WARSAW – U.S. company Discovery Inc. has been granted a Dutch license that would allow it to keep broadcasting its independent news channel TVN24 into Poland.
The announcement Monday comes as Poland's state broadcasting authority has for a year and a half refused to renew TVN24's license, which expires Sept. 26. The independent television channel is watched by millions of people daily in Poland and has published reports that criticize the country's right-wing nationalist government.
In another challenge for Discovery, the lower house of Poland's parliament gave initial approval last week to a bill which — if it gets final passage and the president's approval — would force Discovery to sell its controlling share in its Polish network.
“This license does not in any way solve the situation we have with the new law,” said Kasia Kieli, Discovery’s president and managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “The future of TVN and freedom of press in Poland is still at risk.”
Discovery considers the refusal to renew TNV24's license and the draft media bill to be discriminatory, and many people in Poland view the efforts as an attempt to silence the news outlet.
The government of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki denies that, saying it no longer wants companies from outside of Europe to have controlling stakes in Polish media companies, citing national security and sovereignty issues.
However, President Andrzej Duda on Sunday vowed to defend freedom of speech and the principles of property rights, comments that were widely interpreted as him suggesting he plans to veto the legislation.
The bill has also been sharply criticized by the European Union and many Poles, who view it as an attack on media freedom. It also is seen as a threat to the largest ever U.S. investment in Poland, one the company values at $3 billion.
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said late Monday: “We welcome President Duda’s statement this weekend in support of freedom of expression, the sanctity of contracts, and the shared values that underpin our relationship. We strongly encourage him to act on these values in regard to pending legislation that, if passed in the current form, could severely affect media freedom and the foreign investment climate.”
The company said would only use the Dutch license, granted under European Union regulations, if Poland's national broadcasting council does not renew TNV24's license.
“We hope not to need the Dutch license, but are deeply committed to continuing to operate as an independent news network in Poland and central Europe, and serving viewers with reliable and factual journalism,” Kieli said.
Last week Discovery said it had initiated a procedure against Poland at an international arbitration court to defend its investment in Poland, which now includes 24 different television channels.