21 July, 2016
Poland - Act on the National Media Council
On 22 June 2016, the Act on the National Media Council was passed by the Polish Parliament (Official Journal “Dz.U.” of 29 June 2016, no 929). This Act defines the tasks, powers, organisation and procedure for the appointment of the members of the newly created National Media Council.
The Media Council is a body that has the power to appoint and dismiss the members of the governing bodies of the public radio and television and the Polish Press Agency. Further to the law, the Council shall consist of five members, three of them appointed by the Sejm - the Lower House of the Polish Parliament - and two by the President of the Republic of Poland for term of six years. According to the law, the President of Poland shall appoint members of the Council from candidates nominated by the most important parliamentary opposition groups. The Chairman of the Council is to be elected from among the members.
A non-official translation of the Act in English is available below.
There has been many changes to the broadcasting laws in Poland recently, with a particular focus on the regulation of public service media which have provoked quite considerable public outcry.
On 11 January 2016, the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA) had issued a Statement on the necessity of independent media, inter alia considering that the amendment to the Act on Radio and Television introduced on 7 January 2016 raised serious concerns on the future independence of Polish public broadcasting organizations and deprives the Polish independent National broadcasting Council KRRiT, of its power to nominate and dismiss the management of supervisory boards of the public service broadcasters.
On 6 June 2016, the Council of Europe published an Opinion prepared by well-known regulatory experts Eve Salomon and Jean-François Furnémont on three draft Acts regarding Polish public service media (the draft “Big Media Law package”, i.e. the draft Act on National Media, draft Act on Audiovisual Contribution and draft Act on Provisions introducing the Act on National Media and Act on Audiovisual Contribution). These draft bills were submitted to the Sejm (lower chamber of Polish Parliament) on 20 April 2016 for discussion. The expert opinion focused on how the proposed provisions affect the democratic governance and control mechanisms of the public broadcaster in alignment with CoE standards; notably editorial independence and institutional autonomy to public service institutions. A meeting qualified as "constructive" took place on 17 May between the experts and the Deputy Minister of Culture and National Heritage, in charge of the Reform of Public Media. The issues underlined in the expert opinion were discussed in detail, including possible amendments to the draft legislation.
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe announced on 9 June that the adoption of the draft laws, due to enter into force on 1 July, would be postponed - as the polish Ministry needed more time to align the draft laws with Council of Europe standards. In the meantime, a bridge law (the above mentioned Act on the National Media Council) would put in place a new media council to supervise public media.
So far, only one element of the "big media law package", concerning the National Media Council came into force (with changes introduced by the MPs). The other two texts are no yet discussed in the Parliament.
Sources: National Broadcasting Council/Council of Europe/ European Audiovisual Observatory