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U.S. warns Poland over news channel, worries about media freedom

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WARSAW, July 22 (Reuters) - Future American investments in Poland could be jeopardised if the country does not renew the licence of TVN24, U.S. State Department Counselor Derek Chollet said, referring to the most popular 24-hour news channel in the Central European country.

TVN24 is a part of TVN group owned by Discovery Inc . The station is in the process of renewing its licence but the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party is planning changes to the law that could force the American owners to sell a majority of their stake.

The National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) on Thursday voted on the TVN24 licence, which expires on September 26, but the results were inconclusive.

In an interview aired by TVN24 in Polish, Chollet said he was concerned about the channel and the failure to grant a licence could have consequences for future American investments.

He said he had raised the issue during meetings with Polish officials, adding that media freedom was crucial.

TVN, estimated to be worth over $1 billion, is the biggest American investment in Poland.

In July PiS lawmakers submitted to parliament legal amendments to the Broadcasting Act that would prevent companies from outside the European Economic Area taking control of Polish radio and television stations.

The proposed changes have fuelled tension between Poland and the United States and prompted fresh criticism from Polish opposition groups that PiS is seeking to curb media freedom.

PiS argues that foreign companies have too much say in the media sector, distorting public debate. (Reporting by Anna Koper; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)