Poland Calls for Media Ownership Changes Amid Rift With U.S.

(Bloomberg) -- Poland renewed its call for a “re-Polonization” of foreign-owned media amid a rift with the U.S. about pressure on local broadcasting group TVN SA, which is controlled by Discovery Inc.

Foreign ownership of the media “isn’t healthy,” Senate Speaker Stanislaw Karczewski told Rzeczpospolita daily in an interview Thursday. Earlier this week, ruling party officials criticized the U.S. ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, over her support for TVN, which accused the government of intimidating its journalists.

“In the U.S., there’s no French or German television providing news on U.S. matters,” Karczewski said. “I’m in favor of re-Polonization of the media, banks and other institutions, which should be majority-owned by Poles.”

The call to change media ownership rules escalates a row between Poland and the U.S. over media freedom that was reignited by a letter Mosbacher sent to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Last week, Polish security agents entered the home of a camera operator who authored TVN’s investigative report about neo-Nazis celebrating Adolf Hitler’s birthday, while ruling party officials called for an investigation to check if the video wasn’t staged.

While the government attempted to cool the rift Wednesday, calling the ambassador’s letter “an incident” that would not change a very good relationship between Warsaw and Washington, Karczewski questioned whether Mosbacher should have sent the letter at all.

“It’s not the role of an ambassador to defend journalists,” he said. “It’s not the role of an ambassador to defend corporations.”

Last year, Poland’s media regulator slapped a fine on TVN, one of two major private TV broadcasters in the country, for the way it covered anti-government protests. The fine was eventually dropped after an outcry from the U.S. government and companies.

Ruling party officials have repeatedly accused the foreign-owned media of an anti-government bias and called for changes in media rules to force out non-Polish outlets.

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