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Big changes ahead for Polish public broadcaster

2007-11-11

Poland's new government plans major changes in both the structure and financing of Polish public television. Prime Minister-designate Donald Tusk said in an interview in the daily "Dziennik" that his government will introduce legislation in January to reduce the influence of - and ultimately eliminate - the National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT).

KRRiT is the primary state overseer of the content of public broadcasting and the distribution of government funding in the television sector, but has been criticized for political bias.

"Over the years the council has been found biased and incompetent, which was recently confirmed by OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) observers monitoring the Polish media during the elections," Iwona Śledzińska-Katarasińska, a journalist and member of the winning party in the Oct. 21 elections, Platforma Obywatelska (PO), told the website www.wirtualnemedia.pl.

The legislation would replace current KRRiT members, and the duties of their successors will concern only broadcast programming. Current responsibilities involving financing will revert to the Finance and Culture Ministries. PO members believe the new, simpler structure will be more resistant to political influence.

The ministries will also handle financing of film projects. State-owned Telewizja Polska (TVP) is one of the chief sources of film funding next to the Polish Film Institute.

PO also seeks to change the sources of public television financing by canceling the TV bond, a fee assessed on all television viewers, according to local media reports. The yearly fee is 186.70 złoty (€5,145) but only about 40% of viewers pay it, which is PO's main argument for eliminating it. The TV bond would be replaced by introducing more commercials on public television or a tax on private broadcasters to supplement state funding.

KRRiT Chairman Witold Kołodziejski has expressed his concern about the plans. In a statement Nov. 6, he noted that the bond system is used by nearly every European public broadcaster, because it prevents commercialization of national television and lessens government dependence.

"Dziennik" reported that the present TVP company will most likely be replaced by a new one called Public Television run by a one-person board answerable to the Finance and Culture Ministers.

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