Denmark: media under pressure to cut costs

Denmark’s political parties have been arguing for years over the financing of the country’s public service broadcaster DR, yet it remains unclear in which areas the cutbacks should be made. The situation has left media workers in a state of constant uncertainty. Now the media are facing a whole new set of problems in the coronavirus crisis.

Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen wants to renegotiate the future of the public broadcasting network.
Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen wants to renegotiate the future of the public broadcasting network.
The previous government made up of conservatives and right-wing populists had agreed in 2018 to cut DR’s budget by 20 percent and at the same time improve the quality of the public broadcaster’s services. The sale of the second public television channel TV 2 to a private owner was to be prepared and the broadcasting licence fees were to be collected via taxes from 2022 onwards. But since the social democratic minority government came to power in 2019, the plans have been up for debate once more, and nobody expects negotiations on a new concept to begin before late summer 2020.

The circulation figures of most print media are declining steadily, although some publications have been able to buck this trend. Many large Danish media outlets no longer report their numbers, relying instead on the reader numbers determined by the polling research group Gallup, which provides specific figures on reach.

Articles as gifts

Der Nordschleswiger, a German-language daily newspaper published in Denmark, has become one of the first newspapers in the country to switch to online-only publication, and has already set the date for the move - its last print edition will be published on 2 February 2021 - exactly 75 years after it was first launched.

Reputable online publications which use a pay-per-article model, such as, are in high demand. The site is financed exclusively by this income. Customers are, however, allowed to share the articles they have paid for on platforms like Facebook so that others can read them. Politiken has also adopted this model, and customers can send an article to others as a gift. However, online-only media like remain a niche product in Denmark for the time being.

Coronavirus aid programmes for media companies

The major newspapers BT, Jyllands-Posten, Politiken and Berlingske attract the vast majority of their readers through their websites. Their websites are in high demand, as is the website of Danmarks Radio (DR), the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. And their popularity has increased since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, when the listeners of DR's news and information-oriented radio station P1 pushed through a decision reversing a merger with music-oriented P4. DR had said the merger was necessary because so many employees had had to switch to remote working due to the Covid crisis.

Reliable news is in high demand during the crisis - but the media companies are also in dire need of state support to help compensate for lost advertising revenues. The government has set up a corresponding aid programme. Nevertheless, several media outlets, including Altinget, have already laid off employees, and the local newspaper Helsingør Dagblad is on the brink of bankruptcy.

The Danes consumed more than seven hours of media per day in 2019, according to DR’s annual report. Consumers often use several media at the same time, for example they have their Facebook news feed constantly in view while a series is on the TV or on a tablet. Streaming, which already accounts for a quarter of all media consumption, is becoming increasingly popular, especially among the young. But the over 45-year-olds are catching up with this trend. A lot of space goes to podcasts; 24 percent of the population listen to them every week. After a slight decline in 2018, the use of Facebook and other social media stabilised in 2019: around 78 percent use social media on a daily basis.

Twitter is used by journalists and politicians but is not often cited as a source. Outside of the debates conducted by politicians and others on the websites of the major newspapers, Denmark lacks a serious political blog culture. The most popular blogs are on fashion and gourmet cooking.

In the radio broadcasting sector, some 15 private radio stations have established themselves alongside the public broadcasters. Radio24syv, which was operated by the media publishing house Berlingske Media and relied mainly on spoken content, was successful across the country until its broadcasting license expired in 2019. Despite vigorous protests, a new station, Radio Loud, which is primarily aimed at young listeners, won the tender process.

World Press Freedom Index (Reporters Without Borders):
Rank 3 (2020)

Last updated: April 2020
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