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- We are confident that the license for TVN 24 [which expires on 26 September] should unquestionably be renewed," Derek Chollet, advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State, told "Rzeczpospolita" during his recent visit to Poland. He asserted that President Joe Biden is personally following the issue.

Onet reported that during a conversation with Jarosław Gowin, Poland's Deputy Prime Minister and the leader of junior coalition party Porozumienie, the U. S. Secretary of Trade Gina Raimondo suggested that if the "TVN bill", which stipulates that U.S. companies are allowed to own no more than 49 percent stake in any Polish broadcaster, is passed, the U.S. reaction could target PiS leaders personally. Gowin allegedly passed along the details of their conversation to Jarosław Kaczyński through intermediaries.

Kaczyński looking for allies on the far-right

According to our sources, such threats of individual sanctions were indeed made. However, the leader of Law and Justice has no intention to de-escalate the conflict. At least for now. Today's session of the Parliamentary Commission on Culture, which will deal with 'lex TVN', should tell us more about the current state of play.

Besides the new bill proposal, another issue is the extension of the license for TVN 24, Poland's largest news channel, owned by TVN. The broadcaster submitted all the necessary documents 17 months ago. The head of the National Broadcasting Council Witold Kołodziejski recently stated that he is waiting for the governing coalition to decide on the fate of the 'TVN bill', since the legal uncertainty at the moment makes it impossible for the Council to make a decision on the matter.

Most leading figures within the ruling camp believe that it is imperative to withdraw the proposed bill in order to avoid a confrontation with the Biden administration. They are proposing various solutions to get out of the current standoff, but Kaczyński is firmly rejecting them, despite the fact that multiple Law and Justice officials call the current course of action "lunacy".

Kaczyński failed to convince Gowin and his MPs to rally behind the new bill, and the Deputy Prime Minister announced that he would never support the "TVN law" in its current form.  He also submitted an amendment that grants investors from all OECD countries the right to have a majority stake in Polish media companies, which would  allow Discovery, Inc. to maintain its ownership of TVN SA.

To make up for the lack of support from the junior coalition partner, Law and Justice’s chairman is seeking the votes of MPs from the far-right, anti-EU party Confederation in order to push the bill through. According to our sources, Kaczyński is ready to pay a hefty price in order to convince them. 

Morawiecki worried Poland might lose EU funding

The conflict with the Biden administration is not the only major international crisis faced by the Law and Justice government. Warsaw is also facing an increasingly irate Brussels after the Polish Constitutional Tribunal challenged the primacy of EU law with respect to internal judicial matters of each member state. The decision came at the same time as the Court of Justice of the EU found the Polish system of disciplining judges, introduced by PiS, to be incompatible with EU law.

According to our sources, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is pushing to change the rules of appointing the members of the National Council of the Judiciary and the functioning of the disciplinary system. Such proposals for changes were made by the First President of the Supreme Court Małgorzata Manowska.

- If the law was amended so that candidates from among whom the Sejm appoints members of the NCJ are preselected by all Polish judges, I think such a system would not be controversial," she told Rzeczpospolita.

Manowska would like to solve the problem of the Disciplinary Chamber in the following way: preselected candidates would be drawn at random from among all Supreme Court judges, and the Polish president could name the final disciplinary judges to be appointed for the term.

Morawiecki would like to implement Manowska’s proposal due to his concern that EU funds allocated to Poland as part of the EU Covid-19 recovery mechanism would be held hostage by the European Commission.For now, Kaczyński refuses to authorize any reform. This is despite the fact that there are clear indications that Brussels is delaying the approval of the Polish recovery plan and the disbursement of EU funds precisely because of the disregard for the CJEU verdict.

A member of the ruling camp: - Morawiecki did not give up on persuading Kaczyński to make concessions to the EU, as fear is growing within his government over the state of public finances. If the economy does not get off the ground thanks to money from the recovery fund, Poland will find itself in a very difficult situation. Recently, the chairman of the Supreme Audit Officeexposed that more than 200 billion zlotys of government expenses were pushed out of the budget through accounting tricks. This is a gigantic amount of money that the ruling camp will have to deal with sooner or later.

According to our source, this might be one of the reasons why Gowin does not want to support the recent government’s reform and spending agenda called "the Polish order". Fearing that the new costly promises programmes will contribute to the collapse of public finance, the leader Porozumienie is hoping to shield himself from any responsibility for the eventual crash. 

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Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about Polish politics and society, keeping a critical eye on the ruling camp’s persistent assault on democratic values and the rule of law; the growing cultural tension between religious fundamentalism and human rights; and the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. Our journalists are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities, reporting from the streets, hospitals, and courtrooms about issues that move public opinion.

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