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Media Landscapes


Written by Ania Lara


Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is situated in central Europe and has a population of more than 38 million inhabitants. Administratively, the country is divided into 16 provinces. Poland is ethnically and religiously homogenous (Poles: 98 percent, Roman Catholics: 96 percent). Poland joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004.

The Polish media landscape is a product of the country’s socio-political and economic transition after the fall of communism in 1989. Important post-communist media developments include: privatisation of the press sector, the transformation of state radio and television into public broadcasting organisations, licensing of private broadcasters, influx of foreign capital into the Polish media market and European integration of audiovisual media policies.

Following the fall of communism, the Polish audiovisual media sector grew rapidly. These developments led to the establishment of a public and private duopoly.

Poland has more than 5,000 press titles including national and regional dailies, weeklies, monthly magazines, and the specialised press. None of the Polish dailies publish on Sunday or in the afternoon. Instead, Polish dailies offer weekend editions, which tend to have significantly higher circulation than weekday editions.

In a 2009 survey on press readership, 80 percent of Poles said they read the written press. About 43 percent declared reading dailies and 32 percent said they read opinion weeklies. Thirty-two percent said they read monthly women’s magazines. Specialised press was regularly read by 29 percent of the respondents (Macroscope OMD/OMG Metrics).

In the first half of 2009, the circulation of the two largest national dailies reached over 638,000 copies for Fakt, and 497,000 for Gazeta Wyborcza. Other large dailies include Super Express, Dziennik and Rzeczpospolita. Smaller and more specialised national dailies include Przegląd Sportowy, which focuses on sport, and two business newspapers, Gazeta Prawna and Puls Biznesu (ZDKP).

Gazeta Wyborcza, launched in 1989, is owned by Agora S.A. It was the top quality national daily for over a decade until Fakt, considered a moderate tabloid owned by Axel Springer, recently took the lead. In the first half of 2009, readership for Fakt reached 14.79 percent of the market. At Gazeta Wyborcza readership reached14.35 percent.

One of the recent trends in the Polish press market is an increase in the popularity of the free national press; Metro ranked as the third-most popular national daily in 2009 (PBC).

The fall of communism, which tended toward a centralised press, and the new administrative division of the country contributed to the emergence of many regional daily titles. Circulations of the regional dailies range from approximately 20,000 to 100,000 copies. The top regional newspapers are Dziennik Zachodni, Gazeta Pomorska and Głos Wielkopolski (ZDKP).

The Polish magazine sector can be divided into segments according to audience and topics. There is an increased specialisation in the sector, yet the dominance of women and opinion magazines continuous. Among opinion weeklies the leaders are Polityka and Wprost with circulations of over 200 thousand (ZDKP).

Sales of national and regional dailies have been gradually declining. The first half of 2009 showed a 7 per cent decrease for national dailies and 14 percent decrease for regional dailies comparing to previous year (Wirtualne Media). Over the same period, the share of advertising revenues of the Polish printed press market decreased 19.6 percent (25 percent for daily press). The total Polish media advertising revenue is expected to reach 1.58bn euro in 2009 (CRMC).

Foreign owners, many of them German, dominate approximately 80 percent of the Polish press market. These include: H. Bauer (operating in Poland as Wydawnictwo Bauer LTD.), Verlagsgruppe Passau (Polskapresse); Axel Springer (Axel Springer Polska LTD.); Norwegian Orkla Press (Presspublica). The only big domestic competitor is Agora S.A, with an 18.3 percent share of total press market.

Eighty percent of all Poles listen to radio; more than half say they listen to the radio for more than three hours per day (Radio Track). Apart from the public radio broadcaster, there are 255 licensed commercial or private radio broadcasters in Poland (KRRiT).

The Polish public radio broadcaster – Polskie Radio (PR) S.A. – is owned by the state Treasury. It operates five national radio stations: Program 1 is of a general nature, Program 2 is devoted to high culture, Program 3 is known for its news services, Polskie Radio EURO targets young listeners and Radio Parlament broadcasts parliamentary sessions. PR S.A. also runs 17 regional radio stations and Polskie Radio dla Zagranicy, which targets Poles abroad. A 2009 survey showed Program 1 and Program 2 to be the most popular public radio stations, with 12 percent and 6.3 percent of total radio audience share (Radio Track).

On the national level, the commercial radio stations, Radio RMF FM (owned by Bauer Media Invest) and Radio Zet (owned by Eurozet LTD) have the highest radio audience shares: 25.8 and 16.6 percent, respectively. The Catholic station Radio Maryja, with an audience share of 2.2 percent, is the third-most popular national private radio broadcaster in Poland (Radio Track). Other regional private radio stations include: Radio Wawa and Radio TOK FM. Regional and local commercial radio stations in Poland operate as networks, monopolised by the biggest media groups including Broker FM, Eurozet, ZPR. and Agora. Independent broadcasters, such as universities and local governments run some of the local radio stations.

