U.S. warns Poland about licence renewal for Discovery-owned news channel

WARSAW (Reuters) - Future American investments in Poland could be jeopardised if the country does not renew the licence of 24-hour news channel TVN24, U.S. State Department Counselor Derek Chollet said on Thursday, referring to potential new Polish laws against its ownership by American media company Discovery Inc.

The station is in the process of renewing its licence, but the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party is planning changes to the law that could force Discovery to sell a majority stake.

The National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) on Thursday voted on the TVN24 licence, which expires on Sept. 26, but the results were inconclusive.

"This is a very significant American investment here in Poland. And there will be knock-on effects perhaps, if the license is not renewed, to future U.S. investments...," Chollet told TVN24 in an interview.

He added he had raised the issue during meetings with Polish officials.

TVN, estimated to be worth over $1 billion, is the biggest American investment in Poland.

In July, PiS lawmakers submitted to parliament amendments to the Broadcasting Act that would restrict companies from outside the European Economic Area from controlling Polish radio and television stations.

The proposed changes have fuelled tension between Poland and the United States and prompted fresh criticism from Polish opposition groups that PiS is seeking to curb media freedom.

PiS argues that foreign companies have too much influence in the media sector, distorting public debate.

"Media freedom is absolutely critical," Chollet said.

(Reporting by Anna Koper; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Cynthia Osterman)

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