TVN24 is still waiting for the license extension by the National Broadcasting Council. According to “Dziennik Gazeta Prawna”, a few years ago the current president of Poczta Polska, Tomasz Zdzikot, signed an expert opinion on the basis of which the National Broadcasting Council recognized TVN as a European entity. Today, the head of the National Broadcasting Council, Witold Kołodziejski, calls such an interpretation of the regulations fiction.
“DGP” got to the opinion on the sale of shares in a company with a Polish RTV license, which was prepared in January and February 2015 by the legal office of the National Broadcasting Council. KRRiT then analyzed the acquisition of TVN by Scripps Networks Interactive. “The buyer was a company registered in the EU and that was enough for the regulator,” the newspaper points out.
The daily reminds that, according to the Broadcasting Act, the maximum share of foreign capital in entities that can obtain Polish licenses is 49%. However, this limit does not apply to capital from the European Economic Area, which is treated in the media on a par with Polish capital.
The current head of the National Broadcasting Council, Witold Kołodziejski, calls this interpretation “pure fiction” and circumventing the law. “The Council has not made a decision for over a year and a half to extend the license of the TVN24 satellite channel, which expires on September 26. Theoretically, the broadcaster should receive a license for another 10 years, unless it has grossly violated the RTV Act” – indicates “DGP”.
However, the newspaper points out that in practice no vote of the council resulted in a decision “due to sudden doubts as to the country of origin of the concessionaire”. In addition, the daily reminds that the KRRiT operating in the same line-up as today, less than a year ago renewed the license of the terrestrial channel TTV, the direct concessionaire of which is Stavka, a company owned by TVN.
TVN Group – opinion of KRRiT lawyers
A week ago, the head of the National Broadcasting Council, Witold Kołodziejski, stated that the problem “may have been noticed too late” and that “circumventing the regulations” lasts six years. He stressed that the problem stemmed from a precedent created in 2015. The then chairman of the National Broadcasting Council was Jan Dworak. According to Kołodziejski, the interpretation that allowed Scripps to enter the Polish market through a company registered in the EU was carried out using the “fait accompli method”.
Dworak told DGP that six years ago “it was decided by legal expertises which stated that in the light of media law it is not an American company, but a European one”. He added that the most important thing was the opinion of the KRRiT lawyers.
The newspaper has copies of the opinions drawn up at the regulator’s office at the time. They were signed by the then deputy director of the legal department, Tomasz Zdzikot, the current president of Poczta Polska, a close associate of Mariusz Błaszczak. In 2015, Zdzikot stated that the acquisition by a foreign entity of shares in a company with a Polish license “requires the permission of the chairman of the National Council issued on the basis of a resolution of the National Broadcasting Council”. Such “permission may not be granted” if foreign capital covers over 49% of the total. shares. The author of the opinion stipulated that the sale of a company with a license without the required permit “will be invalid under the law”.
Gazeta points out that with regard to the acquisition of TVN by Scripps, two elements of Zdzikot’s expertise are of key importance. He states that in the case of entities from the EEA, the permission of the chairman of the National Broadcasting Council for the transaction “will not be required”, as the limit of 49% does not apply to them. And emphasizes that “the fact that the company is controlled by an entity outside the EEA does not deprive the company of the qualities of a foreign person established in an EEA State, and therefore it is not subject to the requirement to obtain the permit in question”. It adds that to consider as decisive the “origin of the non-EEA parent company” would be contrary to the intention of the legislator.
“Dziennik Gazeta Prawna” asked the National Broadcasting Council whether its legal office upholds the opinion from 2015. The newspaper received no reply. Poczta Polska answered similar questions on behalf of Zdzikot, the company sent “DGP” to the National Broadcasting Council. “The broadcaster, seeking a license for TVN24, presented the council with some new expert opinions maintaining the existing interpretation. The council claims that it has analyzes showing the opposite” – reminds the newspaper.
Anti-TVN project and license for TVN24
On July 7, a group of Law and Justice deputies submitted to the Sejm a draft amendment to the Broadcasting Act. “The will of the legislator is that companies based in Poland cannot be controlled by entities from outside the European Economic Area” – it was written in the justification. Commentators agree that the changes are aimed at TVN’s independence. Sejm’s Culture and Media Committee during the session on July 27 adopted with amendments the draft amendment to the media law.
TVN24 is still waiting for the National Broadcasting Council to extend its license, which expires on September 26. An application for its extension was submitted in February 2020. KRRiT claims that the problem lies in the “ownership situation” of the TVN group.
The station’s management wrote in a statement that in 2015 the National Broadcasting Council accepted the entry of American capital into TVN. Since 2016 – under the same ownership conditions – KRRiT has already issued licenses for TVN24 BiS, TTV and TVN International West. Two votes in the National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) have been held in recent days regarding the license for TVN24. However, no decisions were made.
TVN is owned by Discovery through its subsidiary Polish Television Holding BV in the Netherlands, and thus belonging to the European Economic Area.
Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, TVN24 Biznes
Main photo source: TVN