Polish Television (TVP)

Polish Television (Telewizja Polska, TVP) is the national television broadcaster in Poland. The company runs 13 nationwide television channels, both generalist and thematic (focused on areas such culture, sports, movies, history and others), a network of local channels (under the TVP3 channel) and two international channels (TVP Polonia catering to the Polish diaspora worldwide; and TVP Wilno, focused on the Polish diaspora in Lithuania). TVP also runs Belsat, a broadcaster focused on the neighboring Belarus. As Belsat is a subsidiary of TVP, it is analyzed separately in this report.

Media assets

Television: National- TVP1, TVP2, TVP3 (TVP3 Białystok, TVP3 Bydgoszcz, TVP3 Gdańsk, TVP3 Gorzów Wielkopolski, TVP3 Katowice, TVP3 Kielce, TVP3 Kraków, TVP3 Lublin, TVP3 Łódź, TVP3 Olsztyn, TVP3 Opole, TVP3 Poznań, TVP3 Rzeszów, TVP3 Szczecin, TVP3 Warszawa, TVP3 Wrocław), TVP Info, TVP Historia, TVP Kultura, TVP Rozrywka, TVP Seriale, TVP Sport, TVP ABC, TVP Parlament; International- TVP Polonia, Belsat TV, TVP Wilno

News portal: PolandIn

State Media Matrix Typology: State-Controlled (SC)

Ownership and governance

The public broadcasting media in Poland (TVP and Polish Radio) are governed by the Act on radio and television broadcasting (known as the Broadcasting Act) adopted in 1992 and later amended. TVP operates as a wholly-owned State Treasury joint-stock company. The Minister of State Treasury set out the statutes of TVP in consultation with the KRRiT.

In 2015, the Sejm passed the Small Media Act that amended the 1992 Broadcasting Act. The amendments introduced changes in the appointment procedure of the public service media governance structures as following: members of the Board of Management, including the President of the Board of Management and members of the Supervisory Board, were to be appointed by the Minister of the Treasury (instead of the KRRiT as it has been the case before). In other words, the legal amendments gave extraordinary powers to the government to directly appoint the governance structures of the public media (TVP and Polish Radio), which had an immediate negative impact on the editorial independence of the Polish public media.

The legal changes were harshly criticized by international institutions and the European Union. Thorbjørn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, expressed particular concern about the impact of the new law on the independence of the public media. Dunja Miljatović, OSCE Representative on the Freedom of the Media at the time, criticized the direct control of the government in the Polish public media governance structures.

In 2016, somewhat as a reaction to criticism from European institutions, the PiS-dominated Sejm passed a new law that created a new National Media Council, which was put in charge of appointing the governing structures of TVP, Polish Radio and the Polish Press Agency (PAP). However, three of the newly created council’s five members were PiS lawmakers, which still gave the government decisive power in controlling the governing structures of Polish public media. By then, the government had already purged the public media installing their own people at the helm of these institutions.

After opposition parties won sufficient seats in the elections on 15 October 2023 to take power from the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, the public service media in the country, including TVP, Polish Radio, and the news agency PAP have gone through major changes.

The new coalition, consisting of the centrist Civic Coalition (KO), center-right Third Way (Trzecia Droga) and The Left (Lewica), led by prime minister Donald Tusk, began a reform of the public media in the country in the fall of 2023 in its ambition to reform these institutions into independent, impartial and pluralistic news outlets.

However, attempts to do that have been blocked by the Polish president Andrzej Duda, who represents the interests of the PiS. In late December 2023, he vetoed a bill put forward by the coalition related to the state media subsidies. Duda argued that the newly elected coalition is “illegally” seizing public media. As a result, the culture minister announced on 27 December 2023 that it put TVP, Polish Radio and PAP into liquidation. The move came after the management of TVP, known to be PiS loyalists, was sacked before Christmas 2023.

Source of funding and budget

TVP is funded through a combination of license fee (a fee imposed on the country’s households to support the public broadcasting in Poland), government subsidies and advertising. According to the License Fees Act of 2005, the National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT), Poland’s media regulator, determines annually the level of the fee, and not later than on or before 30 June.

Normally, the license fee is supposed to cover more than 50% of the broadcaster’s budget. However, a badly designed system of license fee collection (where postmen are supposed to get the money from each household in person) combined with people’s reluctance to pay the fee (either because they don’t like the station or do not want to spend money in general) led to a situation where the government subsidies represent, in many of the recent years, the largest source of funding for TVP: the government routinely uses financing from the state budget to fill the financial gaps created by the low license fee collection.

Some 60% of the total revenue generated through license fee is supposed to go to TVP with the rest being reserved for Polskie Radio (Polish Radio), the country’s public service radio channel.

In 2018, for example, TVP saw its revenues from advertising increase by nearly 14% year on year to PLN 908m (€211m), which accounted for 47% of the broadcaster’s total budget. The license fee contributed PLN 385.5m to TVP while the government approved a total of PLN 593.5m in state subsidy to compensate the broadcaster for the losses incurred from uncollected license fee. That means that the government subsidy accounted for some 30% of the TVP’s budget in 2018.

In 2019, TVP boasted in its annual report that the license fee generated some PLN 1.45bn (€330m) of revenue. However, the state covered a big part of that sum (because that part in reality was not raised), awarding the station a total of PLN 1bn (€250m).

In February 2020, following heated debates, the Sejm, the lower house of Poland’s parliament, approved a state subsidy of PLN 2bn (€470m) for the public media (of which some 60% was channeled to TVP, boosting the share of the state subsidy to over 50% of the station’s total budget). According to local experts, only 8% of Polish households paid the license fee in 2020. Critics slammed the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, arguing that the generous state subsidy is a method used by PiS to secure friendly political coverage on TVP.

In February 2022, the Polish President Andrzej Duda signed the budget act for 2022, granting a state subsidy of €500m to the Polish public media, some €400m of that going to TVP. In November 2022, the PiS party pushed for an approval in parliament of an increase by some PLN 800m (€171m) of the TVP’s budget to over PLN 2bn (€428m). Opposition MPs criticized the decision saying that it is meant to secure funding for the electoral campaign.

Editorial independence

Although the government has exerted for a long time significant influence in the editorial affairs of the Polish public media (TVP and Polish Radio), the legal changes adopted in 2015 and 2016 further cemented this control by giving the government full power over the outlets’ employment structures. The effects were seen immediately as most of the independent journalists from both TVP and Polish Radio were sacked shortly after the adoption of the 2015 legal amendments.

Journalists supportive of the PiS party have been employed instead, which transformed TVP and Polish Radio into openly pro-government media outlets.

Numerous reports from media NGOs, independent journalists and experts that criticized the increased government control over the editorial independence of the Polish public media have been published during the past five years. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Polish public media are mere “government propaganda mouthpieces.”

In the past five years, PiS politicians were appointed to the top management of the station, with negative consequences on the station’s editorial coverage. PiS, in defense, argued that all governments before exploited the public media, an argument that further reinforces that TVP is seen and treated by PiS as a state controlled media outlet.

The responsibilities of the public service media in Poland, TVP and Polish Radio, are enshrined in the Broadcasting Act. Although these legal provisions require the public media, among other things, to offer “services involving information, journalism, culture, entertainment, education and sport services which are characterised by pluralism, impartiality, balance and autonomy as well as innovation, high quality and integrity of the transmitted message,” these provisions are vaguely worded, having no impact on the editorial independence of the broadcasters as they are routinely ignored.

Through funding schemes and control of the governing structure, the government exerts total control of the outlets’ editorial affairs.

There is no independent/oversight mechanism validating the independence of the publisher.

October 2023