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Changes in the Polish media since 1989.

Changes in the Polish media since 1989.

The situation in the media changed radically after 1989. On regaining sovereignty, Poles were above all able to kiss censorship goodbye. Until then the media had effectively served their masters in power rather than their recipients. They dealt in propaganda, not information. The Central Press and Entertainment Board of Inspection ensured “correctness" in all media messages up to 1989. The media system was centralized and under one party rule. The largest media, public radio and television, were grouped in the Radio and Television Committee, whose boss was an administration-party officer of ministerial rank. In turn, the local press depended on the local party agency.

With the coming of the new freedoms, new media initiatives sprang up spontaneously. With amendments to the existing press law, every Pole could now become a publisher. On May 8th 1989, the first issue of a legally published independent daily, 'Gazeta Wyborcza,' appeared, under the terms of the 'Round Table.' Today 'Gazeta' is the largest newspaper in the country with a circulation of half a million copies. It is also one of the nation's key opinion-forming publications. It started out as an eight-page newspaper published on behalf of the opposition candidates in Poland's first democratic parliamentary elections since before the war; hence the name - the word 'wyborcza' means 'election.' The newspaper was put together by opposition journalists who had until then worked for the underground press connected to the trade union 'SolidarnoĘç.'

The subsequent development of the press market was accelerated by the sale of press titles previously belonging to the state's press monopoly, RSW 'Prasa-Ksi±¿ka-Ruch.' Soon after, foreign publishers also appeared in Poland, bringing both capital and know-how. In editorial offices across the land a technical revolution took place: computerisation of offices, a switch to offset print. New magazines in new market segments emerged, filling reader demands that had up to that point not even been recognised as existing.

The electronic media market also emerged in parallel to the press market. The key role here was played by the Radio and Television Act of 1992, which established a body - the National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT), which has since then acted as the main broadcast media regulator. The KRRiT issues radio and television broadcasters with licenses for land-based broadcasting over a given area of Poland and on a given frequency. It performs the same function with satellite licenses too. In practise, however, the council effectively sets the conditions under which competition within the electronic medias in Poland takes place, as the broadcaster to whom a license is issued cannot govern it effectively on his own, cannot, for example, sell it to another party, and can at most simply give it up, in which case the KRRiT has the frequency back at its own disposal. In effect, therefore, it has a very strong role to play on the television market, since, in the majority of Polish homes the TV is received via standard aerials, with no cable television or satellite dish, and there is a limited number of ground frequencies that can be used. 

Poland entered the transition period with two nation-wide television channels and eight regional sections. It is estimated, that from mid-1991 until mid-1993, 19 pirate TV stations operated due to the lack of proper legal regulations. The first legal station was the Polish company Polsat, which had earlier broadcast via satellite from Holland.

Soon after, the KRRiT also granted licenses to broadcast on fixed television frequencies to TVN and the Franciscan Order. Today, there are four operators on the fixed television broadcasting market, though in effect only three of them are important. The fourth - the Franciscan Order - has no great significance. The ground range for each broadcaster differs significantly. Public television (TVP1, TVP2 and regional network station TVP3) transmitters cover almost 100% of the country. Polsat has a reach of almost 90% of households, while TVN reaches just over 40%. TV4, which is broadcast by Polskie Media, a company controlled by Polsat, has over 30% of households in range via ground transmitters. The reach granted the Fransciscan Fathers, owners of TV Plus, a station that combines entertainment and Catholic teachings, is only 15% of households.

Many radio stations operated illegally at the start of the 1990s, with the airwaves awash with a mass of noise. The majority of the newly created radio stations operated on a regional scale, a single town and environs. Many quickly collapsed, mainly down to the lack of financing. Nowadays, over 200 radio stations operate in Poland. Apart from public radio (four channels), RMF FM, Radio Zet and religious channel Radio Maryja have nationwide reach.


 

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