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US broadcast group threatens legal action over Polish media law

U.S. broadcast company Discovery is threatening to bring legal action against the government in Poland after lawmakers there passed a controversial media law that tightens rules for foreign companies.

The legislation, which must still pass the Polish Senate, proposes only allowing companies majority-owned by entities from the European Economic Area to hold broadcast licenses. That would exclude U.S.-based Discovery, owner of TVN, one of Poland’s most popular TV stations, and its all-news subsidiary TVN24.

The news channel, whose license expires on September 26, has been a thorn in the side of a government that has made great efforts to bring the media under its control.

Discovery said in a statement Thursday that it sent notice of its intentions to Polish President Andrzej Duda and that while the company “continues to strive for a positive resolution to this situation … should this fail, Discovery intends to commence arbitration proceedings” under a U.S. investment agreement with Poland “and seek full compensation for Poland’s breaches.”

It also said the legislation is “the latest assault on independent media and freedom of the press and takes direct aim at Discovery’s TVN.”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has rejected the claim that the law targets any particular broadcaster, saying “its aim is to prevent any potential merger or acquisition in the future which could be performed by an entity from the outside of the EEA.”

The U.S. government has also slammed the proposed law, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying Wednesday that Washington was “deeply troubled” by the legislation that he said “targets the most watched independent news station, which is also one of the largest U.S. investments in the country.” Politico

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