Wednesday, March 02, 2011

TVP - What public mission?

A rank political stench is emanating from public TV broadcaster TVP these days as the broader political war is being fought out in the hallways and production booths of the broadcaster's swank new HQ in Warsaw. Like any good film that might be aired by TVP itself, we have a triangle of interests, reversals of fortune, possible betrayals and assignations, but with a decidedly down ending.

The opening scene came Monday when TVP's supervisory board decided to stop the suspension of Romuald Orzel as TVP president and Przemyslaw Tejkowski as deputy president. Both are minions of the conservative Law and Justice (PiS). The pair returned to their posts on Tuesday, replacing acting heads Boguslaw Piwowar and Pawel Paluch, both tied to the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD).

The deciding vote to unfreeze the PiS-related execs was reportedly taken by Grzegorz Borowiec, who is the representative of the Treasury and so of the Civic Platform (PO). Why would the PO help PiS regain control of public TV? Because it appears the PO wants to put pressure on the SLD to get a new supervisory board of TVP named by the National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT). The SLD has two of 5 votes and the council has been deadlocked on the issue since mid-December. If the KRRiT doesn't decide on a new board by end-March, it will be disbanded itself.

Next comes the blame game. Both the PO and the SLD accuse each other of conspiring with PiS to take control of public TV. PiS and the SLD had in fact run the broadcaster till the middle of last year when the loose PO-SLD coalition took control by suspending the PiS execs. PiS says the return of its subordinates is due to the result of a dispute between the PO and SLD.

Whatever the cause, PiS is back at the helm of public TV and is widely expected to begin re-asserting control. After the two execs were suspended, the head of TVP1 was swapped, rightist largely pro-PiS journalists (in some cases "journalists" since the bias was so clear) were fired, and certain pro-PiS shows were cancelled.

PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski is reported to want one of the most controversial shows led by the "journalist" Jan Pospieszalski to return and to start airing next week even. Kaczynski sent his trusted confidante and dirty jobs man Adam Lipinski to TVP's HQ to take care of this business on Tuesday.

The PO's plan is obviously to take a short-term defeat in the hope of a bigger long-term victory. PiS will accept its surprise gain with open arms and get that pro-PiS propaganda machine working again. This entire mess shows just how empty are Kaczynski's allegations that media is overly anti-PiS. The SLD will try to get as much influence as possible. To some degree, this shows clearly just what the SLD would do if in a rulign coalition with the PO (place its people in as many positions as possible).

The message: screw public broadcasting. Political control of public TV is far more important ahead of the October general elections.

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