Commercial media outlets owned by 43 companies, including TV networks operated by Discovery Inc., went off the air in Poland on Wednesday to protest a planned advertising tax, which the government says will raise funds for healthcare and culture institutions hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
But industry companies see the tax, which could amount to between 2 percent and 15 percent of advertising revenue, as a way to hurt their finances and muzzle freedom of speech and media.
“What the government is imposing is a ‘penalty fee’ that targets independent media,” Discovery and Polish TV giant TVN Group, which it owns, said. “Discovery and TVN will always defend the liberty of expression and the stability of doing business.”
Wednesday’s “Media without choice” campaign saw private TV networks go dark and only featuring messages, such as “This used to be your favourite program.” Radio stations broadcast messages like: “Ladies and gentlemen, you will not hear any regular program today.” Newspapers and media websites featured similar protests.
Media companies, including foreign ones like Discovery and Ringier Axel Springer, had on Tuesday sent a letter to the authorities to protest and highlight the consequences of the fee. Critics argue that the ruling conservative Law and Justice Party is taking a page from the playbook of the Hungarian government and looking to stifle independent media voices.