TVP received PLN 5.9 bn of state aid in 4 years. In addition, hundreds of millions from state-owned companies and institutions
Polish national television, Telewizja Polska, mocks the media protest against taxing advertising. It does not have to worry about the new levy itself – the majority of its revenue is state aid. It has received PLN 5.9 billion since 2016. Added to that, hundreds of millions from orders from state institutions and advertisements from state-owned companies
The Polish media organized a protest on Wednesday, 10 February 2021, which was unprecedented in Polish history – TV and radio stations, as well as internet portals suspended their activities for 24 hours, and some newspapers appeared with their front pages painted over. All the media participating in the event published a message that it was a protest against the new tax – on advertising revenue.
PiS explains it wants to introduce this to force those who are avoiding taxes – social media giants (such as Facebook) and large media companies – to pay them. It argues that some of the money will return to the media. In reality, the tax will weaken the independent media and, almost certainly, only state-owned and pro-government media will receive aid.
They did not suspend their activities on Wednesday. Throughout the day, they argued that the tax is good and companies that do not want to pay it are bad. On news strips broadcast during various programmes ,TVP Info wrote:
- ‘International media corporations are treating Poland like a colony’,
- ‘Media corporations do not want to share multi-million zloty profits with Poles’,
- ‘German media do not want to pay a contribution to Polish healthcare, culture and monuments for Poles’.
In the programme called ‘Jedziemy’, Michał Rachoń recalled that, in 2020, the opposition wanted the money that PiS decided to allocate to the public media to be reallocated to the fight against cancer. And he was surprised that now, when there is an opportunity to pay a tax for the health service, the media object to it. He forgot to mention that most of the media already pay taxes and various fees to the state. Meanwhile, TVP was granted further state support in 2020.
As we calculated from the data collected by the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK), Telewizja Polska received exactly PLN 5,894,997,309 in state aid since 2016. Of this:
- in 2016 – PLN 422,744,303,
- in 2017 – PLN 1,215,994,718,
- in 2018 – PLN 385,691,346,
- in 2019 – PLN 1,497,230,217,
- in 2020 – PLN 2,043,102,825
- and up to January 2021, it has already received PLN 330,233,900.
But this is not the only public money that is filling TVP’s coffers. Since the beginning of the PiS government, it has been receiving increasingly more money from orders from state institutions and advertisements of state companies. According to the report prepared by Prof. Tadeusz Kowalski from the Faculty of Journalism at the University of Warsaw, in 2016–2019, TVP earned PLN 818,995,000 on advertisements from state-owned companies.
PLN 5.8 billion for the public mission
A significant proportion of the state aid that TVP received – as much as PLN 5,788,852,155 – is the licence fee for the public mission and compensation for the lost licence fee.
A total of PLN 2,009,093,655 has been paid to Telewizja Polska since 2016 from the licence fee, which is collected from owners of TV sets. Of this:
- in 2016 – PLN 365,524,126,
- in 2017 – PLN 355,141,883,
- in 2018 – PLN 385,484,346,
- in 2019 – PLN 331,380,000,
- in 2020 – PLN 331,429,300
- and in 2021 – PLN 330,134,000.
Since some of the viewers have been exempted from the obligation to pay the licence fee by statute, TVP also receives compensation for lost revenues. It received them irregularly up to 2020. In 2017, the National Broadcasting Council awarded it compensation for 2010–2017. In 2019 – partial compensation for 2018 and 2019. In January 2020, parliament passed an act, granting TVP SA and Polskie Radio SA compensation in the form of securities:
- for the as yet uncompensated licence fees for 2018 and 2019
- and for revenues lost in 2020.
According to the law, the value of securities transferred to the public media during the year cannot exceed PLN 1,950,000,000. They are to receive such compensation up to 2024.
Overall, under the PiS government, Telewizja Polska was granted compensation of PLN 3,698,758,500. Of this:
- in November 2017 – PLN 860,000,000,
- in April 2019 – PLN 1,127,258,500
- and in March 2020 – PLN 1,711,500,000.
- It arises from TVP’s financial statements that the share of state aid in its revenues has been increasing in recent years. In 2019, subscription fees and compensation for subscription fees accounted for as much as 57% of TVP’s revenue. In 2020, this value was probably even higher (the financial statements for 2020 will be known in April 2021).
