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Polish President Vetoes Bill Aimed at Media Company Discovery

The law would have banned any non-Polish company from owning a majority stake in a radio or television station

The president of Poland announced he will block a bill that would have forced Discovery to give up its controlling shares of the TV network TVN.

President Andrzej Duda said the media law, which had been passed by the nation’s parliament, was unpopular among the people. He also said it would negatively affect Poland’s reputation as a place to do business.

Under the law, no non-European entity would be permitted to own more than a 49% stake in a Polish television or radio broadcast station. Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) proposed the law in July, limiting TV and radio license holders to the European Economic Area.

Discovery, an American company, owns the TVN group and therefore operated the prominent news channel, TVN24. It purchased the network from Scripps Networks Interactive, another American company. It is the largest U.S. investment in Poland at an estimated value between $2-$3 billion.

Although the Polish senate had rejected the bill in the fall, the lower house of parliament passed the measure on Dec. 17.

The outcome of today’s surprise vote in the Polish Parliament should be deeply concerning to any enterprise investing in Poland and to anyone who cares about democracy and freedom of the press,” Discovery said in a statement to Variety. “Through this vote, Poland risks directly undermining the values that have connected Poland with Europe, and uprooting the foundation of the Polish-American relationship.”

The media company has operated within the European Union by registering as a stand-alone business. Discovery is on track to merge with WarnerMedia in the middle of 2022.

Ultimately, the company threatened to take the country to international arbitration court to protect its investment.

According to EuroNews, “Polish government leaders pushed the legislation and argued that it is important for national security and sovereignty to ensure that no company outside of Europe can control companies that help form public opinion.”

Other Poles saw the bill as an attempt to restrict TVN24, which hosts an evening news program that is regularly viewed by millions. 

Donald Tusk, the leader of the centrist Civic Platform opposition party, said “Duda’s decision showed the importance of pressure from the U.S. — and pressure from the street,” per ABC News

“Let no one say anymore that it is not worth it, that it is impossible, that we cannot do anything. We can and we must,” Tusk said on Twitter.

Duda said his veto — which was an action against the party to which he is aligned — was necessary. He said the bill would have violated a treaty between Poland and the United States that was adopted in the 1990s. Violating the treaty could have cost the country billions of dollars, according to the President. 

“We commend the president for doing the right thing and standing up for core democratic values of a free press and the rule of law, and we want to thank all the viewers and everyone that has supported this important issue,” Discovery said a statement following Duda’s decision.

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