Poland postpones contested media law debate due to coalition split

WARSAW, July 21 (Reuters) – Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party postponed parliamentary debate on a new media law, a senior lawmaker said on Wednesday, amid a split with allies over amendments that could see the American channel TVN lose its license.

The proposed legislation would amend Poland’s broadcasting law and prevent companies outside the European Economic Area from taking control of Polish radio and television stations.

The proposed changes have fueled tensions between Poland and the United States and sparked further criticism from Polish opposition groups that the PiS seeks to restrict media freedom.

Officials at nationalist PiS had signaled that the legislation would be discussed in a parliamentary session that began on Wednesday, but a senior PiS lawmaker told reporters the debate would be postponed until August 11.

“We will not get there during this session,” said Ryszard Terlecki, deputy speaker of the parliament.

TVN, which is owned by Discovery Inc and has criticized the government, is one of the largest television broadcasters in Poland. Its TVN24 outlet is the most popular 24-hour news channel.

The ruling nationalists have long argued that foreign groups have too much media in Poland, which distorts public debate.

Earlier this year, state-owned oil refiner PKN bought regional newspaper publisher Polska Press from Verlagsgruppe Passau in Germany, fulfilling a major political ambition of PiS.

But the party’s junior government ally, the economically-liberal Accord party, has expressed its disagreement with the PiS’s proposed amendments to the broadcasting law.

Rather, he proposed that companies from countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development be allowed to hold more than 49% of the shares of Polish media companies.

“We will not support this law without the amendment we have proposed,” Accord spokesperson Magdalena Sroka told TVN24 on Wednesday. (Reporting by Anna Koper and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Joe Bavier)

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