First came the suspension of TVP World, Polish public television’s English language channel, in December.
On January 29, the State press agency PAP closed down its English language and information service The First News. Both services started under the previous Conservative (PiS) government.
TVP World was suspended and taken off the air on December 27, hours after the dismissal of its director Filip Styczyński. Despite a promise that the channel’s future would be decided by January 15, it remains off air.
The service had, for the first three years of its operations (2018-2021), concentrated on covering news and information on Poland. For the last three years it became a regular international news service.
The TV channel was funded largely by a grant from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and it covers the channel for 2024. Ministry officials say it is up to TVP to make a decision on its future.
It stopped broadcasting in December partly for logistical reasons when the studio it was broadcasting from became needed by other news services run by TVP. They had been unable to access their usual premises as they had been occupied by supporters of the former TVP management.
The service’s online portal has also been taken down with all material it had published since 2018 now unavailable to the public on TVP web pages. Apparently, that decision was taken as part of a general “verification” exercise, or as critics refer to it, “censorship”.
On January 29, PAP announced the closure of English-language service The First News, arguing it was expensive and “did not have any measurable impact on Poland’s good image” abroad.
Speaking to news website Wirtualne Media, PAP’s acting editor-in-chief Marek Błoński said that, as part of the liquidation process, the group had been “obliged to review spending” in all areas.
“The cost analysis regarding The First News confirmed the unprofitability of this project, and the substantive analysis led to the conclusion that running such a portal is not directly part of the tasks falling within the public mission of PAP,” claimed Błoński.
Dagmara Leszkowicz, PAP’s deputy editor-in-chief who managed The First News (TFN), told Wirtualne Media that the decision to close it down had come as “an unpleasant surprise”. He added that it was never meant to be a commercial project and was simply an attempt to provide information on Poland in English.
The moves against the English language services follow the newly installed Prime Minister Donald Tusk-led Government’s controversial decision last month to replace public media management and to put the services into a state of “liquidation”.
Public media over the past six weeks has been purged of all supporters of the former PiS government. That includes virtually anyone suspected of Conservative leanings, even if they did not work in the news and current affairs fields.
As a result, the face of public broadcasting in Poland has changed. All the mainstream media now appears friendly towards the new Government and Conservative views are pushed out to niche media with nowhere near the reach or economic clout of the main networks.
The Polish courts have so far refused to register the new management of the public media outlets or the liquidators of TVP and Polish Radio. The National Register Court on January 29, did recognise the PAP liquidator.
The Constitutional Tribunal, or court, a body whose members were elected during the lifetime of the last PiS government, this month ruled that using commercial law to implement changes in the management of public media or to liquidate it was unconstitutional.
The Government declared that ruling to be invalid because it involved a judge it contends was appointed illegitimately under the former PiS government along with two others who had “a conflict of interest due to being former PiS MPs”.