Poland is being governed badly

Lidia Dudkiewicz talks to Krzysztof Czabanski, publicist, the former president of the Polish Radio SA.

LIDIA DUDKIEWICZ: - I am talking to someone who knows the world of the media well and whose journalistic and literary as well as radio output is very rich. Do you like mass media?

KRZYSZTOF CZABANSKI: - You're joking. What should I like the contemporary Polish media for? Should I like them that instead of giving people reliable information and being a forum of public debate they have become tools of political, cultural and ideological manipulation?!

- You were the president of the Polish Radio as result of some political agreement?

- That's right. There are no other mechanisms to choose the authorities of the public media. And so far no other procedures, except the constitutional regulations, which authorise politicians to control the media, have been invented. And mass media are only tools. They can be used to do good or evil.

- Is there a chance that media can be used to do good according with their mission?

- Let us separate the public media from the private ones. I have no illusions as for the latter - they will follow what the mass culture follows, i.e., money, popularity, PR and marketing. These media can sell anything.
But public media can be different today. And from time to time our media were different! When Wieslaw Walendzuak was the president of TVP the public television was open to views and opinions of a wide social spectrum, from the left to the right. It also happened when Bronislaw Wildstein was appointed president. By the way, during their terms the changes were not only political but first of all cultural. The conservative, traditional, right-wing views became an equal partner of social dialogue. There were political, social and formation programmes. So if you want changes can happen!

- As we remember you changed the radio.

- It was possible thanks to Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and the late President Lech Kaczynski, who made me feel protected. Actually, they protected my conception that the public radio is to fulfil its public mission for which people pay license fee. We managed to make some changes thanks to the hard work of all my collaborators. We managed to open the radio to all important social groups.

- During your term the Polish Radio realised its mission more clearly. More culture, reportage, plays, literature…

- Thank you. I feel awkward to speak about my work but in fact, I managed to revive the programmes for children, musical mornings for young people. We broadcasted from Vilnius and Lviv, edited a CD album about the Katyn massacre and prepared an album about the massacre in Volhynia as well as we succeeded to edit the monumental recordings of all pilgrimages of John Paul II to Poland, i.e., we managed to stress in public that the Polish Radio is a great cultural institution which is obliged to propose listeners a product of the highest quality, and that it is the institution that is obviously obliged to give access to its microphone to all groups of citizens. It was not as it was before my term and, unfortunately, is nowadays that only the opinions of the left-wing and liberal groups can be heard whereas the conservative and these referring to the tradition, faith or national interest are treated as expressions of fanaticism! Thus the authorities of the public media excluded in the past and are still excluding at least half of the nation! However, it is not me that is to evaluate to what extent I succeeded to restore the Polish Radio to the nation during my term (June 2006 - November 2008). I can say that we did our best.

- In the special open letter after you had been recalled from the function of the President of the Polish Radio the people of culture and science thanked you for the realisation of the public mission. We published this letter in issue 49 of 'Niedziela' in 2008. But returning to the present, do you think that a real public debate on the most important Polish problems is possible today?

- It will be difficult, very difficult. Why? We are dealing with the triumphant ruling party since its way to exist in the political scene, i.e. PR has been successful so far. And we have the celebrities, who admire themselves, and their PR is also the most important thing! That's why the crux of the matter, the purpose, the reason of state, work, development and many other important matters for the nation are pushed to the margin. Thus we do not need a serious debate. The groups that have power do not want it and they even fear it.

- The ruling coalition proposed TV debates concerning particular areas of the state...

- The most important debate lasted for four years, during the term of Prime Minister Tusk when the citizens could see how the election promises were dispelled. Where are the motorways? Where are the decent railways? Where are the computers for pupils? In fact, even the number of football stadiums, which the Prime Minister loves, is not as he promised, and the ones that have been just constructed already require big repairs: in the stadium in Poznan the fire safety norms have not been met with and in the stadium in Warsaw the stairs can collapse.
And what about the international position of Poland? Why did Prime Minister Tusk and Minister Sikorski waste the achievements of the late President Kaczynski in this field? Even our relationships with Georgia are getting worse and worse although the Georgians love us for rescuing them from the Russian offensive in 2009.
Why are people unemployed? Why are many families living in very hard conditions? They cannot afford textbooks for their children and they cannot even afford normal food!
Unfortunately, one can ask much more such questions concerning the Polish issues. Perhaps the PR tricks, e.g., directed TV debates, will help the ruling party to cover the gloomy Polish reality. But they will not change it. And Poles work very hard, sparing no effort, skill and qualification. Who is wasting the effects of their work?
In my opinion the election slogan of the Law and Justice Party 'Poles deserve more' hits the bull's-eye. It is true that Poland has natural resources, including the shale gas. It is a country of educated, hard-working people; it is a country of dynamic and ambitious young people. Poles should make careers and live in increasingly better conditions, and Poland should become a serious, esteemed country in Europe. Unfortunately, Poland is being governed badly.

"Niedziela" 38/2011

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl