Musical cleansing – Polish style.

I can hardly believe my eyes. I checked my calendar and it’s not April 1st so I remain flabbergasted by the discovery that the music you hear on Polish radio stations is actually dictated by the government. I always thought it was crap, now I know why!

According to this article, there was already a bill passed in 1992 that stipulated that 33% of music played on Polish radio stations should be in the Polish language, although there were no time restraints. Now, the Culture Ministry has proposed an amendment to that bill increasing the percentage to 60% and stipulating that this 60% must be played between 05:00 and 00:00. That means that for 11.4 of the 17 hours in the time frame, only Polish language music can be played and other music is allowed for only 5.6 hours. It’s also worth noting that Polish artists who happen to sing in anything other than Polish language will also fall foul of this bill, Aga Zaryan for example, gold and platinum selling (in Poland) jazz vocalist.

I find it interesting to suppose that this amendment is proposed as a reaction to what the members of the mysterious ‘Culture Ministry’ see on their televisions these days. If you recall the early days of Polish “talent” shows you’d have 80% of the contestants singing in Polish and the rest trying out English. In the space of just a few years that percentage has almost completely reversed and the airing of Polish talent using English language is commonplace. You would think the government would actually be pleased about this given the emphasis placed on making sure Polish citizens learn English….apparently not.

Of course it’s not the percentages or time frames that matter, it’s the fact that the government is having anything whatsoever to do with censoring the music we are allowed to listen to. This is surely the same as Hitler banning books, isn’t it?

If they are not careful, their attempts to force everyone to use the Polish language will become as laughable as the French.

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27 thoughts on “Musical cleansing – Polish style.

  1. odrzut says:

    I would actually want to hear more good Polish music in radio (for example more of “piosenka poetycka” or folk, or electronic music), but this law will only make use hear more stupid unoriginal Polish pop instead of stupid unoriginal English pop. Not really a difference.

  2. Um… this isn’t really a new concept. Canada has been doing this for ages with CanCon. Many smaller cultures and languages are doing this in an effort to protect themselves from getting Englished into oblivion. Native speakers of English, especially from larger countries, will often not realize just how damaging in the long term this kind of stuff can be.

    Whatever you think of the efficiency of such plans, they’re hardly new or unique to Poland. The Godwining is a tad bit unwarranted.

  3. Scatts says:

    Godwin states that “”As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches”. We didn’t wait for the discussion to grow, we just got straight in there at the beginning! Point taken though, I just could’t think of anyone else who banned, burnt books on the spur of the moment.

    Further, I didn’t expect it to be a new concept invented by Poland and I would equally disagree with it wherever in the world it was/is happening.

    You cannot protect yourself from getting Englished any more than you protect from being Spanished or Frenched. Unless you really want the Hitler (insert any other dictator) comparisons to be realised.

  4. Tony says:

    I can’t imagine that commercial radio operators in Poland are going to enjoy being forced to play music that nobody is interested in listening to.

  5. odrzut says:

    The problem isn’t people don’t want to listen to Polish music.

    The problem is people like the songs they already know, and they know songs because they heard them many times, so media (not only radio) have big influences on what songs people like (song by great band Akurat about this – ).

    When disco polo was popular, it was in big part because of Polsat promoting it.

    In fact modern pop music that most radio plays all the time is the same everywhere on the world, language doesn’t matter.

    Also – that Poles will like to listen to good Polish music is obvious, when you go to concert of some old band like Kult, Hey, T-Love, IRA, etc.

    Still – law should stay out of this – the slow demise of distributors oligopoly and the rise of internet radios and independent publishing will take care of the sorry situation eventually.

  6. Lex says:

    “This is surely the same as Hitler banning books, isn’t it?”

    Why you think so?

  7. VLF says:

    Well, yes… anything that’s not English must by definition be laughable or verging on fascism. Bravo! How pleasant life must be with such clarity of thought.
    The Australian government also requires that a certain proportion of TV broadcasts are locally produced, thank god they are in English!
    You’ll probably find similar regulations enforced in England.

