Mass media in Poland
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The mass media in Poland consist of several different types of communications media including television, radio, cinema, newspapers, magazines, and Internet. During the communist regime in Poland the Stalinist press doctrine dominated and controlled Polish media. The country instituted freedom of press since the fall of communism. The Polish media system's main features are the product of the country's socio-political and economic post-communist transition. These features include: the privatisation of the press sector; the transformation of the state radio and television into public broadcasting services; influx of foreign capital into the media market and European integration of audiovisual media policies. Today the media landscape is very plural but highly polarized along political and ideological divides.
The media landscape
Since the fall of Communism, Poland has developed a plural but highly polarized media environment. The media landscape comprises, in addition to the public radio and television broadcasters, a variety of private media outlets, encompassing a broad political spectrum, from socially liberal to ultraconservative.
In sector of print media, the newspaper with the largest circulation is Gazeta Wyborcza, founded in 1989 ahead of parliamentary elections. It is managed by Adam Michnik, who was a dissident in the Communist-era. The daily has a critical stance towards the Law and Justice Party (PiS) government. The second largest paper is Rzeczpospolita, which has a conservative tradition.
The two main business-oriented dailies are Dziennik Gazeta Prawna and Puls Biznesu: they have a narrow, professional readership and are typically not engaged in the country’ political conflict. The two leading tabloids are Fakt, owned by the Swiss-German media conglomerate Ringier Alex Springer, and Super Express, owned by ZPR Media (Poland). These tabloids have a remarkable impact on public opinion.
In addition to national publications, there are several regional dailies: in this sector, the top competitors have sales comprised between 20,000 and 40,000 daily copies sold.
In the last years, sales of both national and regional dailies have been declining.
Political polarization also characterizes the weekly newsmagazine market. On the liberal side there is the Polish edition of Newsweek, followed by Polityka, both critical of the PiS's government. On the right side, there are the more recent Sieci, Do Rzeczy and the older Gazeta Polska. The right-wing weeklies do not form a uniform bloc.
Radio is a popular medium in Poland. In addition to the public radio broadcaster, Polskie Radio (PR), there are over 200 licensed private radio outlets, including the ultraconservative Radio Maryja. The two most popular radio stations are Radio RMF FM and Radio Zet.
The reach of television is very widespread. In 2016, the Poles on average watched television for over 4 hours and 20 minutes a day. The public television broadcaster is Telewizja Polska (TVP), which runs three terrestrial channels, one regional channel and several thematic channels. The TVP is an importante source of information for many Poles, in particular in small cities, though its popularity has been declining in recent years. In the private sector there are over 200 commercial TV broadcasters: the two leading one are Polsat and TVN.
In 2016, three-quarters of the Polish population had internet access. The government is working to increase broadband internet service. The major print, radio and television outlets have online editions. Online-only portals publishing a mix of news and entertainment content are among the country's most-visited websites (examples are: onet.pl; wp.pl; interia.pl; gazeta.pl).
The Polish constitution of 1997 guarantees freedom of the press and prohibits both preventive censorship and licensing requirements for the press. The media sector is regulated by the 1984 Polish Press Law and the 1992 Broadcasting Act, which have both been amended since then. The Broadcasting Act defines the rules for appointing the members of the National Broadcasting Council (Krajowa Rada Radiofonii i Telewizji, KRRRiT) and its powers. According to the Constitution, the KRRiT's role is to “safeguard the freedom of speech, the right to information, and the public interest in radio and television broadcasting”.
Even is its members are not allowed to belong to political party or perform public activities, the KRRiT in practice has been politicized, with members somehow affiliated with political parties. Also the governments’ reform attempts of the KRRiT have been largely politically driven. These attempts have been strengthened by the right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS) government which, after winning the parliamentary elections in October 2015, partly replaced the management at the public television and radio broadcasters.
The Polish media environment is highly polarized. Since 2015 elections, this polarization has become ever stronger. The cleavage concerns both PiS's controversial decisions and policies and diverging attitudes towards issues such as equal rights for LGBT people, refugees, the EU.
Poland lacks the tradition of an editorially independent public service media: public and radio television broadcasters tend to favor those in power.
Partisanship in the Polish media system goes hand in hand with bias among the journalists themselves. This bias is mirrored in the two major journalists's organizations that have different orientations: the Association of Polish Journalists (SDP), sympathetic toward the PiS government, and the Association of Journalists (TD), which is against the PiS's government.
