Fr. Ireneusz Skubiś talks with Jacek Kurski – a chairman of the Polish Television

FR. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ: - For years we have been witnesses of policy in Poland so-called ‘policy of shame’. It resulted, among the others, from the words said once by Donald Tusk that ‘Poland is abnormality’. How would You refer to this problem, which was also present in the Polish Television?

JACEK KURSKI: - Polish Television has been emanation of this attitude, emanation of ‘policy of shame’ and idolized everything which came from outside. The example of ‘policy of shame’? Purchase of the film ‘Our mothers, our fathers’ and broadcasting it in the Polish Television. That is – taking on the German point of view, reversing vectors of moral responsibility for the Second World War. In the country in which the Germans committed horrendous crimes, murdered 6 million citizens, destroyed 38 per cent of property! And also the same Polish Television has not considered it as a proper thing for 25 years to initiate a film series or a feature film about the Exiled Soldiers or a cavalry captain Witold Pilecki – a hero who should become the hero of the Second World War on the world scale, because, as a victim of this war he undertook a fight with two biggest totalitarianisms of XX century ahd devoted his life in defence of freedom.

- At present the group of people holding authority want to bring back normality to Homeland. How is the Polish Television managed by You inscribed in it?

- We want the television to speak about issues important for Poles. It must be television of importance and particular matters. So far it has been competing with commercial media. I would like it to be simply normal. Honest information, a serious debate, an unfettered clash of opposites, a more ambitious entertainment, good films – including the family ones – a return to high culture. On 2 March 2016 the first episode of very popular ‘Pegaz’ was broadcast. It is also all about return to sport on the main antennae, purchase of matches of national representation in football – we are making an attempt to return to national football in the public television. The match of Polish representation in the public television ‘tastes’ completely different than in Polsat. It must be television of important issues in which the role of its authorities is making a dispute possible and guarding rules.

- Is it possible to carry out any reforms in the sphere of television in the presence of groups which have created it so far?

- I will say: now it is necessary to let new pikes into this pond. It is necessary to popularize a group of creators, journalists and commentators. It is happening now, also in the sphere of culture. So far the television has been a shell-like building and production took place outside television. The means to repair this state of things is popularizing a group of culture protagonists, producers and introducing new characters of mass imagination, writing contests into scenarios. Soon I will announce a contest on the serial about Adam Miciewicz. It is incredible that for 60 years in the Polish Television such a film has not been made. So, there is going to be a new opening ceremony referring to the sources of our national identity. New characters must possess the mass imagination. And this is the basic change in culture which will come during my presidency.

- This year’ s ceremonies of 1 March – the National Day of Remembrance of Exiled Soldiers were excellent. However, I felt that there should have been remembrance about priests. I personally knew two priests from the diocese of Częstochowa sentenced to death for their fight for freedom. Maybe it will be necessary to return to this issue one day…

- It has been the first opening ceremony and there are going to be others, we will be looking for such people. We are just beginning this work.

- The whole public life in Poland is undergoing strict judgments and even pushed away to foreign centres, which is exemplified by the issue of the Constitutional Tribunal or just a media reform. What is the role of the public television and other public media in it? Or maybe do you have any ideas about the victory of the Polish raison d’etat?

- Polish Television must represent the Polish point of view, Polish narration. It has got instruments for it, it must tell the truth – because only the truth is interesting – and it must follow rules. I gave examples of narration concerning the Second World War. We must produce a long film about the cavalry captain Witold Pilecki, show him as a hero, the symbol of XX century. We cannot be afraid of undertaking a discussion or disputes with ideological or cultural opponents.
An important element of representing the Polish point of view is also an idea – which is my best option – of building central-European television. Once I called it Poland 24, today I am more likely to call it Central Europe 24 or Intermarum 24 – (I’’m24). It would be an English thematic channel for 24 hours, managed by the common editorial office of Poles, the Czechs, the Slovaks, the Hungarians, the Romanians, the Lithuanians, the Latvians, the Estonians or the Slovenes and Croatians, that is , representatives of countries which got freed from the soviet dominance, and today are in the European Union and often have the common point of view, not only the political one – like seeing the danger from the East, energetic blackmail, the attitude to the issue of emigration of the so-called refugees or one’s own evaluation of pace and direction of European integration – but also the cultural one, like defence of some values. Such a television would be an excellent place for representing opinions and ideas, which are today hardly represented in the European discourse. Here I mean the Western-European conservatives. The idea is ambitious, long-term, future-oriented.

- In Poland there are various local media, including the Catholic ones. Do you see a possibility of using them in realization a program of a new public television?

- Certainly, I do. We are publicly obliged to follow Christian values, so, it is difficult that the public television in Poland, in which over 90 per cent citizens are baptized, would be aggressively laic, anti-catholic. We respect the autonomy of the state and Church, but presence of people of Church in a public debate must be treated as something normal.

- It is known that neo-liberal and anti-Christian groups, present in our today’s cultural life, have great support from their companions in Europe and in the world. What ventures should be undertaken in order to strengthen our native priorities?

- It is important to give the public media, which is Polish Television and Polish Radio, a status which does not break – as it has happened so far – communication with a big part of the Polish society of Christian belief. All this simply starts functioning and surely raises a lot of emotions and criticism from those who have had a monopoly for prestige so far, for authority and do not want to agree with the new one. Well, times have changed, the nation started claiming for its rights.

- You meet people with new suggestions important for the Polish culture which is Christian. How do you take their offers?

- I send them to directors of channels, agencies of television and film production. For example, Paweł Woldan came to me with his idea of a serial about cardinal Stefan Wyszyński. Everybody has a chance and I give them possibilities. They are not big, as my predecessors spent about 600 million zlotys on production in advance. But it is life and we must cope with it. Now I do not have any freedom of spending much money on building a new television content, but such possibilities will surely appear in a year or a year and a half.

- Sometimes I hear that although there are some changes in television, they are not clear. The opposition uses television possibilities in order to present its right in an arrogant and biased way. Whereas journalists are simply ambiguous. Wouldn’t it be necessary to opt for the truth and honesty?

- I think that I introduce an honest balance of parties. The fact that I am criticized by the liberal trend, which has lost its monopoly, or the leftist one, also through this voice which I accept with respect, and which is the voice of integrally rightist groups – proves that I behave according to the common sense and the golden mean. Public television cannot support monopoly, but it must create honest rules and follow them, and somebody who is the most convincing in a dispute should win. I say it in the spirit of a supporter. My duty is creating new rules. The trend which is opposite to either the rightist trend or even Christian sensitivity, must be present in the public discourse, in the public television.
We have 12 channels of Polish Television, 2.8 thousand employees and hundreds of cooperators – somebody will always come across a fragment which seems a tilt to him. For example, somebody will not like the broadcasted film ‘Ida’, another person will think there is too much about Cursed Soldiers, but this is pluralism, this is what freedom is based on. It is important that honest rules must oblige so that the public television would be emanation of beliefs of our society. Let’s put the end to monopoly!


„Niedziela” 11/2016

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl