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Controversial Polish Catholics enter TV • Saturday February 15, 2003

BBC, Feb. 13, 2003

A controversial Polish Catholic group whose hugely popular radio station has been accused of intolerance and anti-semitism has been awarded a licence to open a television station.

The hard-line Catholic Lux Veritatis Foundation, run by Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, says the Tvam satellite channel will mainly broadcast religious programmes but also aims to educate and inform the Polish people.

The license was granted despite widespread controversy surrounding Radio Maryja, the station founded by Father Rydzyk shortly after the fall of communism in Poland.

The station now claims around five million listeners.

Critics say Radio Maryja’s mixture of sermons, prayers and hymns is underpinned by a xenophobic message that frequently attacks the European Union and Jews.

Concern among critics

The head of one political party has accused the station of spreading hatred, intolerance and disrespect for people with differing viewpoints, and it has also come under pressure from Poland’s Catholic Church.

The country’s Primate, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, started moves to close down the station’s fund-raising offices in Warsaw last year.

BBC Warsaw correspondent Nicholas Walton says the expansion of Father Rydzyk’s media empire into television is likely to increase the reach of his message and cause further concern among his many critics.

Tvam’s license was granted on Thursday by Poland’s National Radio and Television Council, and the station is expected to begin broadcasting later this year.

Tax probe

“Our experts regarded the programming offer highly,” said National Radio and Television Council spokeswoman Joanna Stepien.

An investigation is still under way into Radio Maryja’s tax-exempt status, after claims of fraud made in a television documentary.

The radio station does not currently pay tax under a law exempting all religious and pastoral activities.

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