In 2008, Polish radio’s advertising revenue came to approximately half a billion euro, which accounted for 10 percent of total media advertising revenue (Radio Track). In the first half of 2009, the Polish radio market noted a 7.5 percent decrease in its advertising revenues (CRMC).

A 2009 survey revealed that the average Pole watches television for three hours and 42 minutes per day (TNS OBOP). Apart from the public TV broadcaster, there are 213 licensed commercial television broadcasters in Poland, including seven terrestrial, 56 satellite and 150 cable broadcasters (KRRiT).

The Polish public TV broadcaster – Telewizja Polska (TVP) S.A., owned by the state Treasury – continues to dominate the market more than any other European public broadcaster. The combined audience share of its channels accounts for more than half the total TV audience share. TVP S.A. operates three terrestrial channels: TVP1 and TVP2 air nationwide and TVP Info broadcasts regionally. In 2009 the audience shares of TVP 1 and TVP 2 were 22.8 and 15.9 percent respectively. TVP Info, which shares its programmes with a network of 16 regional centres, reached 4.2 percent (TNS OBOP). The public broadcaster also runs four channels available via satellite, cable and digital platforms: TVP Polonia, designed to broadcast PBS to Poles abroad; TVP Kultura and TVP Historia, dedicated to cultural and historical programming; as well as the first commercially-based TVP channel, TVP Sport. In 2008, TVP HD, the first TVP high-definition television channel, was launched

The main players in the national commercial TV market are Polsat, with a 2009 audience share of 14.8 percent, and the multi-regional TVN, with 13.7 percent (TNS OBOP). Telewizja Polsat S.A., controlled by the Polish businessman Zygmunt Solorz-Żak, owns Polsat. TVN is owned by ITI Holdings S.A., whose main shareholders are two Poles: Jan Wejchert and Mariusz Walter. Both Polsat and TVN run thematic channels in addition to their main channels. Other private terrestrial TV channels in Poland include two Roman Catholic channels, TV Trwam and TV Puls, as well as local channels. The audience share of each of these channels does not exceed 3 percent.

Poland is the third-biggest cable television market in Europe, with approximately 4.5m subscribers in 2009. Big operators with significant foreign capital dominate the market: UPC, Vectra, Multimedia Polska, Aster City Cable, TOYA, INEA, etc. The combined market share of these players is more than 60 percent. Most of these operators offer radio and TV broadcasting, Internet and telephony services (PIKE).

In the first half of 2009 the advertising revenue in the Polish TV market decreased 8.2 percent over the previous year. The total Polish media advertising revenue is expected to reach 1.58bn euro in 2009 (CRMC).

Since 2006 the number of films produced in Poland has been steadily increasing, reaching approximately 40 productions a year (PISF).

There are more than 100 private film production companies in Poland, most of them smaller and medium enterprises. The exceptions are the largest studios, Akson Studio and Opus Film. Public film studios such as SF Zebra, SF Tor and SF Perspektywa undertake a significant part of film production. Legally, these state-owned entities should be by now either liquidated or commercialised. But to date there is no clear government strategy related to their future status. TVP S.A. and commercial broadcasters Polsat and TVN are also active in film production (MK).

The Polish film distribution market is dominated by foreign studios such as UIP, Forum Film (Buena Vista International), Imperial CinePix (20th Century Fox) and Warner Bros. The few existing national competitors include Interfilm and Gutek Film (PISF).

There are approximately 700 cinemas in Poland, including 67 cinema multiplexes. In 2008 cinema attendance came to 31.3mn (PISF).

Poland is renowned for such directors as Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Roman Polanski and Agnieszka Holland. The country is also the home of cinematographers such as Janusz Kaminski and Slawomir Idziak.

In 2008 the number of households using broadband Internet services in Poland increased 12 percent over the previous year to 4.7m. Mobile Internet access services noted a 45 percent increase, to 1.06m subscribers. The number of dial-up Internet users decreased to 378,000. Thirteen telecommunications operators dominate the broadband Internet market in Poland, including fixed telephony, mobile telephony and cable television operators. The leader is Telekomunikacja Polska (TP) S.A., the national Polish telecommunications provider. It has a 44.6 percent market share of users (UKE).

In terms of fixed telephony, TP S.A. has the largest share of the market with 76.9 percent of subscribers in 2008 — despite an increase in use of alternative operators. Among the alternative operators, Netia S.A. had the highest share of 3.5 percent (UKE).

