The announcements concerning regulation of the media market
So, can capital have nationality or not? And then, what's with the money, does it stink or not?
Making unfeasible declarations by politicians – which they must be aware of – is a negative but a permanent characteristics of politics, not only the Polish variety. Such declarations are often not only stupid, but made contrary to the sovereign, on whom they rely heavily. Declarations are unfeasible – whether due to lack of financial resources and infrastructure, or simply because the law does not allow them to be performed. One should recall (especially in an age when some commentators treat Brussels as a foreign body, as pure Evil) that the law, to which we must adjust, is not only in the form of Acts adopted by the Sejm. It is also the judicial decisions (in terms of possible to predict decisions in similar cases) and EU standards, including one of the most important – i.e. the principle of the free movement of capital.
For this reason, among others, I find the promise of re-Polonisation of media, which was foretold even in the election campaign in 2015, impossible to execute, at least in the shape PiS politicians describe. We won’t find the basis in the form of threats to public security by “German media”, as it is today said on the right-wing side. You do not need to be an outstanding specialist in the Community institutions to know that the free movement of capital is one of the cornerstones of the European Union. The idea to undermine this principle at the level of national legislation is very dangerous, and in the end undoubtedly harmful for the country, which decides to go for such a solution. There is no denying that the European Commission will contest that regulation which literally or in an implied manner will be preferential for the Polish capital – on the media or any other market.
The Ministry of Culture announced that by holiday it will present a draft act regulating the media market. Such an act is needed, but I'm afraid that the energy of the authors could go in the wrong direction. Anti-concentration regulations are a good idea, but they may not be created under the pressure of domestic politics and xenophobic prejudices. And what about the issue, the resolution of which has been advocated for a long time by journalists and local publishers? This is about the publication by municipalities of their own newspapers, which are advertising folders for politicians, financed out of our pockets, and which by the way hit hard the independent media. As for now, each government has been deaf to the requests to change this area.
PiS party, talking about re-Polonisation of the media market modelled after France or Germany, misleads the Poles. Not for the first time, of course. The regulations governing this market (incidentally, much more lenient than the ruling party now wants them to be) were created under very different conditions. They were introduced to protect the market structure, with strong domestic, already existing publishers. In Poland, strong publishers mean foreign capital, because the domestic capital could not or did not want to invest in publications, often being on the brink of financial bankruptcy.
Convincing that in principle foreign publishers pursue in Poland their own political goals, of course adverse to the current government, is a manipulation. It must be also pointed out that the media are not to favour the authorities, so even if all the media had Polish capital – in no way it would be sure whether they were pro or against the current authorities. Well, maybe except the situation in which all media are subordinated to TVP Television. Media is people working in them and the readers and viewers, after all. Everyone has views that determine them — they write, read, watch, say whatever they like, and whatever they believe in. The media of Ringier Axel Springer Polska have distinct political profile, but even the most suspicious supporters of PiS will have a problem in finding political hostility in fashion magazines of Burda, entertainment bi-weeklies or weeklies or in the regional newspapers of Polskapress. There is no way to find a legitimate answer to the question of why contemporary media, being strongly right-wing, with Polish publishers – can publish political magazines – and those with foreign owners cannot do that.
Nobody knows who would publish the “re-Polonised” papers. Paper press market, being very difficult and of little perspectives, requires publishers with capital and experience. One can order the State giants to assume the role of re-Polonised publishers, but the effect of such an action could prove to be fatal for many titles. Of course, if they had not glorified and strengthened the present authorities, it would not be a reason to worry about for anyone, well maybe apart from people working there and readers, who, as it would appear, are important for the authorities – after all – representatives of the sovereign.
There is no talks about the Ministry of Culture to try to have some discussions with the publishers. And it would be worthwhile to ask them how they perceive the problems of the media market, and how they can be solved. I’m afraid that the consultation may be conducted in the way that is traditional in Poland in the last 18 months, and fatal: entities get a finished draft and up to two weeks for opinions (sometimes several days), and, of course, these opinions are not taken into account. It’s a great shame, because there really is a chance for wise solutions that could be good for the market. However, the authorities do not want to make use of them.