Discovery said it has formally notified the Polish government that it will take legal action under the bilateral investment treaty between the U.S. and the Republic of Poland after that nation’s parliament passed a bill yesterday that would prohibit foreign ownership of media — including Discovery’s broadcaster TVN.
The David Zaslav-led company Thursday cited Poland’s discriminatory campaign against TVN — including its refusal to renew new network TVN24’s broadcasting license — that culminated in yesterday’s vote in the lower house.
“The legislation is the latest assault on independent media and freedom of the press, and takes direct aim at Discovery’s TVN, the country’s leading independent broadcasting group and news provider, as well as one of the largest U.S. investments in Poland,” Discovery said. The bill still needs approval by the Senate and Polish Andrzej Duda.
“Over a number of years, the current Polish government has targeted TVN in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner as part of a broader crackdown on independent media and in direct violation of legal protections around freedom of expression.”
The so-called Notice of Dispute was sent to President Duda earlier today. Discovery said it “continues to strive for a positive resolution to this situation, but should this fail, Discovery intends to commence arbitration proceedings in accordance with Article IX(3) of the Treaty and seek full compensation for Poland’s breaches.”
JB Perrette, CEO of Discovery International, said Discovery “has successfully operated and invested in Poland for nearly 25 years, making us now one of the biggest international investors and employers in this incredible country. The current Polish government’s damaging and discriminatory actions, however, leave us no choice but to bring charges under the US-Poland bilateral investment treaty.”
“We are deeply committed to safeguarding our investment in Poland and its people, defending the public’s interest in independent media and the rights of freedom of expression. Discovery, as a protected investor in Poland, is afforded important rights and freedoms under the US-Polish Treaty,” he added. “We do believe this legislation will have a chilling effect on U.S. and European investment into the Polish economy, and we will aggressively defend our rights.”
Discovery said Poland’s conduct violates several obligations under the Treaty signed between the US and the Republic of Poland in 1990, including fair and equitable treatment, non-impairment by arbitrary and discriminatory measures, non-discrimination in granting licenses, and the prohibition on expropriation without compensation.
Discovery is in the process of merging with AT&T’s WarnerMedia.
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