In 2008 mobile telephony in Poland had about 43 million users, which accounted for a penetration level of 97.5 percent. Fifteen providers operate in the domestic mobile market (UKE).

At the end of 2008 the number of Polish Internet users reached 15.8m, which accounts for 44 percent of the population over seven years old. The number of Internet users grew 63 percent during the four-year period between 2004 and 2008 (Gemius).

All the mainstream media outlets in Poland have developed their online portals. Approximately 75 percent of Polish Internet users say they watch TV online. About 67 percent listen to radio and 64 percent read the daily press. The most popular among the mainstream outlets are: TVN, Radio RMF FM and Gazeta Wyborcza (Gemius). The popularity of news websites available exclusively on the Internet has been growing. The most visited of these are Onet, Wirtualna Polska and Interia (PBI).

At the end of 2008 there were 4.7m subscribers to the five digital satellite platform operators in Poland. Cyfrowy Polsat, with 2.7m subscribers, is the biggest digital satellite platform in central eastern Europe. It ranks as No.5 in all of Europe. It is owned by Cyfrowy Polsat S.A., whose main shareholder is Zygmunt Solorz-Żak. Cyfra+, with 1.38m subscribers, is owned by Canal+ Cyfrowy. Its shareholders are Canal+ Group (49 percent of shares), Polcom Invest S.A. and Chello Media Investment. N and TnK platforms, owned by ITI Holdings S.A., had half a million and 92 thousand subscribers respectively. Platforma Orange, with 112,000 subscribers in 2009, is owned by TP S.A. (Wirtualne Media). In September, 2009, a sixth digital platform, Platforma Cyfrowa TVP, owned by TVP S.A., was launched.

In 2005 the Polish government adopted a strategy for the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting, via regional multiplexes. This will last until the complete analogue switchoff planned for July, 2013. The launch of digital broadcasting is planned for the end of September, 2009. Available frequencies will be allotted to applicant multiplex operators in a tender organised by the Office for Electronic Communication (UKE). The National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) will grant licences to TV channels to broadcast within the multiplexes.

The major news agency in Poland is the Polish Press Agency (PAP) owned by the state Treasury.  

The Catholic Information Agency (KAI), set up by the Polish Episcopate, specialises in gathering information for the Catholic press. Other press agencies include the Radio Information Agency (IAR) and the Sport Information Agency (ASInfo). Smaller, private information and photograph services also exist.

There are 10 professional journalism organisations in Poland, making for a fragmented environment. The two biggest ones, which have long been in conflict with each other, are the Polish Journalists Association (SDP) and the Journalists’ Association of the Republic of Poland (SDRP). They operate their regional offices in major Polish cities.

The major publishers’ organisations are: the Polish Chamber of Press Publishers (IWP), which represents the interests of 120 publishers and over 460 titles; and the Association of the Local Press Publishers (SGL), which unites 58 publishers of 73 regional and local titles.

In the audiovisual sector, the National Chamber of Audiovisual Producers (KIPA) unites 100 production companies, both public and private, and represents major Polish TV broadcasters. The Convent of Radio Stations of the National Industrial Chamber of Electronics and Telecommunications (KIGEIT – KSR) represents the commercial interests of 29 private radio stations. The Polish Chamber of Electronic Communications (PIKE) unites 130 companies from broadband electronic communications sector.

The key professional cinema organisation is the Association of Polish Filmmakers (SFP)

The Polish constitution guarantees freedom of the press and prohibits both preventive censorship and licensing requirements for the press. It also proclaims that the main task of the National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) is to safeguard the freedom of speech, the right to information and the public interest in radio and TV.

The 1984 Polish Press Law, which was subsequently amended, applies to dailies, periodicals, press agencies, radio and television. The law obliges protection of journalistic sources (except for cases involving national security and murder), requires the press to publish corrections of untrue or inaccurate information and mandates publication of official statements of the government administration.

The 1992 Broadcasting Act, which was also subsequently amended, regulates the whole broadcasting sector in Poland. This act determines: mode of appointment, responsibilities and competences of the KRRiT, general tasks of broadcasters, status of public broadcaster, licensing of commercial broadcasters, retransmission of programme services on cable and satellite networks, and programming obligations.

The act was amended in 2004 in order to comply with EU audiovisual policy requirements and the Television Without Frontiers (TWF) Directive. Hence, licences may be granted to foreign persons and residents of the EU. Licences for companies with foreign shareholders from countries outside the EU may be granted if the foreign capital does not exceed a 49 percent share of the company.

The only provision of the act that deals with the issue of limiting media concentration is a vague reference to the ban on broadcasters achieving a dominant position. The debate on the issue of media concentration was abandoned after the 2003 Rywingate corruption scandal over a bribe offered in exchange for an amendment that would have enabled the biggest Polish press company, Agora, to enter the television market.

