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A new action plan for the Danish Arts Council outlined for 2011-2015.


Debate arose in 2011 over governmental report on the Danish arts funding system.


Concern over lack of funds for national organisations in the prestigious new Royal Theatre.


A new report in 2011 recommends changes to future working of museums in Denmark.


The new government programme A Denmark That Stands Together introduces cultural policy as identity policy.


Criticism has been expressed over Denmark’s approval of ACTA.


New focus on quality and more classic public broadcasting for Danmarks Radio.


New music plan for 2012-2015 includes initiatives totalling 135.5 million DKK.

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Denmark/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate  

4.1 Main cultural policy issues and priorities

During the time of the governmental coalition between the Venstre (the Liberal Party) and the Konservative (the Conservative Party) parties, and supported in parliament by the nationally orientated Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People's Party), known as the VKO-government, constituted in 2001, the cultural policy agenda was focused on high artistic quality, revitalisation of the national dimension, increasing private financing of art and culture, stimulation of the creative industries and improving the relationship between art and business.

These guidelines were further pursued by the new VKO coalition government reorganised in September 2008, when Carina Christensen of the Conservative Party was appointed as Minister of Culture, and following the cabinet reshuffle on 23 February 2010 under the new Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, where the former Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller (the Conservative Party) took over as Minister for Culture.

On 24 February 2010, the VKO government presented the working programme Denmark 2020 – knowledge, economic growth, wealth, welfare, including a passage on cultural policy priorities. The working did not include a special chapter on cultural policy. However in passage 8, under the headline "Denmark must be among the more free countries and among the best in Europe for integration", some general guidelines for future cultural priorities were presented.

The overall aims were primarily defined in terms of cultural policy as integration policy:

  • Denmark must maintain its position as one of the countries in the world that are the most free in terms of political rights and general freedoms;
  • Denmark must be a champion of democratic integration and be among the best countries in the EU to integrate non-Western immigrants and their descendants in the labour market as measured by employment rate;
  • the government will also strengthen the democratic integration, i.e. awareness among Danes with an immigrant background about Denmark as a strong community with the freedom to be different, but with the duty and responsibility towards the mainstream;
  • the government has taken several significant initiatives to ensure understanding of our common formation of history and cultural foundations. This had led to the presentation of a cultural canon and a canon of democracy, and we have continuously sought to preserve and disseminate cultural heritage, e.g. through free admission to selected museums.

To reach this objective, the government will develop:

  • democratic inclusion / anti-radicalisation: The government will closely monitor and evaluate the progress made in efforts to prevent extremism and radicalisation among the youth.
  • the government will pay special attention to the need for further initiatives to ensure ownership of the values on which Danish society is based, for example in the form of strengthening democracy and citizenship education;
  • the government will also strengthen the teaching of culture and society for newly arrived foreigners in order to improve the individual's ability to participate actively in society; and
  • there must be an end to parallel societies: The government will not accept attempts to set up parallel societies or to destroy the practice of mutual pastimes that are available in Danish schools and institutions in general. Therefore, the government stressed that the burqa and niqab have no place in Denmark and they are determined to combat the discriminating views on women that the burqa and niqab represent.

The Danish Cultural Canon

How can and aught cultural policy contribute to secure the social cohesion in a society with a growing number of cultural minorities from other countries and foreign cultures? This crucial issue is about which paradigms of nation and identity Denmark and other national states are putting at the top of the cultural policy agenda.

In April 2005, the formerCultural Minister Brian Mikkelsen appointed 7 canon committees corresponding to the 7 main art forms within the Danish Ministry of Culture's remit: literature, music, performing arts, film, architecture, visual arts, design and crafts.

The overall aim of the Danish Cultural Canon published and circulated by the Ministry in 2006- 2007 is, according to the Ministry, to assemble "a collection and presentation of the greatest, most important works of Denmark's cultural heritage". For more information see:

The Danish Cultural Canon is intended to:

  • "serve as a compass showing the directions and milestones in Denmark's long and complex cultural history";
  • serve "as a platform for discussion and debate";
  • "provide reference points and awareness of what is special about Danes and Denmark in an ever more globalised world"; and
  • strengthen "the sense of community by showing key parts of our common historical possessions".

In 2008, The Danish Cultural Canon consisted of 108 works spread over nine different categories of art forms. Each canon committee has compiled a canon comprising 12 indispensable Danish works of art. One exception, however, is the canon for music, where the committee has drawn up a list of 24 works: 12 within popular music and 12 within score music.

Also, it was decided to draw up a Danish Canon for children's culture of 12 works aimed specifically at children.

Issues, changes and debate in Danish Cultural policy 2011

On the 3 October 2011, a new government consisting of the Social Democrats (Socialdemokraterne), the Social-Liberal Party (Radikale Venstre) and the Socialist People's Party (Socialistisk Folkeparti) took office, with Helle Thorning-Schmidt (of the Social Democrats) as the Prime Minister. Uffe Elbæk (The Social-Liberal Party) was appointed as Cultural Minister. He is the founder of the internationally acclaimed school for innovative leadership, "Kaospiloterne", and for 20 years he has been a vital part of Danish cultural life through his many committee memberships (Further cv information since the 6 December 2012 Marianne Jelved replaced Uffe Elbæk as Danish Minister for Culture.

