Poland media power struggle

Poland polarized as media battles for control

The main evening news studio in Poland is under police protection, reflecting an ongoing struggle for control over the airwaves. This conflict is not only a dramatic contest in itself but also part of a broader power struggle that emerged after last autumn’s elections, ending eight years of populist rule.

Battler for control

The public broadcaster TVP’s entire building is encircled by metal barriers and additional police presence. The battle for control began with promises from Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s coalition to restore balance to the media, which had become fiercely partisan under the previous right-wing government.

Heightened tensions

In December, the new culture minister removed TVP’s top management, leading to the suspension of the 24-hour news channel. The backlash included accusations of an illegal takeover, with opposition figures staging a sit-in at TVP offices. The journalists, faced with constant security measures, relocated to TVP’s main studios building, continuing their work amidst heightened tensions.

Shift from divisive language

While the 24-hour channel, TVP Info, is back on air in limited conditions, the flagship evening news show has returned with a new name, “19:30.” The change reflects an attempt to shift away from the divisive language and partisanship of the past eight years. The government aims to present a more open and impartial television platform.

The recent opposition protest in Warsaw, covered by TVP to showcase impartiality, highlighted the deep polarization in Poland.

Chants and slogans during the protest, critical of Prime Minister Tusk, echoed the divisive rhetoric propagated by state TV in previous years.

Political prisoners

The detention of two former MPs, now considered “political prisoners” by PiS supporters, further fueled tensions. President Andrzej Duda openly supports them, emphasizing the political theater surrounding their imprisonment.

Prime Minister Tusk’s promise to unravel controversial judicial reforms faces resistance, as evidenced by the Constitutional Tribunal ordering the reinstatement of a national prosecutor sacked by the justice ministry. The ongoing struggle underscores the challenges in achieving media independence and political balance.

Concerns about the methods

Critics, including the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, express concerns about the government’s methods, while the government defends its actions as necessary for restructuring public media. The new team at TVP acknowledges the existing hostility but aims to create a more inclusive and balanced news platform, hoping to bridge the divide among viewers.

Despite a shift in some right-wing viewership to alternative channels, TVP remains a significant news source for a substantial portion of the Polish population. The ongoing efforts by the new team reflect a commitment to fostering a more constructive and unifying media environment.