Poland Fines Scripps' Unit for Coverage of Anti-Cabinet Rallies

(Bloomberg) -- Poland’s media-market regulator fined a news channel owned by Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. for its coverage of anti-government protests last year, raising pressure on the U.S. company being bought by Discovery Communications Inc.

Scripps’s main Polish 24-hour news network, TVN24, “violated” regulations by “propagating actions breaching the law and fostering activities that threaten safety” during its coverage of protests in December, 2016, the regulator said in a statement on Monday. Scripps said it “strongly disagrees with the decision” and will appeal it through the Polish court system, spokesman Dylan Jones said by email.

The 1.5 million-zloty ($420,580) fine comes as the government plans to overhaul the country’s media market, which officials from the ruling party say is biased against the government and is dominated by foreign entities, including Scripps and Ringier Axel Springer Media AG. The government has been accused by the European Union and human-rights groups of undermining democratic standards.

Twelve months ago, thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets following a stormy legislative session, during which the ruling party ejected an opposition lawmaker from a sitting for “insubordination” after he held up a sign in support of free media.

The ruling party plans to return to its media revamp next year, after passing its court overhaul which gives politicians more sway over the justice system and forces two-fifths of the nation’s Supreme Court justices into mandatory retirement.

Teresa Brykczynska, a spokeswoman for the media regulator, declined to comment on the specific reasons behind the fine when contacted by phone.

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