In Poland, Warner Bros. Discovery Fears For Its Future

EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) insiders in Poland have reacted with alarm after a group of European regulators said they plan to meet to discuss what the insiders believe could lead to the closure of the U.S. media giant’s operation in the nation.

The National Broadcasting Council of Poland (KRRiT) yesterday said it intends to organize a gathering of nine audovisiual market regulators from Central and Eastern Europe in Warsaw in September in a bid to “jointly counter Russian propaganda within the European Union.”

WBD insiders interpret the move as an attempt to potentially shut down its legacy Polish operation, which includes news network TVN24. They point to frequent attacks by the Polish government – the KRRiT overseer – that conflates its anti-government reporting with being pro-Russian. Last month, a TVN24 journalist was called a “Kremlin representative” by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the ruling Law and Justice Party, a move that was slammed by the Reporters Without Borders organization, while KRRIT Chairman Maciej Świrski recently tweeted saying he had refused an invitation to appear on TVN, adding: “I believe that appearances on TVN give more credibility to their manipulations.”

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TVN broadcasts a range of popular channels in Poland and the main channel carries an evening news program, Fakty (Facts), which regularly criticizes the government.

The group of regulators will come together in September more than a year after KRRiT signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Ukrainian National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting. In September and October of the same year, representatives from the KRRiT and the National Media Institute conducted a series of five online workshops for employees and associates of the Ukrainian regulator, with approximately 100 participants.

A WBD source told Deadline: “There is a growing concern over escalating attacks from the government on independent media in Poland.” The source implied that KRRiT is using the Ukraine War as a smokescreen for its desire to punish TVN.

The news comes a week after WBD Poland boss Kasia Kieli revealed that KRRiT has not yet renewed the license for its main channe, which expires next year.

The license renewal, which should be “a formality,” according to Kieli, was submitted six months ago but WBD has not heard back from the regulator.  “This is concerning after what we have experienced in the past with our news channel TVN24 and the recent attacks on our journalism,” she said at the time.

Kieli refused Deadline’s request for further comment on WBD’s next steps but insiders believe the ruling party is stalling on the license, which runs out next Spring, prior to the late-2023 Polish elections, where the Law and Justice party will be seeking a senate majority, led by Kaczyński.

The state regulator has recently opened investigations into independent media who have broadcast reports disliked by the ruling authorities. In 2021, the government also questioned TVN’s management structure before attempting to pass a bill banning foreign ownership of media companies in the European nation that would have meant WBD (then Discovery) losing more than half of its control of TVN Group. The controversial Lex-TVN legislation was, however, not ratified by Polish President Andrzej Duda.

KRRiT had not responsded to Deadline’s requests for comment by publication time.

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