Poland’s upper house of parliament has rejected sweeping amendments to the country’s media law that seek to prevent non-EU ownership of Polish media companies – a promising development for Discovery and its Polish company, TVN Group.
In a vote on Thursday, the Senate decided to reject the bill, called “Lex TVN”, with 53 votes against Lex TVN, 37 against and three abstentions. The vote comes less than a month after the lower house of parliament, known as the Sejm, voted in favor of the controversial bill, with 228 votes in favor, 216 against and 10 abstentions.
Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party first called for amendments to the local broadcasting law in July, specifying that TV and radio licensees cannot be directly controlled or indirectly by entities that are not located in the European Economic Area. The new media law squarely targets Discovery, the US owners of Poland’s TVN group, which operates the country’s biggest news channel, TVN24. Valued at around $2 billion, TVN represents the largest US investment in Poland.
The bill will now return to the Sejm (lower house of parliament) for further discussion.
Kasia Kieli, President and CEO of Discovery in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), said of Thursday’s Senate vote: “The Senate has sent a clear signal that the bill is an attack on democratic principles. fundamentals of freedom of expression and independence. medias. We are however still concerned about the future of TVN and independent media in Poland as the bill may still be passed by the Sejm and the license of our news channel TVN24 is still not renewed.
Discovery has made it clear that it is ready to fight to keep its activities in Poland. In August, the company pledged to file a lawsuit to block the bill under the longstanding bilateral trade treaty between the United States and Poland.
Talk to Variety Last month, JB Perrette, president and CEO of Discovery Networks International, pointed out that the proposed changes not only undermine Discovery’s business interests in Poland, but “will fundamentally destabilize the country for all businesses.” One of the fundamentals of investing is a sense of the rule of law and what that means for the safety and certainty of your business investment.
Discovery – which is set to merge with WarnerMedia in a mega-deal expected to close in mid-2022 – applied to renew its current 10-year media license for TVN 18 months ago, but is still awaiting the Board. Broadcasting Authority (KRRiT) for approval. The license is due to expire on September 26.
Until now, Discovery has operated in Poland by registering as a stand-alone company within the European Union, fulfilling the requirements that prevent non-European companies from owning more than 49% of national media. However, the proposed new rules would clamp down on any foreign ownership of Polish media.
Such a scenario would likely force Discovery to sell 51% of its stake in TVN.