On February 10, 2021, in an unprecedented move, most independent Polish media - television networks, newspapers, online portals, local and regional news websites - went on a symbolic strike.
In order to protest against a new tax on advertising - deceitfully called 'solidarity pandemic' tax - which is planned by the government, Polish independent media stopped providing their services for one day.
Most independent media in Poland base their existence on advertising revenues, and another tax would devastate their editorial budgets. In this way, the authorities will impede costly investigations, eliminate laborious fact-checking and stifle criticism. This is how Orbán got rid of the free media in Hungary.
Today many media outlets, including Gazeta Wyborcza, do not publish any texts or news, apart from the editorial statement (see below) and a joint list of publishers and broadcasters. We wish to show together how important freedom of speech and independent media are in a democratic country.
We asked our readers, viewers, and users for their generous understanding, since the tax to be imposed on Polish media by Poland's populist ruling camp is endangering the very existence of free media in Poland, of free society, and of freedom of speech in general.
February 10, 2021
Open letter to the authorities of the Republic of Poland and the leaders of political parties
We would like to address the recently announced new media tax, misleadingly called “a solidarity contribution”, with which the government wants to burden independent Polish media under the pretext of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
This new levy is nothing less than a tribute, and it will hit Polish viewers, listeners, readers, and internet users, as well as the Polish film, culture, entertainment, sports, and media industry.
Its adoption would lead to:
1) weakening or even closure of some of the media outlets operating in Poland, which will significantly limit the public’s ability to choose the content of their interest;
2) limiting financing options for producing quality and local content. Currently, outlets producing such content support hundreds of thousands of employees and their families, and provide the majority of Polish citizens with access to information, entertainment, and sporting events largely free of charge;
3) deepening the unequal treatment of businesses operating on the Polish media market. While the state-controlled media receive PLN 2,000,000,000 annually from taxpayers’ money, private media outlets are to be charged with an additional tribute of PLN 1,000,000,000;
4) a de facto preferential treatment of companies that do not invests in the production of Polish, local content at the expense of businesses that invest the most. According to estimates, under the new levy, companies which the government refers to as “global digital giants” will only pay about PLN 50,000,000-100,000,000, while other locally active media outlets will be charged with an additional PLN 800,000,000.
The asymmetrical and selective approach to rates imposed on different media outlets is also egregious. Furthermore, it is unacceptable that in a state which claims to adhere to the principles of the rule of law an attempt is being made to change the licensing conditions while they are still ongoing.
As media outlets that have been operating in Poland for many years, we do not shy away from our duties and social responsibilities. Every year, we pay an increasing number of taxes, levies, and fees to the state budget (CIT, VAT, emissions tax, copyright, frequency licenses, booking decisions, VOD fees, etc.). We also support the most vulnerable groups in our society with our charitable activities. We support Polish citizens, as well as the Polish government, in the fight against the pandemic, both in terms of providing reliable information and by contributing resources worth hundreds of millions of zlotys.
Therefore, we strongly oppose using the pandemic as a pretext to introduce yet another, exceptionally heavy financial burden on the media – a burden that will be permanent and will stay with us long after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Agencja Wydawnicza AGARD Ryszard Pajura
Burda Media Polska
Eleven Sports Network sp. z o.o.
Green Content sp. z o.o.
Gremi Media S.A.
Grupa Interia.pl sp. z. o.o.
Grupa Radiowa Agory sp. z o.o.
Grupa Wirtualna Polska
Kino Polska TV S.A.
Lemon Records sp. z o.o.
Music TV sp. z o.o.
Muzo.fm sp. z o.o.
Polska Press Grupa
Ringier Axel Springer Polska
STAVKA sp. z o.o.
Superstacja sp. z o.o.
Telewizja Polsat sp. z o.o.
Telewizja Puls sp. z o.o.
TV Spektrum sp. z o.o.
Tygodnik Powiatu Wołowskiego Kurier Gmin
Wydawnictwo Dominika Księskiego Wulkan
Zakopiańskie Towarzystwo Gospodarcze – Tygodnik Podhalański