Anger in Poland after state TV execs salaries under previous government made public

Controversy has emerged in Poland after the salaries paid to key figures at state broadcaster TVP under the former Law and Justice (PiS) government, which left office earlier this month, were revealed by an MP from the new ruling coalition.

The revelations, including that two figures earned around 1.5 million zloty (€345,000) this year, have been condemned by the new administration, including Prime Minister Donald Tusk. They say that the pay was excessive and note that TVP was used by PiS as a propaganda mouthpiece.

But PiS has responded by pointing to what it says were similarly high earnings by TVP stars when Tusk was previously in power before 2015.

Zapnijcie pasy!
Oto wynik prawdziwej kontroli poselskiej.
Miliony dla pisowskich szefów TVP.
Już wiadomo dlaczego się tam zabarykadowali.
Nikogo już nie może dziwić decyzja @BartSienkiewicz⤵️

— Dariusz Joński (@Dariusz_Jonski) December 28, 2023

The information was published on social media yesterday by Dariusz Joński – an MP from Civil Coalition (KO), the largest group in the new ruling coalition – who obtained it from TVP itself.

“Fasten your seatbelts! Here is the result of a real parliamentary audit. Millions for the PiS bosses in TVP. It’s already clear why they barricaded themselves in there,” wrote Joński, referring to how TVP figures and PiS politicians held sit-in protests following last week’s takeover by the new government.

Joński found that Michał Adamczyk, a star newsreader on TVP under PiS who also served as director of the station’s news agency, TAI, earned over 370,000 zloty (€85,000) as head of TAI between 25 April and 31 December this year, as well as an additional 1.1 million (€253,000) over the whole of 2023.

Adamczyk was this week named by a PiS-controlled state body as the new head of TVP in defiance of the government, which named its own new chief last week. However, the government subsequently put TVP and other public media entities into liquidation, thereby annulling previous appointments.

Poland’s government has put public broadcasters TVP and Polskie Radio as well as the Polish Press Agency (PAP) into liquidation.

It says it was forced into the unprecedented decision due to the president’s veto of funding for public media

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 27, 2023

Adamczyk’s predecessor as director of TAI, Jarosław Olechowski, who left the role on 25 April, earned just over 1 million zloty for that role in 2023 as well as an additional 408,000 zloty.

By comparison, the highest earning executive at the BBC – the UK’s public broadcaster – last year was its chief executive Tim Davie, who earned an annual £527,500 (2.6 million zloty, €607,000).

Joński’s findings also show that one of TAI’s deputy directors, Samuel Pereira, earned almost 440,000 zloty for that role between 25 April and 31 December – more than the head of the agency, Adamczyk.

Another deputy director, Marcin Tulicki, received over 417,000 zloty for that role between 26 May and 31 December, as well as an additional 296,000 zloty over the whole of 2023.

A jak to robią w BBC ? Lista plac wyższego managementu jest jawna i dostępna na stronach korporacji. Pamiętajcie, że BBC to nie tylko telewizja (kilkanaście programów),radio( kilka programów) , globalna BBC World, internet i ośrodki lokalne.

— Marta Szostkiewicz (@MSzostkiewicz) December 28, 2023

In response to Joński’s findings, Tusk called the level of pay a “disgrace”, noting that some TVP stars earned 40 times more than teachers and nurses. “Will they have to give the money back to the state? Probably yes,” wrote the prime minister.

A KO politician, Bogdan Zdrojewski, stressed that it was not only the size of the salaries that was shocking but “the lack of quality of the work done,” which was “paid for with taxpayers’ money”.

“It’s also the language, the bullying…the dominance of opinions rather than facts, the lack of information and one-sided comments,” Zdrojewski said in an interview with TOK FM radio.

During PiS’s eight years in power, TVP, especially its news broadcasts, was consistently used to promote the government’s narrative and to attack its opponents.

A prominent figure from state TV admits they produced „worse propaganda” than under communism to support the ruling party’s election campaign.

But he thinks this „Stalinist logic” backfired and contributed to the negative outcome of the election for PiS

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) October 18, 2023

Many figures from private media outlets in Poland also expressed amazement at the amount TVP figures had been paid. “Wow,” wrote Piotr Mieśnik, the former editor-in-chief of one of Poland’s largest news website, Wirtualna Polska.

Janusz Schwertner, editor-in-chief of another news website, Goniec, called the salaries “crude thievery” and said it is “humiliating that we all had to pay for it”.

However, PiS responded to the allegations by presenting the salaries of TVP stars when Tusk was previously in power. They wrote that one presenter, Maciej Orłoś, earned 2 million zloty between 2013 and 2016 and another, Piotr Kraśko, earned 800,000 zloty between 2015 and 2016.

According to their calculations, between 2008 and 2016 journalist and commentator Tomasz Lis earned more than 21 million zloty for running his own show on TVP.

Lis responded to the allegations by saying that this amount included salaries for “15-20 people” over eight years, and that the programme earned 160 million for the broadcaster.

‼️ Zobaczcie, ile zarabiały tłuste koty z TVP za czasów PO! 👇

— Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (@pisorgpl) December 29, 2023

The chief of staff to President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally who approved billions of zloty in additional state subsidies for TVP under the former government, admitted that the salaries revealed by Joński were “huge money”.

“Normal people don’t earn that much,” Grażyna Ignaczak-Bandych told broadcaster Polsat, but added that the salaries should be compared to those paid under previous governments. She suggested that perhaps legislation could be put in place “linking public media salaries to some value that operates in the public sphere”.

Regular surveys by both the Polish state research agency CBOS and researchers at the University of Oxford found that public trust in TVP collapsed under PiS.

Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Main image credit: TVP screenshot

Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.

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