President vetoes disputed Polish media law

President vetoes disputed Polish media law

Poland’s president said on Monday he would veto a media law that would have forced US company Discovery to give up its majority stake in Polish television network TVN. Andrzej Duda said the law was unpopular and would have tarnished Poland’s business reputation.

A bill recently passed by the Lower House of Parliament would have prohibited any non-European organization from owning more than 49 percent of the shares in a Polish radio or television station. However, in practice, the law would have affected only one existing company, American Discovery Inc. By law, the company should have sold most, or even all, of the service provider TVN, one of the last independent Polish media companies.

Escape to independent news

Polish government leaders argued in favor of the legislation that it was important for national security and sovereignty to ensure that no company outside Europe could control companies that helped shape public opinion.

However, many Poles argued that the bill, advocated by the ruling Doha-backed Law and Justice party, would silence millions of TV news channels called TVN24.

Duda, who was pressured by the US government to veto the bill, argued that it was important for Poland to be seen as an honest partner by its allies. The acquisition of TVN was the largest US investment to date in Poland, with Discovery now valuing the company at $3 billion.

It was the largest American investment to date

Mass protests have recently erupted across the country against the media law, while Discovery has threatened to sue Poland in international arbitration.

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Duda says he agrees in principle that countries should restrict foreign acquisitions of media companies, saying that many other democracies, including the United States, France and Germany, have such legislation in place. But he also said that in this case, the law would have hurt a company already operating legally in Poland.

He noted that signing the bill would have cost the nation billions of dollars and said he shares the views of many of his Polish colleagues that the bill is not necessary now due to other problems.

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