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The new Danish Agency for Culture combines responsibility for arts, heritage, literature and media.


A new agency for Castles and Cultural properties was established in January 2012.

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Denmark/ 3. Competence, decision-making and administration  

3.2 Overall description of the system

Danish cultural policy is both centralised and decentralised; one of the reasons is that the development of public cultural policy and institutions in Denmark is closely linked to the cultural and political movements that fostered Danish democracy and the welfare state. Different concepts of culture have been a central wheel in this process. Since Denmark adopted its first democratic constitution in 1849, social movements and a broad range of popular associations have flourished in Denmark. Liberal Movements for agricultural cooperatives, folk high schools and the later worker movement included culture as a social dimension and as a process in which everyone should participate. According to the bourgeois position in the late 18th century, cultural policy should concentrate on national art promotion dominated by the urban elite in the capital of Copenhagen. Present Danish cultural policy is constructed in this complex spectrum, from national patriotism focusing on the arts to the popular movement's broader conception of culture.

The political responsibility for public cultural policy is placed with the Danish Parliament (Folketinget), the government and the Ministry of Culture. The state level sets the overall framework for national and local cultural policies (see chapter 3.1 state level) and puts forward guidelines for international cultural exchange and cooperation.

The national level

The overall coordinating executive power for policy initiation, planning and implementation lies with theMinistry of Culture. The final legislative and budgetary powers rest with the Parliament. A special parliamentary Committee of Culture (Folketingets Kulturudvalg) deals with cultural policy issues. The powerful Ministry of Finance (Finansministeriet) sets, after an amendment in the Parliament (Folketinget), the financial framework for budget allocations to arts and culture.

The competence of the Ministry of Culture encompasses creative arts, music, theatre, film, libraries, archives, museums, protection and preservation of buildings and monuments, archaeology and higher education and training. Furthermore, its responsibilities include intellectual property rights, radio and television, sport and international cultural cooperation, with a primarily focus the EU, Nordic Cooperation, the Council of Europe, UNESCO and the UN.

Since the Ministry of Culture was established in 1961, actual policy implementation and competence has been increasingly delegated to a complex framework of cultural agencies, councils, committees and cultural institutions with different tasks, competences and degrees of autonomy (see chapter 3.1 organigram A and B):

The current role of the Ministry and its associated bodies is as follows:

  • The Ministry. The Ministry acts as an architect, providing the framework for an overall cultural policy and – in co-operation with the Parliament – sets the objectives, financial frameworks, subsidy arrangements and the organisational structures that form the basis of cultural policy in Denmark. The Ministry of Culture and its departments focus on strategic planning and govern through information provision and performance contracts.
  • The Agencies. The agencies handle administrative, advisory and implementation tasks for the Ministry of Culture in the following areas: libraries, cultural heritage, the arts, archives, media and film. They are defined as state institutions (see the new central structure below).
  • Councils, committees and other arm's length bodies within the different agencies. The basic allocating and advisory bodies in the different fields are the expert committees and boards within the agencies, councils and foundations. E.g Funding for the arts is allocated by the Danish Arts Foundation (Statens Kunstfond) and the Danish Arts Council (Statens Kunstråd) through a number of independent expert committees (see organigram B in chapter 3.1). These committees operate according to the "pure" arm's-length principle. This means that their decisions are final and cannot be overruled by appeal to another administrative or political body. But the autonomy and competence of these arm's length bodies differ. Other bodies, such as the majority of committees connected with the Danish National Cultural Agency (Kulturarvsstyrelsen) including its new centres for Libraries and Media, Digitalisation and IT, Cultural Heritage and Architecture, Cultural Institutions and Operational Support and also the Danish Film Institute and The Danish State Archive have a mainly advisory role (see Organigram A)
  • State Institutions. The Ministry of Culture has responsibility for state cultural institutions in the fields of creative arts, cultural heritage, education and research and support as well media, sport, architecture and design. The Ministry of Culture funds the national state institutions. Appropriations from the state budget are allocated yearly, directly to cover the operating costs of cultural institutions. The minister and his department has the fully responsibility to appoint the head of institutions. In extension to the legislation and political agreements amended in the parliament with which the state institutions are obliged to act, the state institutions are also aim- and results managed by performance contracts negotiated between the institutions and the Ministry. The institutions are obliged to evaluate the results annually. Nevertheless, the institutions enjoy considerable freedom, autonomy and independency in how to realise the results defined in the contracts, and how the perennial financial provisions are used.

