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Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, has vetoed a controversial new media ownership law that Discovery had condemned as an “attack” on freedom of speech and a threat to the future of independent media after the country’s parliament passed it before the holidays.
The controversial legislation was designed to block companies from outside the European Economic Area from holding a controlling stake in Polish TV and radio companies. Critics have argued that the law was designed to target Discovery, which owns Polish TV giant TVN Group, which includes TVN24, Poland’s most watched news channel and a network whose reporters have often been critical of the country’s conservative ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.
TVN was acquired by Scripps Networks Interactive in 2015, with ownership then transferring to Discovery in 2018 when it bought Scripps. Under the legislation, Discovery would have had to sell a majority stake in TVN to reduce its holding in the business to a maximum of 49 percent. With TVN’s license due for renewal, some saw the law as the first step toward a takeover of TVN by a state-controlled company that would be friendlier to PiS.
In a joint statement, Discovery and TVN, had called on Duda to prevent the new rules from becoming law. After the veto on Monday, Discovery said: “This is a victory for the Polish people. We commend the president for doing the right thing and standing up for core democratic values of a free press and the rule of law, and we want to thank all the viewers and everyone that has supported this important issue.”
Duda agreed with the principle of restricting foreign ownership in media companies, citing laws on that issue in such countries as the U.S., France and Germany. But he also argued that passing this bill would be harmful for a business operating legally and also hurt Poland’s reputation as a place to do business.
Monday’s veto will also be seen as a victory for Discovery CEO David Zaslav. The country’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, referred to him as the “head of the opposition” on a Zoom call between the two men, Vanity Fair said in a recent Zaslav profile.
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