Foreign companies hold a dominant position in the Polish media market. This fact entered into the political debate, in particular since the PiS's government took office. To contrast this, Jarosław Aleksander Kaczyński, founder of the PiS and former Prime Minister, called for the media to be “repolonized” [dead link] PiS politicians argue that foreign-owned media outlets pursue deliberately unfavorable coverage of the PiS's government with the aim of undermining it.
Polish print media and radio outlets are mainly private and diversified in terms of ownership, however foreign owners control around three-quarters of the Polish media market. The main domestic competitor is Agora, which owns Gazeta Wyborcza and a number of magazines, radio stations, internet platforms and a publishing house.
Foreign ownership is very strong also in the regional media which are largely owned by the German Polska Press.
Media freedom and pluralism
In recent years, according to Reporters Without Borders, in particular since the PiS went to power in 2015, media freedom in Poland has been significantly deteriorating. Just weeks after winning the 2015 parliamentary elections, the PiS passed a media law which gave the government direct control over public broadcasting. It also replaced journalists working in the public radio and TV stations and tried to throttle several independent print media outlets, such as Gazeta Wyborcza, Polityka and Newsweek Polska by restricting public advertising. According to Freedom House, this effort is part of a broader attempt to weaken checked and balances, silence independent voices and control the public sphere. PiS's control on the executive branch and the executive can undermine the independence of the judiciary and its aggressive attitude towards the Constitutional Tribunal has prompted accusations that it is undermining the rule of law in Poland. In January 2016, the European Commission launched a procedure in order to impose the respect of the rule of law in the country.
Reporters Without Borders in its 2019 assessment of Poland stated that the public media "have been transformed into government propaganda mouthpieces." Poland is rated "Partly Free" in Freedom House's 2017 "Freedom of the Press" report. It is ranked 62 out of 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom index by Reporters Without Borders, down from 18th in 2015.
The case of the public television and radio broadcasters
After winning parliamentary elections in October 2015, the PiS party replaced the management positions at the public television and radio broadcasters. This effort was not limited to public broadcasters since the party leadership tried to control also private media outlets for instance by advancing a proposal to restrict reporters’ access to the parliament.
In December 2015 the so-called “small media law” prepared by PiS was sent to the Polish parliament. The proposal, which was conceived as a temporary measure before the adoption of a more comprehensive media law, provided for the termination of the mandates of the current members of the national television and radio broadcasters’ management and supervisory boards and their replacement through the direct appointment by the treasury minister. The law created great turmoil in public media: the directors of several public channels left their position in protest. Public protests occurred across Poland as well as abroad in the environment connected the community of Poles living abroad.
The staffing changes were not limited to the managing positions. According to the Association of Journalists, 225 journalists left the public media during 2016, due to either layoffs or resignations. The new law and its effects were widely criticized also abroad: the European Federation of Journalists, the European Broadcasting Union, the Association of European Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Index on Censorship denounced this decision. In January 2016, the European Commission discussed the “small media law” in the frame of its assessment of the situation in Poland under the Rule of Law Framework.
In December 2016, the Constitutional Tribunal declared parts of the “small media law” unconstitutional, calling for the need to constitutional rules on the KRRiT which should have played a decisive role in appointing its management and supervisory boards.
In the first months of 2016 the PiS's government worked on a “big media law”, a more comprehensive reform of the media system. In April 2016, a draft Law on National Media was presented to the Parliament. The draft wanted to transform the public radio and television broadcasters into “national media”, thus shifting away from the model of editorially independent public service. The bill obliged the public media to disseminate the views of the prime minister, the president, and the speakers of the parliament and stated that the public media should preserve national traditions, patriotic and Christian values and strengthen the national community. The Council of Europe criticized the draft, describing it a move towards a “State broadcasters”. The law was not adopted: the government decided to pursue a less ambitious approach and proposed the Parliament a “bridge law” to go into force at the expiration of the “small media law”. The “bridge law” was approved in June 2016: the law stated that a newly established National Media Council have to be responsible for the appointment of the management and supervisory boards of the public media. The arrangement established by the law effectively guarantees the rule party a key role in appointing the members of the national Media Council. The law also does not forbid the new council's members from belonging to political party.
