Poland's ruling nationalists go back to drawing board with media tax

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s ruling nationalists on Tuesday said they would rewrite a proposal that would tax media advertising after criticism from media firms, the opposition and its own coalition partner.

FILE PHOTO: The first pages of Poland's main private newspapers have black front pages with the slogan 'Media without choice' written on them in protest against a proposed media advertising tax that outlets say threatens the industry's independence and its diversity of views at a shop in Warsaw, Poland February 10, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

Last week, several private TV and radio stations and web portals in Poland took themselves off air in protest against the tax, which they said would threaten the industry’s independence and its diversity of views.

Critics say Poland is following the example of central European ally Hungary in trying to increase control over the media. Much of Poland’s independent media is funded through advertising or subscription.

The government says the tax is needed to help raise funds for healthcare and culture, both hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as to target internet giants overseas making advertising revenue in the country.

A Ministry of Finance spokeswoman told state news agency PAP that businesses could submit their opinions until the end of the day.

“We will after these consultations draft a new bill that acknowledges these concerns and then we will present it for the next steps in the (legislative) process,” government spokesman Piotr Muller told a news conference.

On Tuesday, a number of Poland’s main opposition groupings came together to sign a declaration decrying the tax, saying: “There’s no democracy without freedom of speech.”

The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party’s junior coalition partner, the centrist Accord, has also said it could not support the current draft of the tax, in part due to the effect it would have on businesses.

A spokesman said it would consult with media and businesses affected before seeking a compromise with its coalition partners.

The other coalition partner, the right-wing United Poland, has said it supports the general direction of the proposals but will comment on it fully in the coming days.

A spokesman and a senior member of PiS did not respond to a request for comment on the opposition declaration.

Muller said businesses had told the government they were worried about setting a fair taxation threshold. Previously, government officials said the tax would be set at between 2% and 15% of advertising income, depending on the size of the firm.

Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Alison Williams