Catholic TV Channel Ignored in License Distribution
Category: Government Restrictions
Attack against: Faith
Nature of attack: Governmental | Media
Tags: Exclusion (of individuals or ideas) | Equality
The Polish National Broadcasting Council (NBC) allocated places on the country’s first 'Digital terrestrial television' multiplex (DTT) in the end of 2011. The procedure seemed to have been flawed, as the Catholic channel 'TV Trwam' was rejected without providing a clear justification of its decision.
The so called 'Multiplex 1' platform offers space for 7 channels. Three slots have been granted to the public service broadcaster TVP (TVP1, TVP2 and TVP Regional). The remaining four places - reserved for commercial channels - were the subject to the competition organized by the NBC. The Catholic channel TV Trwam did not succeed, but smaller, rather unknown commercial networks did.
This is a particularily important decision, as the technical future of the individual channels depends on it. For TV Trwam it is especially crucial, as the channel generates the funding for a widespread radio channel, standing and falling with the TV channel.
The Council claimed it took into consideration two main criteria: (1) the proposed content of the channel (2) and financial security of the broadcaster. The human rights organisation „Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights“ said that „these criteria were not sufficiently transparent and left the NBC with an extensively broad margin of appreciation.“ In their view, the NBC ought to define more detailed preconditions for the broadcasters which should have been communicated publicly at the time the competition was opened for participants. What is more, the HFHR would expect the NBC to thoroughly justify all its license decisions ex post. The NBC is a politically nominated body.
The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights underlined that „the distribution of the broadcasting licenses process is a matter of a public concern. It is also a very important issue for the functioning of the media market in Poland since the DTT multiplex offers the opportunity to reinforce the impact of a TV channel and to access to the new groups of viewers.“ They also reminded the NBC „about the international standards on regulating the broadcasting activity by the State and the obligation to respect the pluralism rule on the media. According to the European Court of Human Rights, the exclusion of the possibility of providing a broadcasting license, especially when the decision is not sufficiently and clearly justified, may constitute an interference in the right to the freedom of expression.“
The appeal procedure is still ongoing, but even in case the appeals succeed, it is not certain whether the broadcasters would be able to operate its service on the multiplex because the line-up of channels authorized by the NBC is now closed and there is no extra space.
The Permanent Council of the Polish bishops issued a communique on Jan. 16, "earnestly exhorting the National Council of Polish Radio and Television to assign the license on digital multiplex to Trwam TV." The Polish bishops explain that "the exclusion of a Catholic TV station violates the principles of pluralism and equality before the law."
We thank the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights for their report.
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Read also: www.zenit.org/article-34208