Some of the important state institutions are: the Royal Theatre (Det Kgl. Teater), the Royal Museums of Fine Arts (Statens Museum for Kunst), the National Museum of Denmark (Nationalmuseet), the Royal Library (Det Kgl. Bibliotek) and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (Det Kgl. Danske Kunstakademi) encompassing the School of Visual Arts (Billedkunstskolerne), the School of Conservation Konservatorskolen), and the School of Architecture (Arkitektskolen).

Approximately 700 independent cultural institutions around the country are partly funded by the state.

In principle, the independent institutions with state funding and the independent institutions financed by the state and municipalities together, in principle, also have to follow the overall objectives defined in the legislative frameworks for the institutions and the management schemes of the performance contracts corresponding to the state institutions. However, the resulting obligations required to realise the overall aims defined by law, the strategies, activities and administrative requirements defined by the performance contracts and demands of continual evaluation are less extensive, depending on how big a share of the total economy of the institution the state is supplying. Examples of these institutions are the regional theatres: Aarhus Theatre, Aalborg Theatre and Odense Theatre, and the five provincial symphony orchestras of Aarhus, Aalborg, South Jutland, Odense and Zealand.

New organisation of the Ministry of Culture

The Danish Ministry of Culture has reorganised its assignments on 1 January 2012 to take advantage of professional synergy, create greater impact and be able to handle the Ministry of Culture’s future economic challenges.

Management Level

At management level, two agencies have been established:

  • The Agency for Castles and Cultural Properties (transferred from the resort of the Palaces and Properties Agency and cultural properties from the Ministry of Culture).
  • The Danish Agency for Culture, which is an amalgamation of three agencies: The Danish Arts Agency, the Heritage Agency of Denmark, and the Danish Agency for Libraries and Media.

Corporate Level

At the corporate level, five administrative units have been established which physically are located in either the Department of the Ministry of Culture, the Danish Agency for Culture or the Agency for Castles and Cultural Properties:

  • Finance (Department);
  • Communications (Department);
  • HR (Danish Agency for Culture);
  • IT and digitisation (Danish Agency for Culture); and
  • Building activities and Purchasing and Supply (Agency for Castles and Cultural Properties).

The ambition of combining the different administrative units is to share professional synergy and to create efficiency. The administrative units will have to manage tasks across the Danish Agency for Culture, The Agency for Castles and Cultural Properties and the Department of the Ministry.

An Executive Board has been created consisting of the Departmental Director and the two directors of the Danish Agency for Culture and The Agency for Castles and Cultural Properties. The Executive Board will have to ensure coordination of tasks that cross-cut the various entities.

The new Agencies

The Danish Agency for Culture

The new Danish Agency for Culture merged by the former The Danish Arts Agency, the Heritage Agency of Denmark, and the Danish Agency for Libraries and Media. The Danish Agency for Culture was created to:

  • to improve professional synergies;
  • to bolster the interplay among art, cultural heritage, libraries and media;
  • to improve the coordination of national and municipal efforts in cultural fields;
  • to promote the development and exploitation of an increasingly digitalised culture and media landscape;
  • to develop new proposals and forms of communication for citizens;
  • to strengthen international cultural collaboration within all professional fields;
  • to create a greater impact in other policy areas;
  • to increase cooperation among, inter alia, education, teaching, research, the environment and nature, and business development, including architecture and tourism; and
  • to make it possible for the Danish Ministry of Culture to grapple with future economic and communicative challenges.

The Danish Agency for Culture consists of five centres, an Executive Secretariat and a HR unit. The five centres are:

  • Libraries and Media;
  • Digitalisation and IT;
  • Cultural Heritage and Architecture;
  • Cultural Institutions and Operational Support; and
  • Support for the Arts.

