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Communists Lose Control Of Polish Airwaves

September 23, 1989

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ A Solidarity journalist was named Saturday to run Poland’s state-owned television and radio, removing Communist Party control of the powerful broadcast media for the first time since World War II.

Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki chose Andrzej Drawicz, 57, a specialist in Soviet affairs and a former political prsoner.

The choice to head radio and television was the major remaining question mark in Mazowiecki’s government. The post will not retain its Cabinet rank, reflecting the new government’s view that there should be nothing like an ″information minister″ trying to shape public opinion.

″TV is the mass medium that lied the most,″ said Krzysztof Kozlowski, a Solidarity senator who negotiated media reform with the Communists during their historic negotiations earlier this year.

Gaining control of the electronic media was a non-negotiable point for Solidarity during talks to form the East bloc’s first government not led by Communists.

″The government wants to tell the truth and enable freedom of speech for all sections of public opinion,″ Mazowiecki told parliament Sept. 12.

″The right of access to radio and televison must be equal to all,″ he said. ″Gone are the times of limiting the freedom of Polish journalists.″

The post was held since April 17 - the same day legal status was restored to Solidarity after a seven-year ban - by Jerzy Urban, who as government spokesman aggressively dueled with Solidarity when it was in opposition.

Drawicz will meet with Urban on Sunday and begin his new duties Monday, his wife, Vera, said in a telephone interview. She said Drawicz was outside the city and could not be reached for comment.

The power of the mass media has been carefully guarded by the Communists since they came to power in the late 1940s.

Poles eager for even a glimpse of the outside world are hooked on television. Nonetheless, they have railed against what was shown - riots and mayhem in the United States, for example - and what wasn’t: Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, for seven years after the 1981 martial-law crackdown.

After martial law was imposed, journalists were required to go through a ″verification″ of their loyalty to Communist authorities. Many were forced out.

At the talks that led to restoration of Solidarity’s legal status, Kozlowski said, union negotiators concluded that ″for Communists the world created by television, the artificial world, is more important than the real world.″

Drawicz, who was jailed along with thousands of others after martial law, has no significant experience in television. But he is a respected journalist known for his admiration of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s reform policies.

There has been considerable debate over the new structure of state television. The pro-Solidarity newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza has been running a back-page forum under the headline, ″What kind of television?″

Some have suggested that the Communist Party be given 45 minutes a week on TV - just what Solidarty got when it won limited access to the airwaves in April.

Control of broadcasting likely will be transferred from the Cabinet to parliament under the committee headed by Drawicz and including deputy chairmen from its allied parties and the Communists.

The committee will be run publicly, Kozlowski said, unlike the past when the names of all members but the chairman were kept secret.

Viewers say news reports have become more even-handed in recent months, and one satirical program even poked fun at communsit President Wojciech Jaruzelski - something that would have been unthinkable a year ago.

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