Intervention in the matter of transparency of the procedures for awarding licences for transmissions

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights requested Jan Dworak, the head of the National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT), to disclose detailed information on the procedure of awarding television broadcast licences for the operation of multiplex digital terrestrial broadcasting services.

The HFHR was particularly concerned with the fact that the KRRiT had failed to publish clear criteria governing the selection of broadcasters in the contest held by the Council in April 2011, during which several broadcasters such as ‘TV Trwam’, ‘Superstacja’ or ‘TVN Meteo’ were denied the licences (more information on this matter is available here).

The HFHR highlights that the Council failed to give sufficient reasons for its decisions concerning the award of broadcasting licences. For instance, the Council raised the financial arguments to justify its decision to deny the licence to ‘TV Trwam’ but gave no explanation as to why the financial credibility of the broadcaster had been disputed. At the same time, licences were granted to several TV market newcomers, whose situation appears to be much more unsure than the financial standing of ‘TV Trwam’, operating since 2003. According to the HFHR, the financial criteria employed by the KRRiT ought to be based on detailed parameters, such as specific financial sureties which a broadcaster entering the contest procedure should be able to present to prove their eligibility. Such parameters should be disclosed to the public, not later than on the day the contest is announced.

The HFHR believes that it is in the public interest to set out clear criteria of awarding and renewing all types of broadcasting licences.  Setting out such criteria is crucial for exercising the public control over TV broadcasters in Poland as well as overseeing the activities of the KRRiT. This is also a key precondition for the flawless functioning of the national media market and a guarantee of the media business stability. Further concerns of the HFHR refer to the lack of efficient mechanisms for appealing against the licence decision.

The HFHR also drew attention to the international standards governing the licensing regulations of broadcast operations and called for conforming to the principles of media pluralism. In accordance with the well-settled case-law of the European Court of Human Rights a denial of licence might interfere with the right to the freedom of expression protected under Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

The intervention has been prepared as part of the works of the Observatory of the Freedom of Media in Poland.

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