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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » May 28, 2008
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President Vetoes Broadcasting Law
May 28, 2008   
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President Lech Kaczyński May 16 vetoed an amendment to the radio and television law that had been previously passed by parliament. This means that the amendment will be scrapped unless the government musters a three-fifths majority in parliament to override the veto. Kaczyński said he refused to sign the bill into law because the amendment "seeks to limit the role of public media and speed up their privatization." He also said the amendment might be unconstitutional because it significantly strengthens the role of the government in supervising the process of issuing broadcasting licenses.

Experts say the amendment substantially limits the powers of the National Radio and Television Council, which is currently dominated by officials with ties to the former ruling coalition that was led by the Law and Justice party headed by the president's twin brother, Jarosław Kaczyński. The amendment transfers licensing and broadcaster supervision powers from the National Radio and Television Council to the Electronic Communications Office. The proposal changes the procedures for appointing members of the council, and it also makes it possible for the government to remove "inconvenient" people in the public media, critics say, because it allows the government to appoint members of the supervisory and management boards of public media outlets.

The amendment allows the Treasury minister to dismiss board members in the public television and radio companies. The minister may decide to remove these officials from their posts "if there are circumstances that permanently prevent" a board member from exercising their duties; if an audit confirms that they have carried out activities detrimental to the company; or if a board member has infringed a law that limits public officers' right to run a business.

The amendment also changes the way in which National Radio and Television Council members are appointed. Instead of the current five, there will be seven members: three designated by the lower house of parliament, the Sejm; two by the upper house, the Senate; and two by the president.

Under the constitution, the Sejm may override the president's veto to the amendment by a three-fifths majority in the presence of at least half the total number of deputies. The problem is that the ruling coalition of the Civic Platform and the Polish People's Party does not have the required majority. The opposition Law and Justice is likely to back the president, forcing the coalition to enlist the support of leftist groupings.

However, the biggest leftist party, the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), has said it will abstain from voting.
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