Dworak above the law

Artur Stelmasiak

The National Broadcasting Council is afraid of the control by the National Control Chamber, like a fire. No wonder, as the first contest about the ground-based digital television is confusingly similar to the affair of Rywin. Is it going to be the same at the second attempt?

The National Broadcasting Council, during the presidency of Jan Dworak, has a separate vision of media pluralism, democracy and transparency of procedures. According to the Constitution of the Polish Republic, the National Broadcasting Council should stand on guard of freedom of speech and right of citizens to information. According to the law, the main task of the Council is to care about the media pluralism and care about the interests of receivers. What does this pluralism look like according to the chairman Dworak?

For example, it turns out that the media corporation of Polsat can broadcast even 13 ground-based channels, and the Television Trwam has not got any of them. The care of the National Broadcasting Council about the public interest looks much worse. The lack of place for the Television Trwam in the multiplex caused the biggest wave of social protests in the decade. Even 160 protest marches went through the streets of Polish cities, and the biggest one of them gathered a few hundred thousand people. 2.5 million signatures were sent onto the desk of Dworak.

- Where is the freedom of speech here? Where is democracy? Where is a social dialogue? - these questions were asked at the meeting of the Seym commission by Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, a director of Radio Maryja and TV Trwam. - We do not have anybody to turn to on this land.

Breach of human rights

Jan Dworak announced that the concession contest would be settled at the turn of June and July. Whereas the fight about the TV Trwam is still going on and shows that the National Broadcasting Council stands above the law. It has been indifferent to a few million protests of outraged citizens, appeals of the Polish Episcopate, the Spokesman of Civilian Rights, and Helsinki Foundation of Human Rights. Its decision got even into the report of the Democracy and Human Rights Office of the Department of the State USA. The Americans pay attention, among the others, to the issue of the freedom of speech and media in Poland. As the strongest example of breach of these human rights, they give just unprecedented decision about the TV Trwam.

- Digital broadcasting is for all citizens. However, it is granted only to the liberal-leftist party, for example, Polsat has already 13 places and is applying for the next one. ITI, to which TVN belongs, has already a few places. And we, Catholics do not receive any of them - said Father Tadeusz Rydzyk to a thousand of people gathered on the Royal square in Warsaw, for a picnic in the defence of TV Trwam.

The outrage of Poles is high. It seems that the decision of Jan Dworak was aiming at concreting media so as to exclude the Catholics and conservatives from the public debate. However, he miscalculated it because he had not expected so much social repercussions.

During the wave of the social outrage, politicians of the Law and Justice party and party of Solidary Poland had tried to order the control of the National Control Chamber last year, in which the concession process would be investigated. Unfortunately, it failed. The MPs of the Civic Platform, the Democratic Leftist Alliance and the Movement of Palikot rejected the act. It is very puzzling, because even the ordinary, routine control of the National Control Chamber showed that during the first contest of the National Broadcasting had been acting to do harm to the state treasury.

Whereas now, when the procedures of the settling the second contest are approaching the end, MPs of the Law and Justice party submitted the next project of the to the Seym about investigating the National Broadcasting Council. This time, the control would not be post factum, as it was planned in 2012, but during tendering procedures. - For there is anxiety that the National Broadcasting Council, also in the second contest, will be looking for pretexts not to grant the concession to the Foundation Lux Veritatis - says Barbara Bubula, an MP of the Law and Justice party and the former member of the National Broadcasting Council.- Therefore, we want the National Control Chamber to check whether there will be objective and the same criteria applied towards all broadcasters applying for the concession, in the ongoing contest. In the last procedure, the members of the council used criteria selectively towards various applicants, which is a perversion of all law standards.

Fear against the control

The Act proposed by MPs could consequently be a burden. Surely, it would throw a new light on the action of the National Broadcasting Council. Because, although the National Control Chamber investigates this institution in financial respect every year, it does not control the very concession processes. It can do it only to the order of the Seym of the Polish Republic. - Therefore, the MPs of the Platform will do everything to reject this project in the first reading - thinks Barbara Bubula. As it is seen, the control is not convenient for them and at every meeting they defend the decision of Dworak.

- Why are you afraid of clarity? -Father Tadeusz Rydzyk asked the politicians of the Civic Platform and the members of the National Broadcasting Council in the Seym. - If I did not steal anything and I was acting honestly, I am not afraid of the control. Whereas I see your great anxiety.

In response to this question, Jan Dworak said that the control of the National Control Chamber is an attempt of introducing anarchy in democracy in Poland. In his opinion, the whole social movement in the defence of the freedom of speech is lobbying for the sake of the TV Trwam.

- Democracy is also the social control through the MPs who represent the society in the Seym. Checking the National Broadcasting Council by the National Control Chamber is simply taking advantage of this democracy and instruments available to us - answers Mariusz Błaszczak, the representative of the Seym commission for the state control.

