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Poland/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.6 Media pluralism and content diversity

The Polish audiovisual market model is based on three categories of broadcasting: public service broadcasters, licensing - social broadcasters, and licensing - commercial broadcasters.

According to the report on the Situation of the Polish Audiovisual Media in 1989-2008, prepared for the Polish Culture Congress 2009, in terms of popularity, the Polish market is dominated by commercial radio stations. The television market is divided between the public broadcaster TVP and two commercial television stations: Polsat and TVN. Public television offers nationwide and regional programmes operating under the name TVP INFO (16 regional centres). Additionally, TVP offers four satellite channels: TVP Polonia (for Poles living abroad), TVP Kultura (culture channel), TVP Historia (history channel), TVP Sport (sports channel) and TVP HD. According to the report Social Diagnosis 2009, less than 50% of Poles had cable or satellite television, therefore only two basic channels TVP1 and TVP2 as well as TVP INFO have nationwide range. Other channels can be viewed only via the digital platforms and cable networks, so their range and influence is limited.

TVP Kultura channel was launched on 24th April 2005. It is aimed at the promotion of various cultural activities, including non-commercial artistic projects. The half of the channel's broadcast material is based on Polish Public Television's (TVP) archival programmes. The rest consists of programmes bought from foreign broadcasting companies (35%), e.g. Arte television and TVP Kultura's own productions (15%). TVP Kultura does not attract huge audiences. TVP Kultura is a satellite and cable television station and it is accessible to approximately 4 million people in Poland. In September 2006 TVP Kultura won the Hot Bird Award for the best European satellite thematic channel in the category of culture and education, beating Deutsche Welle and Rai Sat Nettuno.

Public radio and television are mainly financed from public funds – licence fees and budget subsidies. Advertising is an additional source of financing although some restrictions regarding public media are present.

There is a visible decrease in the number of radio and TV subscribers, which reduces the income from licence fees. According to data provided by the Central Statistical Office, in 2008 the number of radio subscribers equalled 7.3 million, while the number of TV subscribers was 7.1 million, relatively less than in 2007. The collection of fees is also problematic which led to the decision to stop the system of fees and to fund public radio and TV from the state budget. However public funding carries the risk of being dependent on the political situation and makes long-term planning difficult. In 2008, the Parliament adopted a new Media Law, although it was vetoed by the President and it did not enter into force. The new law had intended to change the rules for managing the public media in order to make them less politically dependent; however some of the regulations were considered as controversial by the opposition, hence the veto. In 2010, the new Media Law was been voted on by the Parliament and accepted by the new President, Bronisław Komorowski (for more information see chapter 5.3.7).

The major responsibilities of the National Broadcasting Council are set out in the Broadcasting Act and are twofold: to award broadcasting frequencies to public radio and television stations and to share income from the license fees between different public broadcasters. The National Broadcasting Council is also obliged to design, in consultation with the Prime Minister, state policy in the field of broadcasting. In 2005, the National Broadcasting Council created a document Strategy of the Polish State in the Field of Electronic Media for the years 2005-2020.

The supervision of the National Broadcasting Council does not prevent the politicisation of public media. A strong political influence on Polish public broadcasting institutions is very visible and commonly discussed.

Several complaints against public broadcasters have been issued which argue that they do not fulfil their public function to support independent and ambitious producers or young creators.

Anti-monopoly actions lie in the competence of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection. All projects that fall under this jurisdiction must be notified to the Competition Office if the applicant had an annual turnover of more than 50 000 EUR in the previous budgetary year. Under the Broadcasting Act (1992), the Head of the National Broadcasting Council can refuse to grant a license to a broadcaster who might dominate the market. Nevertheless, media concentration remains a topic of animated debate.

In 1995, the Media Ethics Charter was adopted and in 1996 the Conference of Polish Media established the Media Ethics Council. It consists of representatives of journalist organisations, press publishers, and radio and television broadcasters. The members of the Media Ethics Council are elected by the Conference of Polish Media by vote (determined by the majority) for a period of two years. The principle exists that the Council cannot be composed of individuals performing political functions. The Council cannot impose any sanctions but it is authorised to make announcements and statements in cases of breaking the ethical rules and standards in media. The Council also acknowledges complaints from customers. According to the authors of "The Report on Audiovisual Media" (prepared for the Congress of Polish Culture 2009), in most cases, the Council represents a conservative voice, or proposes a kind of "Solomon's court" - but it becomes unnecessary baggage for journalists forced to take immediate decisions. The weakness and helplessness (as well as the environmental shortcomings in recognition) of the Council and Conference of Polish Media is accompanied by numerous disagreements in the professional organisations of journalists.

The Press Freedom Monitoring Centre, operating within the Polish Journalists Association, defends the freedom of information in media.

In May 2005 the Council of Ministers accepted the document The Strategy of Transition from Analogue to Digital Terrestrial Television on the basis of which the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting begun. There are 3 digital platforms planned (multiplexes). The first stage of converting the signal from analogue to digital began in 2010 and finished in November 2012. The other two platforms will be introduced gradually and the whole process is due to finish by April 2014.

Despite the dynamic development in the field of accessibility to the Internet, Poland still faces the problem of digital exclusion. In developing infrastructure to deliver broadband Internet, Poland, in particular the eastern Polish provinces, lags behind the rest of Europe. The problem is also lack of media education, which could prepare young people to be more critical and conscious as well as creative and active in using media, especially new technologies.

Chapter published: 20-08-2015

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