A Denmark That Stands Together

The new governmental programme A Denmark That Stands Together (DST), published in October 2011, states that:

  • Denmark is a country where respect between people regardless of background is strength. A prosperous Denmark is a Denmark where diversity thrives. This requires mutual respect - respect regardless of the difference between us – be it gender, age, faith and ethnicity. However, the deep economic crisis and the absence of due care has put Denmark into imbalance.
  • The government will create a new balance in Denmark's integration and immigration policy. We will integrate and safeguard civil rights. In this regard, the legislation must be clear and fair and the administration transparent and predictable. Decency and respect are the foundation for integration.
  • Discrimination of any kind is unacceptable, whether it is based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or disability.
  • Discrimination and social exclusion of immigrants is unacceptable and an independent barrier to integration. Therefore, the government will establish a national anti-discrimination unit. The unit will identify the extent and types of discrimination in employment and in society. The unit must also carry out publicly funded anti-discrimination campaigns, coordinate inter-municipal efforts against discrimination and support companies that want to fight discrimination in the work-place.

In terms of identity theory, the perspective A Denmark That Stands Together is based on a modern and non-primordial conception of nationhood, citizenship and democracy. Social cohesion and Danish values must increasingly be based on constitutional patriotism rather than on ethnic patriotism and a primordial nation's view.

Culture, Arts and Sports

A special section Culture, Arts and Sports presents specific cultural policy priorities. The government will:

  • Conduct a cultural policy that has a special focus on promoting internationalisation, economic growth and democracy - internationalisation because Danish art, culture and sports have important perspectives to offer. The creative industries are an economic growth factor. Cultural policy will pave the way for a freer humanity. Democracy is developed by participation in the arts and sport.
  • Ensure that culture stimulates the creation of great art and spiritual development, connecting Denmark and the outside world and encouraging economic growth based on Danish society's values, our social understanding and cultural horizons.
  • Cooperate with other organisations and social partners to promote cultural offerings to more citizens.
  • Create good conditions for the cultural industries in the experience economy, including focusing on the cultural offerings in outlying areas of the country.
  • Focus on the working conditions of growth areas in the arts.
  • Respect the arm's length principle. The government will also avoid unnecessary micromanagement of cultural institutions.

The economic dimension of cultural policy ambitions is given priority coupled with a new identity policy, with emphasis on cultural diversity, not exclusionary integration, and a modern nation perception without primordial connotations. The programme emphasizes that in the coming reign a close symbiosis between integration policy, economic growth policy and cultural policy will be emphasised and provided. Only a few words are mentioned on the conditions and role of art.

To implement the aims and priorities in the governmental programme A Denmark That Stands Together and recent agreements in the cultural field, the new minister of culture should:

  • Convene the negotiations for a new 4-year agreement for The Royal Theatre and implement the agreement for the theatre amended in the Parliament spring 2011, including a modernisation of the Copenhagen theatre structure (see below);
  • Formulate a new music policy action plan, including strengthening the conditions for music (see below);
  • Stimulate all Danes, regardless of social and ethnic backgrounds. Everyone should have the opportunity to participate in cultural life. Children and young people's encounter with art and culture is a priority (see also chapter 4.2.8);
  • Develop the cultural competence of children and young people through education and improve the quality of their leisure time cultural offerings, both as active participants and critical culture consumers. This also applies to the culture that children and young people meet in the media (see also chapter 8.3.2 and chapter 8.4);
  • Ensure that more citizens experience and participate in the activities of cultural institutions. The government will interact with the cultural institutions and develop a focused strategy (see also chapter 8.3.2 and chapter 8.4);
  • Modernise the Danish media support in collaboration with the Media Support Committee. Media policy will have to lift the democratic debate and encourage diversity in the media by supporting new forms of journalism, new media, traditional print media conversion to digital distribution and internet media in general (see also chapter 4.2.6);
  • Support the media to promote pluralism, diversity, education, critical journalism and quality in the broadest sense (see chapter 4.2.6);
  • Maintain and develop the Danish public-service media DR, TV 2 and TV 2-regions. This implies that there will still be public ownership of TV 2 (see chapter 4.2.6);
  • Convene the negotiations for a new broad media agreement focused on improving Public Service obligations for DR, TV 2 and TV 2-regions (see chapter 4.2.6);
  • Ensure that Danish associations and Voluntary Denmark continue to be a part of the foundation of Danish democracy. The government will revitalise the Charter for collaboration between Voluntary Denmark and the population (see chapter 8.4.1, chapter 8.4.2 and chapter 8.4.3);
  • Increase focus on digital culture consumption. The digital platform will provide new opportunities for participation in both user-generated activities and more traditional cultural activities (see chapter 4.2.11);
  • Promote the digitisation of Danish heritage (see chapter 4.2.11);
  • Develop the commonwealth in close collaboration with the Faroe Islands and Greenland  (see chapter 3.2 and chapter 4.2.4);
  • Acknowledge the principle of the right to self-determination as expressed in the Act on Greenland Self-Government (see chapter 3.2 and chapter 4.2.4);
  • Respect the Greenlandic and Faroese wishes to develop their own constitution, but emphasizes that this, among other things, should not lead to ambiguity about the Faroe Islands and Greenland's constitutional status in the kingdom (see chapter 3.2 and chapter 4.2.4);

(Further information on the new governmental programme, see:, see also chapter 4.2.4).

