Translated by Aleksandra Slabisz
Widely watched by Polish Americans, TVP Polonia, a television channel made for and about the Polish diaspora across the world, has disappeared from American cable services.
The removal is due to a legal conflict between the producer of TVP Polonia and its American distributor, Spanski Enterprises, Inc. The producer assures it is working on bringing the channel back to the screens of Polish Americans.
“This is a temporary situation. In general Telewizja Polska, TVP [Polish Television] is working on expanding its offer and accessibility in both Americas. We expect the legal procedures to be over in the next months,” the company said in an official statement sent to Nowy Dziennik.
A similar message has been sent to American subscribers of TVP Polonia, but it’s not clear who specifically authored the message – the TV station or its American distributor Spanski Enterprises, Inc.
“We are hoping to resume programming after the legal process is over. We also hope to present a wider programming offer,” reads the message sent to the internet subscribers and enigmatically signed “Redakcja TVPolonia.com.”
Viewers reacted instantaneously to their screens going blank in mid-December.
“Such a shame, we won’t be able to watch the channel anymore. They had great shows!” one New York viewer wrote on Facebook.
“Everybody knew about the contract expiring. If anyone cared about promoting Polish culture, the language and knowledge about Poland, a new contract, worse or better would have been signed on time,” another person posted.
According to court documents, the legal dispute is being heard by the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Manhattan. It concerns a 25-year old distribution contract signed on Dec. 14, 1994 by the Telewizja Polska and Spanski Enterprises, Inc., which now allegedly wants to renew it for the next 10 years. The contract expired on Dec. 13, 2019.
“The legal procedures were initiated by Spanski Enterprises, Inc. The distributor maintains that the contract had been unilaterally extended for four years, which Telewizja Polska is denying. The matter is still in court, the parties are waiting for the verdict and as a result the program is not available in both Americas,” says the Polish side of the conflict.
Nowy Dziennik was unable to get in touch with “Redakcja TVPolonia.com,” the company that messaged American subscribers of TVP Polonia, nor with the Canadian-based Spanski Enterprises, Inc.
It is not clear how long the Polish-language programs, which so many Polish Americans relied on for news, films and various educational and cultural programs, will be unavailable in North and South Americas.
Many viewers were not aware of the legal conflict between the TV station and its distributor, and expressed anger that their favorite channel from Poland disappeared shortly before Christmas.
“Why deprive us of a program created for the Polonia in the U.S.? And why right before Christmas?” wrote another frustrated Facebook user and a fan of TV Polonia.
Ironically, the break in the transmission of TVPolonia happened on Dec. 13, the anniversary of the introduction of Martial Law in Poland in 1981, which many Polish immigrants also remember as a day marked by the regime shutting down Poles’ favorite TV programs.