Over PLN 100 million for the conservation of heritage and other purposes
According to UOKiK’s data, apart from the licence fee and compensation for the licence fee, TVP received over PLN 100 million in other state aid. The largest proportion of this amount – a total of PLN 95,019,764 – was transferred to it by Centrum Projektów Polska Cyfrowa [the Digital Poland Project Centre].
- In 2016, CPPC granted PLN 269,424 to Telewizja Polska for training aid,
- also in 2016 – PLN 56,491,921 for supporting culture and preserving cultural heritage
- and in 2019 – PLN 38,328,419 also for supporting culture and preserving cultural heritage.
TVP received smaller grants from the Polish Film Institute (a total of PLN 950,000) and from the voivodship funds for environmental protection and water management in Katowice, Wrocław and Łódź (a total of PLN 1,097,701).
The data on state aid to TVP does not include the PLN 20 million that was allocated in 2016 to the increase in this company’s capital. The funds came from the state Reprivatization Fund.
Hundreds of millions of zlotys from state-owned companies
However, state aid is not the only state funds paid to TVP. For years, its coffers have also been filled with huge amounts of money from state-owned companies.
According to the report published last year by Prof. Tadeusz Kowalski from the Faculty of Journalism at the University of Warsaw, state-owned companies spent PLN 818,995,000 on advertising in TVP in 2016–2019. Of this:
- in 2016 – PLN 129,154,000,
- in 2017 – PLN 138,476,000,
- w 2018 – PLN 242,948,000,
- and in 2019 – PLN 308,417,000.
These are not exact figures. Prof. Kowalski’s report is based on Kantar’s data, which estimates advertising expenses in the media on the basis of official advertising price lists. However, most media give large discounts to their clients. Even so, Prof. Kowalski’s calculations show the general trend: state-owned companies are spending increasingly more money on advertising in TVP.
And this is happening at a time when company advertising spend on television is falling. And when TVP’s own advertising revenues are also far from those of several years ago.
According to Prof. Kowalski, ‘State Treasury companies clearly prefer state media, such as TVP and Polskie Radio, which is consequently a form of camouflaged state aid. Of course a certain proportion of them, which is unfortunately difficult to define clearly, is completely justified by market, commercial or cultural reasons, but they also constitute financial support for the party and government propaganda’.
Millions from public institutions
Considerable sums of money from state institutions and agencies also flow into TVP each year, as they commission it to promote their activities and co-finance production. Likewise, the production of programmes and handling of events that TVP later refers to as an illustration of how wonderfully it is pursuing its public mission.
The following were mentioned in the ‘Report on Telewizja Polska S.A.’s use of revenues from licence fees earmarked for the fulfilment of the public broadcaster’s mission in 2016’, as flagship examples of its mission activities:
- coverage of World Youth Days and their accompanying programmes;
- media coverage of the NATO summit;
- coverage and programmes related to the 1050th anniversary of the Baptism of Poland (including ‘Wielki test z historii. Chrzest Polski’ [the Great history test. The Baptism of Poland] on TVP 1)
- and coverage of the Cursed Soldiers National Remembrance Day and programmes about the ‘Cursed Soldiers’.
However, in addition to the money from the licence fee, TVP received additional financial support for all these activities. In June 2016, the Minister of the Treasury awarded it a grant for ‘media support and production of the TV broadcast of World Youth Day’. According to a Supreme Audit Office report, TVP received more than PLN 9 million for this.
A similar agreement was concluded with TVP by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Telewizja Polska was given the role of ‘official broadcaster’ during the NATO Summit in Poland. It is not known to this day how much money TVP received for that. At that time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National Defence also commissioned a number of promotional activities related to the summit. The amount they collectively paid for that is also a mystery.
The National Centre of Culture paid for the production of
- the documentary ‘Letter of the Bishops’, broadcast as part of the celebrations of the 1050th anniversary of the Baptism of Poland – PLN 170,000.
- ‘Wielki test z historii. Chrzest Polski’ – PLN 150,000
- footage from a concert organized as part of celebrations of the ‘Cursed Soldiers’ National Remembrance Day – PLN 149,978
Overall, the National Cultural Centre contributed millions of zlotys to TVP productions in 2016. And such a situation has been repeated for years with regard to many public institutions.
Translated by Roman Wojtasz
The text was published in Polish at OKO.press on 12 February 2021.