The Arts Council's action plan 2007-2011

The Arts Council's action plan for 2007-2011 contained challenging agendas around four themes for the coming years:

  • art and globalisation;
  • art and local communities;
  • introducing children and young people to the arts; and
  • information and communication.

The main priorities decided by the Councils to meet these challenges and to create a coherent and progressive development for Danish Arts Policy in the future are:

  • strengthening Danish art in a global perspective;
  • creating new and improved ways for cooperation between state and local government;
  • easing the application process for applicants;
  • including more artists with a non-Danish ethnic background;
  • to support challenging and engaging art; and
  • creating an arts-related debate in society and in the media.

The challenge to include more artists with a non-Danish ethnic background has created public debate as well as debate in the Council: The traditional Western and bourgeois criteria for evaluating artistic quality will have to be rethought, widened and defined in a new way. The chairman of the Danish Arts Council, Mads Øvlisen, raised the problem of developing a multicultural defined concept of culture as one the most important, but also complicated challenges to arts policy in a hybrid world.

The new challenges imply, according to the chairman, a lot of tasks to be done for little money. The Art Council's funding for cross-cultural activities had, according to the government's budget 2008, been reduced. This gave rise to a general debate on the priority given to arts policy and the role of the arts Councils including the responsibility and the right of disposition in the arm's length bodies allocating grants to the art.

(Further information: See also chapter 4.3 and chapter 5.1.3)

The new Action Plan for the Danish Arts Council (renamed the Danish Cultural Council) 2011 – 2014

In April 2011 the National Arts Councils presented a new action plan 2011-2015. The Danish Arts Council includes both the council and its Committees for the visual arts, international arts, literature, music and performing arts (see chapter 3.1). The Action Plan is approved by the Minister of Culture. The National Arts Council and its special committees are replaced every four years. The sitting council commenced on 1 April 2011.

The plan for 2011-2015 contains a number of actions and initiatives that the council and committee will continue or initiate in their four-year appointment period. Until 2015, the National Arts Council emphasizes, among other things (authors italicizing):

  • support for artistic experiments - especially the experiments taking place in the interaction between the arts;
  • ensuring diversity - among others by allowing artists to develop their practice, regardless of social or cultural background;
  • strengthening the digital dissemination of art - including by supporting experimentation with new forms of communication on the Web;
  • work to promote the production and dissemination of art throughout the country;
  • maintaining a strong focus on children and adolescents and their encounter with art and artistic tools;
  • promoting networking - by supporting collaborations between artists, art agents and art institutions; and
  • supporting projects that develop international networks

(Further information see

The cultural debate in 2011

The cultural debate in Danish cultural policy in 2011 has been based on reports published by the Ministry of Culture: The Report on the state support system for the arts, different reports on Danish drama / theatre policy, reports on the museum sector, digitisation of cultural heritage, performing arts in Denmark and the Ministry of Culture's 40 year anniversary. Several of the reports and issues were prepared by committees appointed by the previous VKO government. Moreover, the debate arose in connection with cultural agreements that were being renewed. Special focus has been placed on the Royal Theatre's economic situation in the government’s new four year contract with the Royal Theatre for the period 2011-2014.

The role of art in society

The debate about the role of art in society started November 2010 when the Danish Arts Council's outgoing president, Mads Øvlidsen, said goodbye with a farewell salute to the Danish culture politicians:

"We've forgotten why we support the arts. There was a time when art was seen as a crucial social and political dimension. But today there are no voices in cultural policy."

Mads Øvlidsen’s overall aim for his presidency of the Danish Arts Council (see chapter 3.1 and chapter 3.2), was to give art back its lost status and role in society. But he found the task difficult. Politicians were missing a vision and engaged themselves in details. He attempted to get politicians to find an explanation for why the arts and culture do not take up more space on the political agenda.

The inspiration behind the call was a speech about the role of art by the former Minister of Culture, Per Stig Møller, at a seminar held at the Danish Arts Council in September 2010. According to Øvlidsen, it was an unusual speech for a politician to motivate the importance of art in the following way:

"Are we not familiar with art, literature, film history; we limit our interpersonal experience to the immediately experienced. It can never be as comprehensive as art experiences. Art shows us the eternal human problems we all struggle with: love, ambition, hatred, fighting, jealousy and death."

Mads Øvlidsen has previously furthermore proclaimed that art should provoke and stimulate debate. His successor as chairman of the Danish Arts Council, Per Arnoldi, expressed in his inaugural speech the opposite view of the role of art:

"Art should not save the world or stop the pollution or give gypsies a roof over their head. If you must talk about message, it must emanate from the work itself, not added as something extra. If you want to debate, one can write a feature article."

The two antagonistic positions of the very nature and the role of art created public debate in the media at the turn of 2010/2011. Arnoldi's view of art was seen as reactionary from many parts of the artistic and cultural life.

A more balanced view of art was made by the professor of history of ideas, Frederick Stjernfelt of the University of Århus, who commented on the debate as follows:

"I am actually just as crestfallen that art should not provoke, as I hear that it should!"

