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

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

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland's ruling nationalists on Tuesday said they would rewrite a proposal that would tax media advertising to ensure it is progressive and fair, after widespread criticism from media firms, the opposition and its own coalition partner.

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 government 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 Polish state news agency PAP on Tuesday that businesses could still 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.

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

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.

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.

Polish web portal Onet, owned by Ringier Axel Springer, said it could be paying 10-20 million zlotys ($2.7-5.4 million) extra a year due to the new tax.

On Monday, Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the tax would be "fair and progressive and designed so all of the biggest firms have the biggest input into our economic life".

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

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