Poland’s state-owned Programme Three cancelled its weekly chart list on Friday after a song criticising Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the chairman of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS), ended up at number one.
Like other public media in Poland, Programme Three has been stacked with PiS loyalists, tilting the radio station’s editorial policy heavily to the right. That has led to a number of well-known journalists leaving or being fired in recent years.
The state of the public media in Poland has been criticised in a number of domestic and international reports in recent years. “The public media and their governing bodies have been purged of independent or dissenting voices since PiS came to power in 2015” and “promote a one-sided, positive image of the ruling camp”, Freedom House said earlier this month.
That said, the political cleansing largely omitted the radio’s music offer, which, especially since the chart list was first published in 1982, has acquired a cult following.
However, with the cancelling of last Friday’s chart list, the subservience of the management reached new levels.
The list was topped by a song from Kazik, a veteran of Poland’s rock scene. In the song, the singer criticised Kaczynski’s visiting the grave of his mother in April as part of commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Smolensk plane crash that killed then-president Lech Kaczynski, Jaroslaw's twin brother.
The visit took place when the government closed down cemeteries countrywide to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. That elicited widespread criticism for bending the lockdown rules for Kaczynski, officially just an MP, but in fact the top decision-maker in Poland.
The title of the song translates as “Your pain is better than mine”. As of Monday morning, it had over 5mn views on YouTube since the premiere on May 8.
Programme Three’s editor in chief Tomasz Kowalczewski said in a statement the chart list was annulled because the voting on the basis of which songs are ranked was “falsified". Kowalczewski said the chart list staff manipulated the voting results "by hand" to push Kazik’s song to number one. The list with Kazik's song at number one was removed from the radio's website.
Marek Niedzwiecki, who has run the chart list since its creation in the early 1980s, has quit in protest following the chart list’s cancellation. A number of other journalists followed suit while several popular artists announced they would boycott Programme Three in protest against “censorship”.
The uproar also appears to have caught PiS by surprise with several party figures distancing themselves from the decision by Programme Three’s management, calling it “provocation” and “stupidity”.