From cultural policy researchers, it was soberly pointed out that according to the arm's length principle it was neither the Minister of Culture, the president of the Danish Arts Councils or the civil servants in the department and the different agencies to determine which artworks should be supported. In the Danish cultural model, the allocation of grants to artists is left to the different expert committees in the Danish Art Foundation and the Danish Arts Council.

(See chapter 3.2 and chapter 3.1. Quotations are cited from, 29. November, 30. November, 4 and 5 December 2010).

The Report on the state support system for the arts

In 11 October 2010, the previous Minister of Culture Per Stig Møller allocated a committee to look at the overall state support system for the arts: visual art, music, performing arts, literature, architecture, design, craft, film and new and interdisciplinary art forms. The committee would focus on the arts support distributed by the Danish Arts Council and the Danish Arts Foundation (see chapter 3.1 and chapter 3.2). If it was relevant to its work the committee could also look at the relationship to other arts support managed outside this framework. Lars Liebst, director of Tivoli and earlier Chairman of the Danish Arts Foundation, was appointed as Chairman. The Committee published its final report on the state system for the arts on 11 September 2011.

As a starting point, the Committee noted that Denmark has a complex artistic activity system that includes many different support institutions, councils and expert committees in the Danish Arts Council and the Danish Arts Foundation, organising and allocating money according to the arms length principle (see chapter 3.1 and chapter 3.2). However, the focus of the terms of reference for the Committee accounts for only approximately 20% of the total state support for the arts.

The overall recommendation for restructuring the Danish art support system (see chapter 5.3.6) was to establish an independent Danish Art Institute with its own board in line with the Danish Film Institute. Within the institute, a series of expert committees should be set up to decide on the allocation of funding within the fields of arts.

The Committee also suggested that the lifetime allowance should be increased to a level that the recipient can reasonably be expected to live by it, and that these artists, therefore, cannot simultaneously seek other scholarships.

Among the committee's principal recommendations were:

  • The arm's length principle should remain as the constitutional principle of the Danish art grants policy.
  • The grant allocation decisions are made by independent art experts.
  • The artistic quality is not an objectively measurable quantity, but is linked to a specific work and specific qualities that still should be identified by persons with expertise and experience in the field.
  • Because of the quality assessments’ specific character objective, operational criteria for what an artist or institution must do to obtain grants is not possible to establish.
  • The safeguarding of diversity is an important factor in relation to the artistic system's legitimacy. The system must accommodate diversity in the field of arts in terms of genres of art, artist’s views, artist’s age, gender, ethnicity, geography, etc.
  • It is important that this independence is both valid for the political system and to the artists' professional organisations. Therefore the Committee recommended a new model which reduced the professional artist organisations representation and influence in art grants committee.
  • The qualitative assessments of artistic activity by art councils and experts committees ought to be widened to more major art and cultural institutions. Such assessments could be a starting point for creating framework agreements for the large institutions. The councils and expert committees’ function in this regard should be advisory.

The proposal to reduce the professional artist organisations representatives was met with considerable resistance from artists' organisations. It would break down the corporate implementation of the arm's length principle, which has been part of the Danish art grants policy since the establishment of The Danish Arts Foundation in 1964 (see chapter 2.3 and Duelund 2003 pp. 204-509).

From both the artistic and political public spheres, the report's recommendation of a joint independent Art Institute, which would bring together all the threads was dismissed as centralist. The Statement of the Danish Performing Arts Organisations is representative of the majority of the cultural fields, but also the political field:

"Art would drown under such a supertanker, which could not take enough account of the individual arts. It will lead to more centralisation, more bureaucracy - not brothers art." (see also

At the same time, the cultural field called for a broader and deeper analysis of the conditions of the arts in order to create a comprehensive, valid and up-to date arts policy according to current challenges of the media, globalism and multiculturalism.

Finally, the Danish Arts Agency encouraged debate in Autumn 2011 to discuss the recommendations of the report (see that the current binary system with two support structures – the Danish Arts Foundation and the Danish Arts Council, both administered by the Danish Agency of Culture, combined with other public and funding opportunities, constituted a multi-faceted and flexible support structure for the arts. It is possible to apply to different agencies and funds, but the disadvantage is that it is often difficult to find out where and when to apply for project support, scholarships etc.

The suggestion that qualitative assessments by expert committees and councils should be widened to the major art institutions was welcomed by some parts of cultural life, while the politicians and the political system were less pleased. (the report can be downloaded at:

Reports and renewal of Theatre agreements

In addition to recommendations and proposals for the modernisation of the state art grants structure, the new Minister of Culture, Uffe Elbæk (since 6 December 2012 Marianne Jelved replaced Uffe Elbæk as Danish Minister for Culture) was faced with difficult tasks as he sat in the chair of the Culture Ministry. The challenges were, not least, caused by an unpopular theatre agreement and a renewal of a new agreement with The Royal Theatre.

A broad majority of parliamentary parties (with the exception of the leftist party the Red-Green Alliance) agreed in June 2011, three months before the election, upon a new theatre agreement. The general conclusion was that Support for the Danish theatre is operating successfully and it is flexibly organised. The agreement did therefore not recommend a thorough reform of the theatre structure and policy.

