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Publishing

'This was your favourite programme': private Polish media go off air to protest tax

WARSAW, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Many private media outlets went off the air in Poland on Wednesday, running slogans like “This used to be your favourite programme”, in protest against a proposed media advertising tax they say threatens media independence and diversity.

The blackout came a day after many publishing groups objected to the planned tax in an open letter to authorities and political leaders.

The government says the tax will help raise funds for healthcare and culture, both hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Dear user! We are taking a step today that we never wanted to take because it goes against all of our journalistic values. For 24 hours all Ringier Axel Springer Polska services will disappear,” web portal Onet wrote on its home page.

Web portal Interia, private broadcasters Polsat and TVN and private radio station Radio Zet also stopped coverage.

Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) party has promoted patriotism and conservative values since it came to power in 2015, opposing what it calls imported liberalism and multiculturalism.

PiS lawmakers have said foreign media companies have too much influence in Poland. Critics of the government say it wants to increase state control.

The protesting companies say the tax will create further inequalities between public and private outlets, adding that it would be another hit to independence.

Government spokesman Piotr Muller told public broadcaster TVP, which did not go off air, that the tax had already been implemented in a number of EU countries and was still in the consultation phase.

The tax could amount to anywhere between 2% and 15% of advertising income, depending on the size of the company, Muller added. (Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Pawel Florkiewicz: Editing by Nick Macfie)

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