List of Polish media outlets
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TVP – public broadcaster
- TVP 1
- TVP 2
- TVP 3 (regional)
- TVP HD
- TVP Info (news and regional)
- TVP Polonia (for Poles abroad)
- TVP Kultura (cultural)
- TVP Seriale (drama)
- TVP Rozrywka (entertainment)
- TVP ABC (children's channel)
- TVP Sport
- TVP Historia (history)
- TVP Parlament
- Belsat (in Belarusian language)
Polsat – private
- Polsat News (24/7 news channel)
- Polsat News 2
- Polsat 2 International (or Poles abroad)
- Polsat Sport (sport channel)
- Polsat Sport Extra (sport channel)
- Polsat Sport News
- Polsat Café (health and beauty)
- Polsat Play (for men)
- Polsat Romans
- Polsat JimJam - for kids
- Polsat Crime & Investigation Network
- Polsat Film
TVN Discovery Group - private
- TVN 7
- TVN24 (24/7 news channel)
- TVN24 BiS
- TVN Style (channel aimed at women)
- TVN Turbo (for men)
- TVN Fabuła
- iTVN (for Poles abroad)
- Food Network
- HGTV Home&Garden
- Travel Channel
*TTV belongs to Stavka (51% - TVN, 49% - Besta Film)
Minor players and joint-ventures:
- Discovery Historia (history and documentaries)
- TV Puls
- TV Trwam (catholic channel; owner Lux Veritatis Foundation)
- iTV (interactive TV)
- 4fun.tv (interactive music; 4fun Media S.A. owned by Nova Holding Ltd., London)
- many local city and community cable stations
Many major players are also present on the market, among them: Canal+ Polska, Canal+ Sport, Canal+ Film, Canal+ Sport2, HBO, HBO2, EuroSport, EuroSport2, Discovery Channel, Discovery Travel & Living, Discovery Science, Discovery World, MTV Poland, VIVA Poland, VH1 Poland
Digital TV platforms (all private)
Polskie Radio (public broadcaster)
- Program 1 (a.k.a. Jedynka)
- Program 2 (a.k.a. Dwójka)
- Program 3 (a.k.a. Trójka)
- Program 4 (a.k.a. Czwórka)
- Polskie Radio 24
- Polskie Radio dla Zagranicy (Polish Radio External Service)
- 17 regional stations of Polskie Radio
Privately owned stations
Broker FM group:
- Radio Zet (nationwide)
- Chilli Zet (chillout and jazz music)
- Antyradio (rock music)
- Planeta FM (dance and club music)
- Radio Plus (soft pop music)
- Radio Maryja (religious, conservative, political)
- local radio stations
Polish radio stations in other countries
Press (all private)
- Gazeta Wyborcza (left-wing to far-left)
- Rzeczpospolita (centre-right)
- Dziennik Gazeta Prawna (centrist)
- Polska (centrist; edited in cooperation with the British daily The Times)
- Gazeta Polska Codziennie (far-right)
- Fakt (tabloid - German Swiss owned - Axel-Springer)
- Super Express (tabloid)
- Nasz Dziennik (catholic, far-right)
- Polityka (centre-left to left-wing)
- Newsweek Polska (Polish edition of Newsweek, left-wing. German Swiss owned. Axel-Springer)
- Wprost (centrist to right)
- Przekrój (left-wing)
- Przegląd (left-wing)
- NIE (left-wing, owned by Jerzy Urban, the Polish communist government's spokesman during 1981–1989)
- Gazeta Polska (far-right)
- Najwyższy Czas! (far-right)
- Tygodnik Powszechny (Catholic socio-cultural weekly, centre-right)
- Niedziela (Catholic, far-right)
- Gość Niedzielny (Catholic, right-wing)
- Angora (left-wing Polish and world press review, owned by Agora SA Cox Communications Media Development Investment Fund)
- Forum (world press review, rather centrist to left-wing)
- Top-level domain: .pl
- Internet users: 25.0 million users, 21st in the world; 65.0% of the population, 54th in the world (2012).
- Fixed broadband: 6.4 million subscriptions, 17th in the world; 16.6% of the population, 54th in the world (2012).
- Wireless broadband: 18.9 million subscriptions, 16th in the world; 49.3% of the population, 33rd in the world (2012).
- Internet hosts: 13.3 million hosts, 12th in the world (2012).
- Internet in Poland
- Telecommunications in Poland
- Television in Poland
- Open access in Poland to scholarly communication
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