August 12, 2021
Discovery Inc., which is seeking to co-own and control WarnerMedia, is facing the possibility of being barred from owning and operating a television station in Poland. The nationalist ruling political party is trying to enact legislation that would prohibit any foreign company from owning a majority stake in local TV broadcasters, including over-the-top media.
Discovery owns and operates TVN, a Polish broadcaster that often airs stories critical of the populist “Law and Justice” right-wing party that spearheads the coalition government. Discovery is looking to expand its branded Discovery+ streaming service throughout Europe.
The ruling party says the proposed legislation is aimed at preventing overarching influence from Russia and China, but critics contend the move is designed to curb press freedoms and government scrutiny.
“Poland’s future as a democratic country in the international arena and its credibility in the eyes of investors depend on this,” Discovery said in a statement first reported by the AP.
The action has drawn notice from the U.S. State Department, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who urged Polish President Andrzej Duda not to sign the bill.
“The United States is deeply troubled by draft legislation passed today by the lower house of the Polish parliament that targets the most watched independent news station, which is also one of the largest U.S. investments in the country,” Blinken wrote in a statement. “Poland has worked for decades to foster a vibrant and free media. This draft legislation would significantly weaken the media environment the Polish people have worked so long to build. This draft legislation threatens media freedom and could undermine Poland’s strong investment climate.”
Poland, a NATO ally, is home to more than 4,500 U.S. soldiers.