Media deal strengthens public broadcasters

TV2 and DR receive millions more in funding for original TV programming for children and regional viewers

The government secured broad political backing for a media deal yesterday that will see an effective price freeze on the media licence, as well as more money for children's and regional programming.

All parties, except for the libertarian party Liberal Alliance, supported the agreement, which also included a variety of initiatives to strengthen domestically produced programming by the public broadcasters DR and TV2.

In a press release Michael Christiansen, chair of DR’s board, praised lawmakers for backing the plan.

“It strengthens DR as a public-service institution when it is founded on the broadest possible democratic base,” Christiansen said.

The deal will increase funding for children’s television by 73 million kroner between 2012 and 2014. DR will use the money to develop programming, including a news programme directed at young people.

“We are in the midst of an ambitious period of development at DR, mostly with TV, where we are in the process of developing more standout and brave public service content for our channels. We can now get started with this work,” Maria Rørbye Rønn, DR’s secretary general, said in a press release.

Local programming will also be strengthened under the deal, which set aside an additional 62 million kroner for TV2's eight regional stations.

“At a time when there is an enormous amount of international content on Danish TV, it’s important to ensure that we are producing enough professional material locally, because it is in high demand,” Mogens Jensen, the Socialdemokraterne media spokesperson, told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

The deal was a blow for the nostalgic, however, as it was announced that FM radio would be phased out in 2019 if 50 percent of radio listeners are using digital radio by the middle of 2018.

Other notable aspects of the deal included the decision not to sell off TV2, as the previous government had hoped.

The deal also stops companies from paying to have their products shown in TV programs, through so-called product placement deals, while DR and TV2 will also no longer be able to accept sponsorships from privately held businesses.

Consumers will benefit by having greater choice over which channels they want to buy from satellite and cable providers instead of having to buy packages with channels they do not want to watch.

The deal also includes changes to the media licence fee. Households that only have radios will no longer have to pay the 160 kroner annual media licence fee. Households with devices that can receive DR's television programming will see their licence fee rise only by the amount of inflation over the coming two years. Currently 2,352 kroner annually, the amount will rise to 2,414 kroner in 2014.

Liberal Alliance are not supporters of the licence fee and left the negotiations early on. In a press release the party bemoaned the increased state funds that DR and TV2 had secured and argued that fellow centre-right parties should not have supported the agreement.

“They ought to be arguing for a liberalisation of the media market, since it would mean less money forced out of people's pockets for their media licence,” MP Simon Emil Ammitzbøll said in the press release. “Danish TV viewers pay enough already.”