The debate lasting for a dozen months in the Seym commissions about concessions granted by the National Broadcasting Council, revealed the arrogance of the governing party and the members of the council. The chairman Jan Dworak is afraid of the careful control of the National Control Chamber like the proverbial devil is afraid of the holy water. Why?

- There are not any objective financial criteria, which would prove that the Foundation Lux Veritatis is in a worse situation, than some other broadcasters, who received concession in the first contest - thinks Andrzej Jaworski from the Law and Justice party.

'Miracles' of the chairman Dworak

The revealed documentation from the first contest showed a scale of abuses from the National Broadcasting Council. Some concessions were granted for non-substantive reasons, and even with omitting law, and concessions were granted to the subjects which have not existed earlier in the media space.

Everything points to the fact that some broadcasters took part in the contest about the ground-based digital TV stations, only to create appearances of media pluralism in Poland. For example, TVN quickly took over the control over the television TTV, which started off as a completely different broadcaster. Another example for a lack of care about pluralism is the TV station ATM Entertainment, which practically broadcasts the same what can be found in the offer of Polsat TV. This most powerful TV company turned out to be the biggest beneficiary of the digitalization process. Apart from four TV public channels, it has the whole media platform, the so-called mobile television. Initially, it was to be the television designed for mobile telephony. However, soon after Polsat TV purchased the company Info-TV-FM, it turned out that within the 'mobile' television, it was possible to sell decoders and cards for ordinary TV sets. Thanks to it, today Polsat TV has even 13 places of the ground-based digital television. - Therefore, the lack of concession for the TV Trwam shocks us a lot. Others get everything what they want, whereas, we, the Catholics don't. This is a dictate of the minority - over the majority - says Beata Kępa from the party of Solidary Poland.

However, the biggest controversies are raised by the lack of clarity of the whole concession process. Despite many letters and appeals from the Foundation Lux Veritatis, the criteria of evaluation were not defined during the ongoing contest. So, it is not known on what basis it will be settled, who of the applicants will receive a place on the multiplex 1.

Despite the fact, it is seen that Jan Dworak is in a very difficult situation now. He announced earlier, that one of the four concessions was going to be granted to the channel of social-religious issues. According to the assumptions of the contest, the television is supposed to broadcast a program which would be consistent with the teaching of the Holy See and in the unity with the Polish Episcopate. -Our anxieties got revived anew, when we found out that the 'wieczorna.pl' ('evening.pl') was permitted to the further phase of the contest - says Lidia Kochanowicz, a financial director of the Foundation Lux Veritatis.

For it turns out that there are not impossible things for the chairman Dworak. The initial concession conditions - according to the National Broadcasting Council - are met by the internet radio-television station, situated in a basement of a house in Zielona Góra, which does not have any achievements. What is more, the broadcaster proclaims views of "Judaism-Taoism- Hinduism- Buddhism'. So, there is a basic question to the National Broadcasting Council: where does the chairman Dworak see the unity of these opinions with the Catholic Church?

Maybe he wants to show the Poles again that not such 'miracles' happen during his presidency.

Lidia Kochanowicz, a financial director of the Foundation Lux Veritatis

- I do not think that there was a decision about granting concession to the 'wieczorna.pl'. Is there a possible scenario, that nobody will be granted the concession of religious character, because of a pretext?

- From the financial point of view, the 'wieczorna.pl' does not differ in anything from the Stavka or Eska company, whose possessions were zero, and even negative. Despite that, they received concessions. However, I do not think that the council will grant a place to the 'wieczorna.pl', as it would be too big abuse.

- Can a place designed for the religious TV, be granted, for example, to a channel of a different character?

- The National Broadcasting Council is above the law. So, it can do literally everything. Its members can outvote every act. Nobody is controlling them.

- Therefore the TV Trwam cannot enforce its rights.

- Exactly. We go to courts, the Seym and various commissions. Despite the great social support, our appeals bring no results.

- What did the National Broadcasting Council answer to the request of the Foundation, which applied for the information about financial criteria?

- We asked about financial indicators which will be used during granting concession. So, we asked a very simple question which is not hard to reveal.

- What was the answer?

- They wrote back that they would not give an answer because they were not obliged to.

- And what about a good will?

- You are joking…

- Why are they insisting so?

- I do not have doubts that politics is at stake. After all, the members of the National Broadcasting Council were elected from a political key and must fulfill their duties. Obviously, some politicians find the teaching of the Church and the transmission of the TV Trwam inconvenient.

- What will happen when the TV Trwam receives the concession?

- We are not fighting about the concession for ourselves. We are fighting so that people could watch religious celebrations easily and for free and learn the teaching of the Church. We see that it is very important for the society. Millions of Poles expect that the TV Trwam will be on the multiplex. So, we are fighting in their interest, not ours.

Interview conducted by Artur Stelmasiak


"Niedziela" 23/2013

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