The agreement was met with widespread criticism from experts and theatre staff who called for courage and determination to do away with a bureaucratic support system that meets the needs of the big theatres. According to critics it is possible to get better theatre for the small theatres as well as for the big players such as the Royal Theatre. Conversely, there were also clear defenders of the current system.

The agreement was based on four specific theatre policy analyses, which all parties in parliament, except the left-wing party Red-Green Alliance, decided to implement in October 2010:

  • Report on international activities: The purpose of this report dealing with international activities in the Danish performing arts was to provide a broad and varied picture of international cooperation in the Danish performing arts any barriers and opportunities for international cooperation.
  • Report on touring theatre: The aim of this study was to provide an overall picture of the extent and nature of Danish theatre touring companies and to gain an insight into any barriers they experience. Furthermore, the study examined whether participants wanted a large touring theatre to be located in Aarhus or Copenhagen.
  • Report on the transmission system: This report from the Ministry of Culture examined the benefits and drawbacks associated with ‘ticket purchase’ scheme. The report presents statistics for both actors and the public.
  • Analysis of the Copenhagen Theatre, with the intention to develop proposals for a more suitable structure.

For more information, see

The New Theatre Agreement

All parties in Parliament, except the Red-Green Alliance, supported a new theatre agreement – which was amended on 20 June 2011.

The agreement on the future of the Danish theatre structure and general theatre policy took its starting point from the Danish Arts Councils Theatre Committee's report Performing Arts in Denmark - Pathways to Development and the four studies mentioned above. Generally, the parties agreed that support for the Danish theatre is efficient and organised flexibly to take into account the great diversity in the field of Danish Drama. The parties therefore found that there was no need for a thorough reform of the structure and public support system.

The agreement does contain a number of specific changes, including an umbrella institution Copenhagen Theatre. The administrative costs for the framework will be reduced in future years. The saved money will be used for establishing open-stage facilities in Copenhagen.

The agreement implies that the umbrella organisation Copenhagen Theatre was to be renamed The Copenhagen Theatre Cooperation, which in future will coordinate the major theatres in Copenhagen - with the modification that in the future it is left to the individual theatres boards to hire the director. Designation of boards in the individual theatres is also changed. In future, the Minister of Culture will appoint the chairman and one ordinary member, the Danish Arts Council two members, the municipality shall appoint one member and the staff at the individual theatres will appoint one.

Crisis at the Royal Theatre

The Royal Theatre's finances are in a downward spiral. The accounts for 2010 showed a deficit of DKK 8.8 million. At the same time, the theatre has accumulated a debt of almost DKK 30 million. Higher operating costs and declining attendance for ballet performances means that the institution is obliged to cut down the number of performances and reduce artistic staff.

Paradoxically, one of the main reasons for the Royal Theatre's problems seems to be the major costs of building the New Opera House in 2005, with sponsorship from the Maersk Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation (about sponsoring legislation in Denmark, see chapter 5.1.5).

The gift seems to imply that the Royal Theatre in 2011 uses a relatively larger share of its budget on maintenance of the new Opera House and less on artistic production. Thus the crisis is not only economic. The Royal Theatre is struggling to maintain its status as the cornerstone and as a national symbol of Danish culture and identity.

On the 16 November 2011 the government entered into a new agreement with the Royal Theatre for the period 2012-2015.The agreement designated the following strategic objectives:

  • maintaining the high artistic level;
  • maintaining the continued development of artistic ensembles;
  • maintaining variation and development through the continued high number of new productions;
  • maintaining a continued high level of audiences; and
  • dissemination of performances to new and diverse audiences

Among the specific strategic objectives, it is decided that the Royal Theatre shall:

  • work with the development of audiences by offering new platforms;
  • work together with other actors in the Danish performing arts and arts education plus businesses and foundations;
  • work for a better coordination and use of the Old Stage, the New Playhouse and the Opera; and
  • the Ministry of Culture will implement more freedom and less micro-management

Compared to the previous government agreement with the Royal Theatre, there will be greater emphasis on communicating with various audiences and audience development. In particular, culture with new media platforms and involving new audiences has come to the centre of the governmental programme's overall desire to create a Denmark, where “people of different social and ethnic backgrounds live side by side.”

The ensuing debate was about economics, bricks and private sponsorship. Is private sponsorship of benefit or harm for arts and culture? Danish cultural policy builds a cultural-architectural model with a high degree of freedom and high levels of public funding in the cultural space. In recent years, the Danish model is influenced by the English and American patron model largely based on tax deductions and legitimate private patron financing of cultural activities.

Economically, the new agreement entailed a decrease in the total amount of 546.5 million DKK in 2012 to 520 million DKK in 2015. Also, the administration of all the Royal Theatre buildings was handed over from the theatre itself to the newly formed Board of Castles and Cultural Property (see chapter 3.2). It's a point which the Minister of Culture is fond of:

"It does not necessarily mean that the theatre saves a lot of money. Most important is that the ongoing discussion about what is spent on buildings and what goes into art becomes much more transparent. We get a much clearer picture of where the money goes" ( 17 November 2011).

Thus, the fundamental debate about the public support to the "bricks" or "the artistic content" has lurked behind the surface of Danish cultural policy since the establishment of the Ministry of Culture in 1961. But it has escalated considerably since the increase in grandiose new building thanks to more private donations and the liberation of the laws on sponsorship (see chapter 5.1.5).

