What next for broadcaster DR after far-reaching cuts?

Up to 400 people will lose their jobs as Danish state broadcaster DR makes annual budget cuts of 420 million kroner by 2020.

What next for broadcaster DR after far-reaching cuts?
DR's director general Maria Rørbye Rønn presents the plan to implement government budget cuts, resulting in up to 400 job losses. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The broadcaster, which is publicly funded by television licences, is required to cut its expenditure by 20 percent under a media bill passed by the government with the support of the Danish People’s Party (DF) earlier this year.

The cuts mean that DR’s six television channels will be scaled back to three. DR3 and DR Ultra will be reduced to streaming services by 2020, while cultural channel DRK will be merged with second station DR2, the broadcaster confirmed in a press statement.

Radio stations P6 Beat, P7 Mix and P8 Jazz will also all close due to the budget cuts as the number of radio channels is shrunk from eight to five.

READ ALSO: Danish broadcaster to merge, close stations as major cutbacks take effect

The broadcaster will see wide-ranging job losses with around 375-400 people likely to lose their positions, including 25 managerial positions, DR wrote on its website.

“A political decision has been taken to reduce DR’s expenditure by 20 percent. That will be tough, but we have taken on the challenge,” director general Maria Rørbye Rønn said in the press statement.

“The background (for the announcement) is both the necessary cuts and to ensure that DR can place even more focus on conversion to digital. In terms of content, we will now focus even more on our strengths. All in all, these are relatively drastic changes, but we think we’re on the right path,” Rønn added.

Commentators in the Danish media industry, as well as opposition politicians, criticised the cuts after details of their implementation and associated job losses were announced.

Mogens Jensen, deputy leader of the Social Democrats, wrote in a tweet that the “result of the government and DF’s media agreement” is a “historical degradation of Danish radio and television”.

Poul Madsen, executive editor-in-chief of tabloid newspaper Ekstra Bladet, lamented lawmakers’ “interventions in the details of news broadcasting in public service. (DF’s) intervention in (DR News) has unpleasant similarities with countries like Hungary and Poland.”

In addition to cutting funds, a key point in the media bill is its requirement for DR to reduce its output of online written news coverage, focusing solely on bulletins and with in-depth and opinion pieces made the exclusive remit of private media organisations.

Social Liberal leader Morten Østergaard told Ritzau that the new media contract, which states that DR may not publish “long, in-depth articles” on its website, represents a “disturbing step that will challenge Danes’ confidence in independent and free media”.

“The government and Danish People’s Party have placed themselves in the editor’s chair with this new contract,” Rasmus Nordqvist, media spokesperson with the Alternative party, said according to Ritzau.

DF, which voted in support of the government to pass the bill, has clashed with the state broadcaster in the past, including over the 2014 historical drama series ‘1864’, which was interpreted by some as a criticism of the populist party’s anti-immigration stance.

DF parliamentary group leader Peter Skaarup rejected suggestions his party's support for the budget cuts was an act of revenge against DR.

“No, it is certainly not. It’s true there have been cases in which we don’t think DR has been even-handed enough. But this is, overall, about modernising DR,” Skaarup said to Ritzau.

“Whilst we have private media organisations and TV2, there is no reason for DR to produce a range of things the private sector can earn money from,” he said in relation to the limitation placed on DR's news output.

The announced cutback plan will, in fact, not be the only one to be undergone by the broadcaster – a second set of budget cuts must also be implemented in 2021.

Full details of the Ministry of Culture’s ‘public service’ agreement, which sets out the changes in full and sets out DR’s targets by 2023, were published on the ministry’s website on Tuesday.

READ ALSO: 'Danflix' could be Denmark's public service answer to Netflix


Why has Denmark made a children’s TV show about the ‘world’s longest penis’?

The everyday adventures of new Danish kids' TV character John Dillermand like walking the dog or going to the zoo might not look like the stuff of scandal -- if the tales didn't often revolve around his oversized penis.

Why has Denmark made a children’s TV show about the 'world's longest penis'?
An image from the first episode of 'John Dillermand'. Photo: DR/Louise Bergholt Sørensen

Even in one of the world's most progressive countries, the stories of the man with “the world's longest willy” have sparked debate about just what is appropriate for children in the programme's target audience of four- to eight-year-olds.

“We think it's important to be able to tell stories about bodies,” public broadcaster DR posted on Facebook Tuesday.

“In the series, we recognise (young children's) growing curiosity about their bodies and genitals, as well as embarrassment and pleasure in the body.”

Broadcast on kids' channel Ramasjang, the first of Dillermand's 13 episodes has already been watched 140,000 times since it was released on January 2nd.

His extra-long member is often key to the wacky situations in which he finds himself at one point floating over the city thanks to balloons tied to his tackle.

“It's a very Danish show. We have a tradition to push the limits and use humour and we think it's totally normal,” education expert Sophie Munster told AFP.

With some members of the public posting outrage online, far-right MP Morten Messerschmidt attacked the show in a Facebook post.

“I don't think looking at adult men's genitalia should be turned into something normal for children. Is this what you call public service?” he fumed.

Munster argued however: “The debate is from an adult perspective, in which the long penis is sexualised. Children have a different perspective.

“The size of the penis is exaggerated so much, children realise it's a joke.”

The series can be watched via broadcaster DR's website.

READ ALSO: Danish zoo invites kids to watch lion dissection (2015)