Basically, the 5 centres follow the same divisions as the previous structure. Users will not experience major changes in terms of the merger. The new Agency for Culture will still become the secretariat for the Danish Arts Council and the Danish Arts Foundation – just as the Danish Arts Agency was previously. The Danish Agency for Culture will be led by an executive committee consisting of the Managing Director and two Regional Directors. (for further information see;

The Agency for Castles and Cultural Properties

The newly constituted Agency for Castles and the Cultural Properties has the purpose of safe operation and maintenance of a number of government palaces, gardens and cultural properties and conservation. The aim of placing the Agency in the Ministry of Culture is gradually to develop and standardise the operation and maintenance of cultural properties in the different fields of the Danish Ministry of Culture. The ambition is to improve professionalisation and aim for large-scale gains and economic efficiency through greater volume in obtaining the services and materials for cultural buildings e.g. The Royal Theatre will get an increased specialisation in property management (see chapter 4.1 The Royal Theatre Crisis).

The regional and local level

Denmark is in the middle of a fundamental structural transformation of the public sector. The Local Government Reform (kommunalreformen), passed by the Parliament in 2005, has decreased 275 municipalities and 14 counties to 98 municipalities and 5 regions. The reform came into force on 1 January 2007 and will be fully implemented by 2012.

According to the reform, the former cultural responsibility of the counties, now abolished, has been transferred to either the state level or the new municipalities e.g. the state has taken over the responsibility for regional theatres, orchestras, museums etc., while the new grand municipalities have been given the full political, administrative and financial responsibility to handle cultural institutions and activities with a natural local affiliation including libraries, museums, sport facilities, amateur activities etc. In case of libraries and museums the municipalities still has to act according to the legislative framework agreed upon on a national level.

The new regions do not have ongoing responsibility for cultural activities.

The Council of Municipalities (Kommunernes Landsforening, KL) is a co-ordinating organisation for the 98 municipalities in Denmark, with the mission to promote the interests of its members. KL is an important actor in the negotiation, planning and implementation of cultural policy, especially after the abolishment of the counties and the transfer of more cultural responsibility to the municipalities.

The Faeroe Islands and Greenland

Within the framework of the United Kingdom of Denmark (Rigsfællesskabet), the Faeroe Islands and Greenland have extensive freedom to improve, manage and finance their internal affairs, i.e. public cultural policy. The Faeroe Islands is an autonomous nation within the realm of the Danish National State of Denmark, governed by the Lagtinget (Parliament) and Landsstyret (the government). Pursuant to the Faeroese Home Rule Act of 1948, the government is in charge of cultural affairs. Consequently, the parliament legislates while administration of the cultural fields is the responsibility of the Faeroese Home Rule Government.

Similarly, Greenland is an autonomous nation within the realm of Denmark. By establishment of the Home Rule Government in 1979, Greenland took over the responsibility for its own libraries, archives, museums, art institutions, high schools, Greenland Radio / TV and the church. The common constitution of the United Kingdom of Denmark primarily manifests itself in the common royal house, common currency and common foreign policy.

The Greenlandic self-government system

On 21 June 2009, the Law on Greenland's Self-Government System (Self-Government Act) came into force, whereby the Greenland Home Rule system was superseded by an autonomous system. The Act is based on the Greenlandic-Danish Self-Government Commission report No. 1497 from 2008. (The report is available at

With this new act, the Greenlandic people's autonomy is widened to the greatest extent possible within the existing national community between Denmark and Greenland (see chapter 4.2.4).

Levels outside the public system

Outside the system of public cultural policy, a large number of agents in the civic society and the private sector have considerable influence on the planning, implementation and innovation of cultural activities. The political parties have, according to the Danish Constitution, the responsibility for passing legislation on culture in the Parliament. The political parties, artists unions and other institutions in civic society have indirect influence on the implementation of cultural policy e.g. through the nomination of members to boards for management schemes, e.g. the Danish Arts Foundation (Statens Kunstfond) and the Danish Arts Council (Kunstrådet). The Ministry of Culture supports increased cooperation between the creative sector and the business world through the public financed Centre for Culture and Experience Economy, and thereby encourages the private sector to play a part in cultural development (see chapter 4.2.3 and chapter 6.3).

In recent years, the private sector has gained more influence in the cultural sector, due in part to the very liberal Law on Private Foundations of Public Utility, which makes it easy for private foundations, companies and individual citizens to support cultural institutions, activities and new projects with tax exemptions. Several new institutions and projects have been realised according to the private foundation model; an excellent example is the new Danish Opera House,which was opened in Copenhagen in 2005 as the new residence for The Opera of the Royal Theatre (see chapter 5.1.5).

Chapter published: 16-07-2018

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