Private grants are often donated to buildings, technological facilities and other physical frameworks which provide visibility and attention for the donors. It can be expensive for the governmental cultural budget to finance the continuous artistic activities which is a dilemma for public authorities that has always existed. But it has been increasingly a problem in a welfare-based collectively funded cultural policy, with the growth of a liberalised tax policy for cultural donations (see chapter 5.1.5).

Whatever the answer to the fundamental dilemma to private patronage and public financed cultural policy, it is a fact that the Royal Theatre in 2012 has fired people in the Opera Choir. On 23 January 2012 the world-famous and newly appointed Chief of the Royal Opera, Keith Warner, entered into an agreement to be released from his contract. Following this development, the young Czech conductor also wanted to leave the position of the new Music Director of the Royal Chapel.

Positions in the discussion

The former director of the opera, Kasper Holten, and other prominent cultural professionals has entered the debate in light of the economic crisis and the reduced working conditions. The risk is that the Royal Theatre and other major national cultural institutions transform into "provincial cultural institutions" without quality and attention to global potential. The argument is why preserve a national opera in a new monumental opera house, if there are no budgets to cover expenses for a qualified opera ensemble?

Conversely, it has been pointed out that in a situation where libraries are closed across the country and regional theatres are fighting for their survival, it does not seem right to complain about support for a cultural institution that gets over 500 million DKK in annual state support. ( 7-8. January 2012).

Furthermore, studies of Danish cultural habits state that very few Danes have a serious interest in the Royal Theatre. According to a study conducted by the business newspaper Børsen in May 2011, 72% of Danes objected to increasing public support to counteract the Royal Theatre's economic problems. 51% supported the closing of one of the Royal Theatre's three houses (The New Royal Playhouse, the Opera and Ballet House, the Old Stage), if the money instead could go to productions ( 26 and 27 May 2011).

The study shows overall that Danes are in favour of public funding for culture for example, expenditure on libraries at 35 USD per loan. In return, they become critical when they hear that ballet and opera gets more than one thousand USD in grants per spectator (see September 9, 2011)

Thus, the limit is reached for public acceptance of new, expensive props at the Royal Theatre says Trine Bille, expert in cultural economy at Copenhagen Business School. Figures in the survey show that Danes have reached the limit of popular acceptance of extensions to new buildings.

However, there is still massive political support for the national institution with three art forms because, according identity researchers, politicians today are revitalising the focuses on national identity and national state preservation. Precisely because it is a huge national symbol - the Royal Theatre stands strong. (see also chapter 6.1)

Support to classic or rhythmic music?

Public support for classical music in 2011 received approximately 2 billion DKK, while other forms received approx. 1 billion DKK.

The government has announced a new music plan to replace the one which expired at the end of 2011/2012. According to the government programme (see above) this may see a strengthening of rhythmic music at the expense of classical music which has caused some controversy. Furthermore, it has been stated that this is a misleading way of reasoning, based on an outdated and artificial distinction between classical and rhythmic music.

On 8 February 2012, Cultural Minister Uffe Elbæk (since the 6 December 2012 Marianne Jelved replaced Uffe Elbæk as Danish Minister for Culture) presented his proposal for a new four-year action plan for musical life in Denmark. He has allocated new money for rhythmic music from tipsmidlerne - receipts from the state sports pools. (see chapter 6.1).

The Minister of Culture's proposal for a new music plan One music scene - many genres includes initiatives totalling 135.5 million DKK for 2012-2015. Close to two thirds of the new money in the music plan goes to "strengthening rhythmic music". Out of the total pool, 34.5 million DKK is "new money" from the state sports pools.

The Music Action Plan proposes:

  • 74.8 million DKK for strengthening rhythmic music, including regional and fee-supported venues and transport support;
  • 16 million DKK for contemporary and artistic development;
  • 28.7 million DKK for new talent development; and
  • 16 million DKK for music export.

Moreover the music action plan focuses on:

  • strengthening music education in schools;
  • addressing the gender balance between male and female rock musicians - among other things through a music summer camp for young female musicians. Today, only 20% of practicing rhythmic musicians are women;
  • more requirements for collaborations across musical genres
  • Danmarks Radio (DR) must give higher priority to rhythmic music.

Since much of the music action plan is based on receipts from the state sports pools, the plan cannot be implemented until final adoption of a Finance Committee meeting in May 2012. The plan runs from 2012 to 2015 and replaces the previous plan New Tones from 2008.

The new law for museums.

In April 2011 The Danish National Cultural Heritage Agency published the report Working on the Future of Museums. The primary focus was recommending how the basic control of the area can support the on-going structural development. In addition, it focuses on the division of labour between the state actors in the field. Finally, the report includes a number of general recommendations for museums and municipalities.

The Heritage Agency points to a number of problems, both logistical and financial, which the new Minister of Culture will have to deal with. Hard priorities are inevitable. Among other things, it has been recommended to move archaeological research from the individual museums and assembled in fewer units. The organisation Danish Museums expressed anger over the proposal which in their opinion would mean a dangerous centralisation and starvation of many small Danish museums (see Heritage Agency and See also chapter 4.2.2).

