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Polish report
by Euro Reporter
2012-07-19 07:20:05
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Polish media unite to charge for online content

Several major Polish media companies are joining forces to put some of their best online content behind a combined paywall – an attempt to maintain revenue as print readership declines. The initiative, known as Piano, has already been implemented with success in Slovakia and Slovenia, where people pay a small one-time fee for unlimited access to a range of websites. Poland, with 19.5 million Internet users in a nation of 38 million, represents the first large market to try this pay model, and how it fares could determine whether it takes hold in other countries. Digital visitors subscribing to the initiative will pay 19.90 zlotys ($5.80; (EURO)4.75) a month for access to premium content on 42 websites belonging to six media publishing companies. Among them are major news sites, including the leading daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, Forbes magazine and a range of sports and lifestyle magazines.

Peter Richards, the Poland manager of Piano Media, a Slovak company that runs the initiative, said he believes many web users in search of high quality content will be willing to pay the monthly fee, noting that it is about the equivalent price of two coffees. "We think that for two cups of coffee people will buy it," Richards said. The company collects fees from web users and distributes them to the publishers, keeping some of the earnings for itself. The initiative begins Wednesday when the company's piano logo will appear on websites, alerting readers that from September some content will only be available behind a paywall, when the subscription service begins. Most of the websites will still provide a lot of free content to continue drawing viewers to their sites, but highly valued material, such as investigative pieces or political commentary, will only be available to subscribers. In some cases publishers say they will be putting products behind the paywall that they hadn't put online before.

Richards says the Piano pay model emulates cable television. "You pay once, log in once and access a portfolio," he said. "We don't believe people want to buy multiple online subscriptions. It's about convenience." Media outlets have also experimented with a subscription fee for all content on site – such as The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times – or micropayments for each article. The six publishers include two Polish-owned groups, Agora and Murator, along with four internationally owned publishers: Swiss-German Ringier Axel Springer, British Media Regionalne, German Polskapresse and Edytor. Richards says Piano hopes that if the initiative proves profitable for the foreign-owned publishers they will also want to introduce it in their other markets.


Freak wave of summer tornadoes strike Poland

The unusual summertime pattern that brought intense heat to the Midwest and East, and our days'-long bouts with thunderstorms in the Northwest is affecting Poland as well


Polish minister offers resignation after cronyism report

Poland’s agriculture minister has offered his resignation in the wake of allegations of cronyism in an agency supervised by his ministry, an isolated hiccup in Poland’s otherwise stable cabinet that may nevertheless spark a parliamentary debate and a vote of no confidence. According to a transcript of private conversations released this week by daily newspaper Puls Biznesu, a former head of the Agricultural Market Agency, Wladyslaw Lukasik, said there was widespread cronyism, nepotism and misuse of public money by members of the agrarian Peasants Party. Marek Sawicki, a prominent party member and agriculture minister since 2007, quit his post under pressure from Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

“I’ve decided to offer my resignation to the prime minister tomorrow,” Mr. Sawicki told reporters late Tuesday. “I would like to make an appeal for a quick, complete clarification of the aspersions that have been published.” Mr. Sawicki has been Poland’s agriculture minister since the beginning of the first term of Poland’s ruling coalition. The coalition was re-elected last year. The anti-clerical Palikot Movement party, which holds less than 9% of seats in the lower house of parliament, will file a motion Wednesday to hold a no-confidence vote against Mr. Tusk’s government over the issue, the party’s leader Janusz Palikot said. Mr. Sawicki’s dismissal alone “doesn’t restore hope for decency and high standards in public life,” Mr. Palikot said, adding his party would favour fresh parliamentary elections. The ruling coalition has a narrow majority of 234 MPs in the 460-seat Sejm, the lower house.

Mr. Tusk’s government has been more stable than most previous cabinets in Poland since the collapse of communism and has been the only one to be elected for a second four-year term in power. This happened despite a previous scandal when a member of Mr. Tusk’s party, the Civic Platform, was exposed privately discussing ways of concocting legislation to the benefit of a local businessman. The media-savvy prime minister has also managed to contain criticism of his government’s shortcomings in the preparation of an official flight to Russia in April 2010, when the defence ministry-operated jet crashed there killing President Lech Kaczynski, a conservative, and 95 others in his delegation. The partners in the current coalition have had a better relationship than previous governing teams, and largely avoided public fallouts. They have also faced a fragmented opposition, while Poland’s economy has continued growing at healthy rates throughout the global crisis after 2008.


Poland must hold rates to shield Zloty

Poland’s central bank should refrain from reducing borrowing costs at least until the end of the year to shield the zloty and banks from capital outflows, policy maker Andrzej Kazmierczak said. The Narodowy Bank Polski, the only central bank in the European Union to raise interest rates this year, shouldn’t “rush” to lower them with inflation unlikely to return to the bank’s 2.5 percent target this year even as Poland’s slowing economy risks worsening, Kazmierczak said in an interview in Warsaw yesterday.

“The process of draining capital deposited in the Polish banking system has begun,” Kazmierczak said, adding that 6 billion euros ($7.4 billion) had flowed out in the three quarters through March. “Given the dire situation of euro-area lenders, this process will not only continue, but will have an increasingly negative impact on Poland’s banks.”

Kazmierczak’s remarks put him at odds with fellow policy makers Elzbieta Chojna-Duch and Andrzej Bratkowski, who both signalled that borrowing costs may need to be cut after the central bank left its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 4.75 percent this month and in June following May’s quarter-point increase. Polish consumer prices are rising at the second-fastest pace in the 27-nation EU even as the European Commission forecasts economic growth will slow to 2.7 percent this year from 4.3 percent in 2011. Poland relies on the euro area to buy more than half its exports, while the parent banks of five of its seven largest lenders are based in the 17-nation currency bloc.

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