“You were talking about introducing BBC standards in Polish public media, but in reality you made Russia Today of them.” It was one of many critical remarks opposition MPs made on the night of 29 December 2015 in the Polish Parliament as the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party expeditiously pushed through the bill allowing the Minister of Treasury to change all executives at public television and radio immediately. The remark was related to Russia Today (RT), Russia’s international broadcaster, known as the mouthpiece of the Russian government.
Growing media concentration continues to be a troubling global trend. Worldwide, the top 10 global media players, dominated by U.S. companies, control ever-larger swaths of the media landscape. This situation causes media scholars and activists to raise concerns about the impact on democracy when an ever-growing share of the global communications environment is controlled by fewer people.
The victory of national conservatives in the Polish elections last week is a harbinger of grim times for the country’s journalists. Are their plans similar to those of premier Viktor Orban in Hungary? They resemble them, but bringing the media into line will not be a cakewalk in Poland.
In 2016 public media will become national media in Poland. This is what politicians of Law and Justice (PiS), the national conservative party, declared after winning the 25 October parliamentary elections and, earlier in May 2015, the presidential ones. It means a revolution for Polish Television (TVP) and Polish Radio (PR), strong public broadcasters that have 31% and 28% share of the market, respectively.
But what does it mean in reality for them to become national media?