50th anniversary of the Danish Ministry of Culture

The 19 September 2011 was the 50th anniversary of the Danish Ministry of Culture - one of the first ministries of culture established in the world. On this occasion, the Ministry of Culture published an anniversary catalogue which summarises the Ministry's history (available for download from

The formal mastermind behind the Ministry's creation was then Prime Minister Viggo Kampmann (Social Democratic Party), which would drive the welfare state of Denmark ahead and open ground for new ideas. But the ideological founder was Julius Bomholt, then Minister of Education, as the Ministry of Cultural Affairs would become the country's first Minister of Culture with its own ministry.

Julius Bomholt was a Social Democrat whose career spanned the 20th century and he was a progressive thinker. From the mid-1920s and into the 1930s, Bomholt called attention to an elitist cultural policy: the bourgeois culture and education was at best obsolete - for example, Bomholt described the opera as ridiculous and decidedly harmful and should be replaced with a new “working class culture” that would strengthen “the socialist man”.

In 1938, Bomholt wrote the book “Culture for the People”. In 1953, he pleaded for “People First” in his party's cultural policy. The focus of his cultural policy was on transforming a particular working class culture to a general culture of all people and human beings. He wrote:

"We know that art has kept moving. It is no longer linked to a small number of wealthy homes, but to the people and its institutions". Every citizen should have equal access to the bourgeois culture's benefits and the newly created ministry would become the key distribution centre. “There are many places with a perception that art is a luxury. But we must seek to open our fellow citizens' eyes to the truth that art is vital”, proclaimed Julius Bomholt.

This view of culture and ministry assignments was surprisingly firm in the following 50 years. Among the parliamentary parties and successive governments, there was widespread consensus on the Culture Ministry's general objectives and the strategic changes that took place along the way (see chapter 1 and chapter 2).

Changes and challenges


The new government programme A Denmark That Stands Together, published inOctober 2011, introduced a change in Danish cultural policy defined as identity policy. The previous government which produced the national cultural canon is gone. But it has not reduced the level of either the principal or actual problems and the challenge of the cultural agenda in the coming reign. This raises a number of current issues and challenges to be discussed in the national and international cultural policy in Denmark and other parts of Europe:

  • Which identity policy seems to be a promising answer to the new national, European and global cultural landscapes?
  • Which paradigms of identity are displayed in cultural policies in Denmark, other national states and in common European bodies such as the Council of Europe and the EU?
  • How can cultural policy help to ensure national, regional and international cohesion?
  • Is it possible to develop alternatives to primordial national identity conceptions without throwing social cohesion out with the bathwater?

(For further information on these issues and identity development in the present cultural policy landscape in the Europe of 2011, see Think Piece: Peter Duelund, the Impact of The New Nationalism and Identity Politics on Cultural Policy-making in Europe and Beyond


Although The Social Democrats put forward proposals for an increase in the total cultural budget of 100 000 million DKK during their election campaign, the total cultural budget for 2012 is largely a continuation of the VKO-government culture budget for 2012 adopted before the election. The cultural budget for 2012 is similar the budget for 2011 (see chapter 6). This puts significant limitations on the options available to the new Minister of Culture. Cultural renewal and development require re-prioritisations within the existing budget.

At the same time, the economic crisis is limiting the opportunities for cultural institutions to finance activities through private donations and sponsorship, higher entrance fees, etc. Any changes will have to redistribute funds from existing activities.

Finally, the strengthening of the economic dimension in the government’s programme raises a fundamental question about the enlightenment perspective of cultural policy, which together with the egalitarian dimension of culture for all, has been the basic value carried by strong political consensus in the welfare-based Danish cultural policy since 1961:

These concerns have raised serious questions in 2011 about:

  • The role of private sponsorship in society;
  • The division between public grants to buildings and artistic content;
  • The major national cultural institutions legitimacy and status in a multicultural society;
  • The proportion of the total culture budget given to classic and new arts forms;
  • How cultural policy can help to stimulate artistic quality and strengthen the arts autonomy through the arm's length principle and other democratic organisational principles
  • How to strengthen artistic expression and the cultural institutions to avoid an economic and philosophical utilisation of art and culture?

More concretely, recent considerations include:

  • Is it possible to finance large national flag ships like the Royal Theatre, Ballet and Opera in a small country like Denmark without losing quality, artistic freedom and equal access for all people?
  • Would an open national scene with no real affiliated artists be a preferable alternative to the present ensemble model of the Royal Theatre, Opera and Ballet?
  • Should the government give priority to decentralising the cultural policy structure and improve amateur activities and the work of voluntary organisations as stated in the governmental programme?
  • Is there a need for a redistribution of classic musical support to rhythmic music?

Critics and facts about ACTA

The Danish Government approved the international copyright agreement ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) in early 2012. It has raised fierce debate, as critics think that the agreement restricts citizens' use of an open, free internet.

The Danish Government, represented by Minister of Culture, Uffe Elbæk (since 6 December 2012 replaced by Marianne Jelved), Business- and Growth minister Ole Sohn, and Trade and Investment Minister Pia Olsen Dyhr, stated that the debate on ACTA agreement has focused narrowly on the perceived negative impact on freedom of expression. The minister argues that the agreement does not involve any curtailment of citizens' fundamental rights. Rather, the agreement is a further author's right protection of artists and cultural life and a strengthening of collective agreement license – a special Danish / Nordic construction, which involves users entering into an agreement with a representative collecting organisation (see chapter 5.1.7 and chapter 5.3.8).