The Polish telecommunications market is legislated by the 2004 Telecommunications Act, which specifies conditions for regulating telecommunications markets, universal service provision and the protection of services users.

Polish cinematography is legislated by the 2005 Act on Cinematography. It sets rules for supporting and protecting Polish filmmaking.

The Polish Chamber of Press Publishers (IWP) along with the two biggest professional journalism organisations, formulated their own codes of professional ethics and established a system of interior courts. The Press Freedom Monitoring Centre reports cases in which media freedom has been violated in Poland.

Additionally, public broadcasters formulated their own codes of ethics. The Commissions of Ethics observing these codes have no sanctioning powers, but act as advisory bodies to the TVP and PR boards of management.

In 1995 Polish media owners and professionals adopted the Media Charter and established the Conference of Media, which in turn appoints the Council of Media Ethics. The Council is an advisory body; it adjudicates on issues involving the Charter.

The Polish broadcasting market is regulated by the National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT).  Required tasks of the KRRiT include: determining legal conditions of broadcasting activity; issuing and withdrawing broadcast licenses; supervising activities of broadcasters; appointing supervisory councils for public radio and TV. KRRiT also regulates the content of public and commercial broadcasting related to protection of minors, harmful content, advertising restrictions, etc. Pursuant to the 2005 amendment of the 1992 Broadcasting Act, the number of members of KRRiT was reduced from nine to five; two of these were to be appointed by the Sejm (the lower house of the Polish Parliament), one by the Senate and two by the president.

The Office for Electronic Communication (UKE) regulates the Polish telecommunications market. Its main tasks include: regulation and supervision of telecommunications services’ markets; intervening in matters related to the market functioning and the settlement of disputes between telecommunications undertakings; co-operation with domestic and international telecommunications organisations; co-operation with the president of the Office for Competition and Consumers Protection (UOKiK) in matters related to users’ rights, and with the KRRiT.

The Polish Film Institute (PISF) was established pursuant to the Act on Cinematography. Its main tasks include promoting Polish film internationally and subsidising enterprises in film production and distribution.

Most Polish public universities offer journalism programmes, including the most renowned universities: the University of Warsaw, University of Wrocław, Adam Miciewicz University and Jagiellonian University. There are also private journalism schools and courses.

The Press Circulation Audit Union (ZKDP) collects and analyses data on press circulation in Poland. The Press Research Centre of the Jagiellonian University (OBP UJ) also publishes regular reports on press market developments. The National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) and Office for Electronic Communication (UKE) regularly publish legislative acts, regulations and reports related to their respective areas of competence in broadcasting and telecommunications markets.

A great deal of controversy over KRRiT’s politicization has surrounded the Council member appointments from the beginning of its operation. The KRRiT’s extensive competences — especially direct nominations of Supervisory Councils of public radio and TV — allow the governing forces significant influence over audiovisual media. Recent criticisms revolved around the 2005 reform of KRRiT’s mode of appointment alleged a politically motivated step by the then governing PiS party to dominate the Council. A subsequent 2008 legislative attempt by the newly elected PO party government to revise the system again was defeated by the president’s (belonging to the PiS) veto; the opposition parties supported his veto. Consequently, the longterm debate over merit-based — rather than politically-driven reform — of regulatory authority in Poland still needs to be legally addressed.

The existing legal provisions relating to the status and mode of financing of public radio and TV have become obsolete and need to be updated to better account for the current market situation. Despite the government’s renewed 2008 commitment to reform the Polish public broadcasting system, to date the discussions are chaotic and tainted by political rivalries.

Broadcasting legislation also needs to be updated in order to reflect ongoing technological and market changes. Although Poland has already adopted a provisional strategy for the digital switchover, issues of compression standards, must-carry programming, licensing and state financial involvement are not legally resolved. Legislation is also lacking when it comes to regulating ownership concentration. Legislative works on the issue were to a huge extent discontinued after the Rywingate scandal.

The renewed debate over audiovisual media legislation has been also motivated by the need to comply with the EU’s 2007 Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), the deadline for member states compliance was end of 2009. The AVMSD amends the TWF Directive and takes into account convergence of technologies, platforms and services, the arrival of new delivery modes, changes of viewer habits and new advertising methods. To fully cover the broadness and flexibility of the AVSMD, the existing Polish legal frameworks need to be radically amended. So far Poland has completed the public consultation phase of transposing the AVSMD; however the amended drafts still need to undergo parliamentary legislative procedures.

Ania Lara
96, Avenue de Tervuren
1040 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 (0)2 539.00.39