Discovery Inc. announced it has formally notified the Polish government it’s taking legal action under the bilateral investment treaty between the United States and the Republic of Poland.
The notification comes on the heels of what the company calls the government’s “discriminatory campaign” against Discovery-owned Polish network TVN, including its refusal to renew TVN24′s broadcasting license.
At the center of the issue is a vote in the lower house of the Polish Parliament to pass legislation banning upstream foreign media ownership in the country. Discovery calls the bill “the latest assault on independent media and freedom of the press,” and claims the legislation is directed at TVN, the country’s leading independent broadcasting group and news provider, as well as one of the largest U.S. investments in Poland.
Thus far, the Polish government has not responded to Discovery’s notice.
Discovery claims that over several years, Poland’s government targeted TVN “in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner” as it sought to crack down on independent media in the country, which the company says is in direct violation of legal protections around freedom of expression.
The company sent the Notice of Dispute to President Andrzej Duda on August 12, and says that while it’s seeking “a positive resolution” to the matter, it’s also willing to begin arbitration proceedings and will “seek full compensation for Poland’s breaches.”
Discovery claims that the government’s conduct violates a 1990 treaty signed between the U.S. and the Republic of Poland that includes fair and equitable treatment, non-impairment by arbitrary and discriminatory measures, non-discrimination in granting licenses, and the prohibition on expropriation without compensation.
“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,” said JB Perrette, president and CEO of Discovery International, in a statement. “The current Polish government’s damaging and discriminatory actions, however, leave us no choice but to bring charges under the U.S.-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 U.S.-Polish Treaty. 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.”