PRESS RELEASE published on 13 Jan 2016

EBU believes launch of EU structured dialogue with Poland is step in right direction

EBU believes launch of EU structured dialogue with Poland is step in right direction
Frans Timmermans, on the right, and Margaritis Schinas, Chief Spokesperson of the EC ©European Union, 2016

The EBU has welcomed the decision of the European Commission to engage in a structured dialogue with Poland to assess if there is a threat to the rule of law in the country. This assessment will include the latest changes to the media law.

Ingrid Deltenre, Director General of the EBU said “As Vice-president Timmermans has pointed out, there is a clear link between rule of law, democracy, and freedom of the media. As it stands, the recent Polish media law goes against basic principles and established standards of public service media governance throughout Europe.”

Deltenre added: “At the same time, the EBU believes that the launch of such a procedure needs full backing of the EU Member States and support by the European Parliament in order to be fully effective.”

On 31 December, the Polish Senate rushed through the first phase of the media law reform which allowed the government to immediately replace the members of the Management and Supervisory Boards of EBU Members TVP (Telewizja Polska ) and PR (Polskie Radio), and to appoint new members of its own choice, without the safeguards for an open and transparent procedure. At the same time, the newly appointed Directors General and board members are dependent on the government, as they can be dismissed at any moment.  The existing “buffers” between the government and the media organisations were abolished to reduce the editorial independence of the broadcasters.

The EU Commission has therefore requested information on the impact of changes in the law on Poland's public service broadcasters, as well as to the Polish Constitutional Tribunal. The European Commission College held a first debate today on these recent developments in Poland, following a presentation of the matter by First Vice-President Timmermans (responsible for the rule of law framework), as well as Commissioner Oettinger (responsible for media policy) and Commissioner Jourova (responsible for justice).

The EBU is aware that these changes mark only the beginning of a more fundamental reform of Polish Public Media. We remain committed to providing advice and expertise to ensure a proper legal framework follows which safeguards the sustainability, independence and relevance of public service media in Poland.

Telewizja Polska (TVP) and Polskie Radio remain full EBU members and their status as well as their involvement in EBU activities, such as the Eurovision Song Contest, is not under question whatsoever. The EBU is nevertheless very concerned about Poland's new media law and will continue to campaign to protect pluralism and freedom of the media in the country.