  8. scatts says:

    Lex – it is a form of manipulation by those in charge of what the public are allowed to see, read, listen to.

    VLF – (para 1) entirely expected line of comment and total bullshit.

    (para 2) read the middle para of my earlier comment.

  9. You’ve been brought up by the second-most dominant culture worldwide – of course you would disagree with it.

  10. scatts says:

    Sure and while it’s impossible for me to erase my past I’m quite certain I’d have the same opinion had I been born and raised in Poland.

    I’m not FOR more English I’m AGAINST regulating it at all. What should be played on the radio is what the public want to listen to, whether that be Polish, English, Spanish or whatever. I really don’t care what it is. If the people want 95% Polish then that’s fine with me but they shouldn’t have 60% or even 33% Polish rammed down their throats.

    Hopefully then it will follow that what’s popular on the radio is available in the shops & the gig schedules.

  11. Outsider says:

    I’m 100% with Scatts on this one. Any attempt by a government to censor PRIVATE radio or TV stations is a throwback from a past no sane person would want to relive.

    It’s also sad/funny to see the government of one of the largest countries in Europe being so insecure about its language.

    Monaco switched from Italian to French completely in the 19th century. At the same time Luxembourg added French as an official language. Singapore Chinese are moving away from Hokkien to Mandarin. Here you have tiny countries surrounded by powerful neighbors – and yet somehow they are thriving.

    So maybe, just maybe, language has jack shit to do with anything. If Poland’s politicians care so much about the country’s future, how about they stop their white-and-red circlejerk and follow the example of the countries mentioned above by getting some real work done?

  12. Pistefka says:

    Look on the bright side – this means that the dodgy Polish radio stations which bus drivers always play can only play “Lemon Tree”, “We will Rock you” and “Live is Life” 30% of the time.

  13. scatts says:

    Very true, this is actually good news!

  14. Pistefka says:

    Not to mention “Susannah” by Art Company.

  15. Tony says:

    ‘If the people want 95% Polish then that’s fine with me but they shouldn’t have 60% or even 33% Polish rammed down their throats.’

    Scatts hit the nail on the head. And ‘Outsider’ is right – the Polish government should have plenty of more pressing issues to worry about.

  16. Kasia says:

    It’s exactly the same on Australian television (not sure about radio). We must have a certain amount of Aussie content – seeing as Australian TV is average at best the stations have now resorted to 3 hour news blocks in the afternoon and 3-6 hour lifestyle programming in the mornings.

  17. Sylwia says:

    “I’m not FOR more English I’m AGAINST regulating it at all.”

    What makes you think that it’s not regulated? It is. Only those are the big corporations that do the regulating, and they happen to favour English language music. They control what you can or cannot listen to by producing and promoting some songs and not others.

    The law doesn’t say anything about censure, it just gives preference to Polish music. But you can listen to anything you wish, no?

  18. Wiktor says:

    Once more I would like to agree with Sylwia.

    If the majority (don’t quote me on that, it might be my bias speaking) of internationally marketed popular music is being made in English, then when you lift all regulations, you’ll get radio stations playing, well, a majority of internationally marketed popular music in English, me thinks.

    The 60% is perhaps too rash, but it’s giving native music a chance. And don’t forget about the economy. Polish artists need their money – US-based media groups have had enough, haven’t they? (sarcasm alarm bell rings)

    Besides, this is all about what kind of music radios will be shaping the listeners’ tastes with. But music does exist outside of radio and, last time I checked, seemed to be thriving.

    Off to read the international update thingie. And, as previously, it was genuinely interesting to get an expat’s perspective on this.
    [I guess Gross’s book is already doing its work if we’re not getting to Godwining, but starting with it off the bat: the man was right, Polish people have basically orchestrated Shoah for profit.] (bitter sarcasm alarm bell rang thrice)

  19. scatts says:

    Sylwia, Wiktor,

    I take your point about the influence of global marketing and the predominance of music in the English language but I don’t accept that this justifies passing laws about what radio stations can and can’t play.

