bill that would have silenced a Discovery-owned news channel there, noting concerns about straining U.S. relations and about damaging Poland international image as a place to do business.
The bill would have prevented any non-European entity from owning more than a 49% stake in Polish radio or TV broadcasters. Discovery owns Poland’s largest private television network, TVN, and is the only significant non-European media owner in the country. The bill was seen by critics as specifically targeting TVN, which is critical of the government. If passed, it would have forced Discovery to divest part or all of its holding.
This legislation has been batting around the Polish parliament since last summer year and appeared to have died earlier this fall when the Senate voted against passage. But it made a surprise reappearance on Friday, Polish lawmakers’ last session of the year, when the lower house, or Sejm, approved it by a slim margin. Said Discovery then: ““Through this vote, Poland risks directly undermining the values that have connected Poland with Europe, and uprooting the foundation of the Polish-American relationship.” The David Zaslav-led company, which is in the process of merging with WarnerMedia, appealed to Duda to prevent the bill from becoming law.
Poland’s right-wing coalition government, elected in 2015, has been taking steps to gain control of the media, the judiciary and other areas of pubic life. Its Law and Justice party, led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, proposed the media bill last summer. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in August he was “deeply troubled” by the proposal.
Commenting on his decision today, Dudas said, “I believe that generally limiting the possibility of holding shares or stocks in media companies is sensible when it comes to foreign capital,” according to Polish press reports. “I share the opinion that it should be introduced in Poland, but for the future.” He said “the bill and its amendments concern entities which are already present in the market. There is also the issue of media pluralism, of freedom of speech. When taking my decision, I took this element into serious consideration.”