One-sidedness of TVP’s broadcasts violates the Broadcasting Act
On the basis of Article 10 paragraph 3 of the Broadcasting Act, KRRiT Chairman Jan Dworak called on Telewizja Polska to cease its violation of Article 21 paragraph 2 subparagraphs 2 and 3 of the Act through its creation and distribution of broadcasts inconsistent with the requirement to provide reliable information on a vast diversity of events and processes and to encourage the unconstrained development of citizens’ views and formation of public opinion.
The National Broadcasting Council received a complaint by Senator Jan Rulewski concerning the programme Minęła dwudziesta
, which was broadcast on TVP Info on 4 June 2016 at 8:00 PM.
Senator Jan Rulewski, who took part in the discussion from outside the TV studio, accused the broadcast’s host, Adrian Klarenbach, of a lack of objectivity, bias and of only addressing one side of the debate, as well as a lack of response to the threats directed towards the senator by one of the two participants present at the TVP Info studio.
The National Broadcasting Council also received 23 viewer complaints and one complaint by MP Grzegorz Furgo regarding the material broadcast on Wiadomości on 7 and 8 July 2016 covering the NATO summit in Warsaw.
An analysis of the content of Minęła dwudziesta
revealed that, in the discussion on the anniversary of the election of 4 June 1989, the guests presented completely disparate views as to the events leading up to the election and of Polish history as a whole after 1989. During the broadcast, host Adrian Klarenbach, who interrupted Senator Jan Rulewski several times as he tried to speak and prevented him from taking a firm position or presenting his full opinion, supported the views expressed by participant Ryszard Majdzik, who was the first to be able to present his opinion without interruption.
The journalist’s silent consent should be considered as an additional sign of bias and of his identification with speech of that kind, which, in combination with the overt presentation of his own views earlier, should be judged as going against the principles that apply to programmes by a public broadcaster.
In accordance with Article 21 paragraph 1 of the Broadcasting Act (Journal of Laws 2016 items 639 and 929), public radio and television shall carry out their public mission by providing, on terms laid down in the Act, the entire society and its individual groups with diversified programme services and other services in the area of information, journalism, culture, entertainment, education and sports which shall be pluralistic, impartial, well balanced, independent and innovative, marked by the high quality and integrity of the broadcast. In the opinion of KRRiT, the broadcast, due to its one-sided nature, violates the regulation set out in Article 21 paragraph 2 subparagraph 3 of the Act, according to which programmes and other services by public radio and television should encourage the unconstrained development of citizens’ views and formation of public opinion.
In the complaints concerning the material prepared by journalist Klaudiusz Pobudzin, entitled “Polska droga do NATO” [Poland’s road to NATO] and broadcast on Wiadomości on 7 July 2016,
the accusation was made that the material inaccurately presented the well-known historical events surrounding the entrance of Poland into NATO, in particular that it disregarded the roles played by Prof. Bronisław Geremek and Presidents Lech Wałęsa and Aleksander Kwaśniewski, among others.
An analysis of the material’s content indicated that the author, by ignoring historical facts, presented the events surrounding Poland’s bid to join NATO in a selective and partial way, negatively depicting the participation of politicians connected with the Freedom Union party and leftist circles in successive stages of Poland’s accession. The structure of the informational material in question, which was manipulated in the aforementioned way, not only demonstrates an ignorance of historical facts, but also stands as confirmation of the low quality of the author’s work and serious lack of journalistic skills.
In the complaints concerning material prepared by Bartłomiej Graczak and broadcast on Wiadomości on 8 July 2016,
the broadcaster was accused of manipulating information and dishonestly presenting the remarks made by the US President in the material covering the joint press conference held after the meeting of Presidents Andrzej Duda and Barack Obama.
An analysis of the material’s content indicated that the statement made by President Barack Obama, which referred in part to the situation of the Constitutional Tribunal and in which he expressed his concern over certain actions and the impasse
surrounding the institution, was taken out of context and unjustifiably abridged. In the material prepared for Wiadomości
, the words of President Barack Obama were presented in such way that viewers could interpret them as expressing only praise for Polish democracy. A comparison of the text of the statement by the US President published on the website of the US Embassy in Poland with the shortened statement used by the editors of Wiadomości
leads one to conclude that the public broadcaster abdicated its responsibility for the content of its message and abandoned its duty to honestly and reliably depict events.
The National Broadcasting Council finds the actions by the broadcaster mentioned above to be unacceptable, and, as a safeguard of the public interest and the right to information in radio and television (Article 213 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland), it cannot ignore such a blatant threat to the public’s right to reliable information on a programme by a public broadcaster.
In addition, the above actions stand as violations of Article 21 paragraph 2 subparagraphs 2 and 3 of the Broadcasting Act, according to which programmes and other services by public radio and television shall provide reliable information on the vast diversity of events and processes taking place in Poland and abroad and encourage the unconstrained development of citizens’ views and formation of public opinion.
As part of its investigation into the complaints concerning Wiadomości, on 12 July the National Broadcasting Council requested Telewizja Polska to respond to the complaints and to send its recorded material of the broadcast in accordance with Article 20 paragraph 1 of the Broadcasting Act. Several examples of viewer complaints were attached to the letter.
In response to KRRiT’s letter, Telewizja Polska requested on 18 July that the regulator send all of the viewer complaints, not merely a selected sample. At the same time, TVP assured KRRiT that it would receive the broadcaster’s standpoint within the legal deadline as counted from the receipt of all the complaints on which the regulator’s actions were based.
On 19 July, KRRiT sent the content of all 24 complaints received in this matter to the broadcaster, emphasizing that the practice of sending sample complaints had previously been used numerous times in cooperation with TVP and other broadcasters without any reservations. In the letter, KRRiT requested that the broadcaster present its standpoint within three days.
A meeting between the National Broadcasting Council and TVP President Jacek Kurski to clarify the issues at hand was planned for 22 July 2016 at 11:00 AM. However, President Jacek Kurski and the TVP representatives did not appear at the aforementioned time. A message informing KRRiT of their absence was sent on the day of the meeting at 10:59 AM.
According to the email sent, their absence was necessitated by“an overwhelming number of responsibilities related to preparations for World Youth Day in Kraków and the 31st Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro
Thus, KRRiT recognized that the process accounted for in the complaint investigation procedure had been carried out in full, and on the basis of Article 10 paragraph 3 of the Broadcasting Act KRRiT Chairman Jan Dworak called on Telewizja Polska to cease its violation of the Broadcasting Act.