    I would prefer a fully open market situation with zero government interference and that people will exercise their own “choice” when they tune their radio.

    We should be able to select the radio channel that plays the music we want to listen to. To an extent we can do that but it is a very narrow band compared to what it could and should be.

    If the people want Polish music then the channels playing such music will thrive and those playing heavily marketed insipid English pop will die.

    There’s then the question of “but what if the people are too sheep-like to form their own musical tastes and just want to listen to what is being most heavily marketed?”. Well, the alternative is for someone, you perhaps, to unilaterally decide what is best for the people, say for example 60% Polish music, and then to remove their choice and feed them exactly that. I think we all know that this is a very slippery slope indeed.

  20. Wiktor says:

    Then we should agree to disagree. Deep down, there dwells a belief in me that the mythical drive for “Freedom” is merely an excuse for a descent into anarchy and in the end – the primacy of “might makes right”.

    The question definitely posits a more insightful discussion, but one that boils down to a dogmatic difference of world views, which means it’d be highly unlikely any side would leave their entrenched position and have a Christmas reunion with the second party.

  21. scatts says:

    We shall have to try and find a topical Polish theme that explores those entrenched positions.

  22. Kuba says:

    Let em play what they want the people will listen to what they want and those with a small audience will fail. Don’t let the progressives push there agenda.

  23. Sylwia says:

    Culture is not a potato to be sold in a fully open market. If kids were told to read and watch whatever they like, they’d never move beyond Harry Potter and Dr Who. Forget the likes of Shakespeare.

    If you don’t create a place for culture you’ll have no culture. There’s no chance the Polish culture will be embraced anywhere outside of Poland, so we need to reserve a place for it _in_ Poland if we want to have any culture in the Polish language.

    It’s a myth that the audience influences the radio stations. The people don’t choose what the radio stations play in the first place, the producers do, so the audience already is offered a very limited choice. Should the limiting be done by a Polish minister of culture or an American multimilionaire who happened to sign a contract with someone who wouldn’t be allowed to sing in any radio station if I had anything to say?

    Why there are (nearly) no non-English language movies in BBC? Why foreign language movies don’t get Oscars in the main categories?

    Or how about a law that at least 30% of music in British radio stations must be in foreign languages? Oh, right, the people don’t choose it or… they _cannot_ choose it because they never hear such songs in the radio stations. So who decides?

    Poles, Germans, the French, Italians etc. are much more open to the English culture than the other way around, so pehaps the critique is misdirected.

  24. Leszek says:

    Letting those with a small audience fail might mean that anything that’s good, but not popular, is destined for the bin. Culture (the preservation of that which makes one group of people different to another) is not limited to high art. Were it not for govts, high art would be dead because there’s pretty much no-one left to sponsor it.

    Most people see themselves as the media portrays them – if the media doesn’t give the local art (high or popular) an airing then you can expect that the local culture will start to die.

    We all believe that censorship is a good thing (go on, tell me why a lack of censorship – which would allow child pornography to be sold – is actually a good thing) – the question is, “Where do we draw the line?” Some people would want to stop anything with any swearing, others would like to promote local art. The answer is not to ban censorship (a form of censorship, itself?) but to find a middle road that allows international content alongside preserving local culture.

  25. scatts says:

    Fine, the government or other culture saviors can start up as many new radio channels as they like and stuff them full of worthy tunes. Just don’t force an arbitrary 60% on every single channel going to air.

  26. T says:

    “Legislation requires Ofcom to secure that local commercial radio stations provide an appropriate amount of:

    * programmes including local material; and
    * locally made programmes”

    That’s from:

    The Queen’s been reading Mein Kampf, I guess. Got a copy from her grandson, perhaps?

    More seriously, radio waves are a (very) scarce resource, and will face regulation in any country, UK included.
    But internet isn’t, and no one will force you to write 60% Polish at Polandian.

  27. scatts says:

    I read the guidelines they provide. It is very much aimed at news as opposed to music, only applies to some stations, not all, and is a guideline as opposed to a rule.

    Very different to what is being proposed in Poland but an interesting read. Thanks.

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