Due to globalisation, technological innovations and Danish copyright laws, the following developments have occurred:

  • In line with globalisation, trade with countries outside the EU increased therefore Denmark will have better opportunities to enforce these rights outside the EU.
  • Technological advances in recent years made piracy easier and has increased proliferation of counterfeit goods, i.e. EU customs authorities estimate that illegal copying tripled from 2005-2010.
  • As a consequence, annually European companies lose tens of billions of DKK, including designers, artists and production companies. Much of this copying has the character of organised economic crime.
  • There is daily illegal downloading of music and movies, which means that artists miss the opportunity to get paid for their productions.
  • Thus the ACTA agreement is aimed primarily at combating illegal copying and distributing the rules on enforcement of rights, already existing in Europe, to a number of countries outside the EU.
  • The ACTA agreement does not create new powers to enforce intellectual property rights, but aims only to ensure more efficient use of existing regulations. ACTA does not change the definition of legal and illegal.
  • The agreement does not involve curtailment of citizens' fundamental rights, including freedom of expression and the right to privacy. Respects for these rights are clearly enshrined in several places in ACTA.
  • ACTA is an international agreement that is about to improve international enforcement of intellectual property rights, such as patents, trademarks, copyright and authors’ rights, while legal certainty for citizens is not compromised.
  • ACTA's rules on enforcement of rights also cover situations where the copyright violations are online, but do not in any way limit consumer freedoms, including the right of consumers to use the Internet.
  • ACTA do not alter the responsibilities and obligations that are already protected by Danish copyright laws (see chapter 5.1.7 and chapter 5.3.8). The agreement thus does not introduce stricter rules for Internet use.
  • ACTA implies, for example, that a Danish rock band is better off (if their hits are pirated and made available free on the Internet) in an ACTA country where enforcement has not previously been as effective as in Denmark and the EU. ACTA gives the band a guarantee that the ACTA countries' legal systems can hold the offender accountable and remove the illegal copy from the Internet.
  • The government therefore considers the ACTA as a good deal for Denmark and the EU.
  • The Danish EU Presidency will therefore work in good faith to ensure that the agreement moves as far as possible in the EU process during its Presidency in the first half of 2012. (Further information:, 10-11 February 2012).

Opponents of the act have criticised it for its negative effects on fundamental digital and civic rights, freedom of expression and communication privacy. Furthermore, the negotiation process has been criticised for excluding civil society groups, developing countries and the general public.

Danish cultural policy's "Catch 22"

Danish cultural policy in 2012 is placed in a "Catch 22" situation: Because of the status quo in the total cultural budget, the government will have to make tough decisions about what cuts to make. The quality of symphony orchestras may be impacted, budgets for museums may have to be cut or artistic quality in the Royal Theatre's new Opera Buildings and Playhouse may be downgraded - all of which are cultural institutions that have a high symbolic national value for the welfare based national state of Denmark.

Some have suggested that there is a need for a modernisation of Danish cultural policy that goes beyond administrative adjustments. Denmark needs a new cultural model that gives priority to artistic content rather than to economic stimulation, branding, bricks and monumental projects.

The Local Government Reform

The Local Government Reform, put into force on 1 January 2007 (see chapter 3.2), has given rise to a widespread debate on its implications for art and culture. The Reform has, in the period January 2007 – March 2010, resulted in about 240 libraries being closed down. Also, local theatres, museums and other institutions have been closed or forced to work under difficult economic positions due the fact that the municipalities have been given the full political, administrative and financial responsibility to handle cultural institutions and activities with a natural local affiliation (see chapter 5.3.2 and chapter 5.3.4).

The economic crisis and the working programme of the reorganised government, which was published in 24 February 2010, has intensified the cultural debate on how to finance local cultural institutions in the municipalities in the years to come. The working programme of the government implies a reduction in the public budgets of about 4 billion EUR in 2011 and 2012 – especially impacting on the budgets of the municipalities. Will the only new investments be in the hospital sector? What do these economic reductions imply for the decentralised cultural policy in the municipalities in the future? Is it necessary to rethink the Local Government Reform in the cultural policy field to avoid an asymmetric cultural development in Denmark – in spite of the golden ambitions in favour of local societies and included in the new cultural strategy Culture for All, presented by the government in December 2009?

In November 2010 the results of a Danish survey of citizens on the best and worst initiatives implemented by the present VKO government in the period 2001-2010 (see chapter 1) were published. 14 % of the population estimated that the Local Government Reform was promising, but 37% reported that it was one of the worst reforms undertaken by the government in the period.

Following the new governmentalprogramme A Denmark That Stands Together, published in October 2011, an evaluation of municipal reform and the current division between municipalities, regions and the state was carried out. There are still small areas within cultural policy where local government reform has not been finally implemented in the sense that temporary transitional arrangements still exist.

The regions' cultural policy is not considered important by other parties except those who have obtained support from the regions. The government's assessment of the reform might be a chance to clarify the regions continued cultural efforts.

Chapter published: 16-07-2018

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