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Television news relies on both words and pictures, and the pictures have to be presented in a contemporary style. Today’s news studio’s flexible, comprehensive staging is very different from the early television news’ totally neutral studio with a desk, a logo and a presenter. Photo: Bjarne Bergius Hermansen.

Some principal trends stand out when considering the current mass media situation in Denmark. Firstly, media consumption is steadily increasing. Secondly, the variety of individual media and media types continues to increase, especially within the electronic media. In addition, media content is becoming more diverse. The consumption of media with an international orientation is growing, but so is the interest in media anchored in local communities.

Historical Overview

The oldest Danish mass medium is the newspaper, which dates from 1634. For over 200 years, newspapers were subject to political censorship and therefore almost exclusively covered foreign affairs, trade, murders and curiosities such as mermaids or two-headed calves. With the Constitution of 1849, Denmark gained a free press, which quickly became an opinion-shaping press in close consonance with the major political and social conflicts following in the wake of the change from an agrarian to an industrial society. The newspapers played an important political role in connection with the involvement of an increasing number of social groups in the political decisionmaking process. First peasants and workers were enfranchised, then in 1915 also women.


Party Press

The opinion-shaping press took the form of partypolitical organs, the socalled four-paper system. Each of the four major political parties, The Right (Højre, from 1915 The Conservative Party, Det Konservative Folkeparti), The Social Liberal Party (Det Radikale Venstre), The Social Democratic Party (Socialdemokratiet) and The Liberal Party (Venstre), established a nationwide network of newspapers, which both mobilised and formed part of the organisation of the various social groups they represented.
 In the September Settlement of 1899, employers and employees agreed a negotiation model for resolving conflicts. Together with the introduction of cabinet responsibility in 1901, this reduced the opinion-shaping role of the press. At the same time, various technological advances had created new opportunities for the press: telephones, typesetting machines, new rotary presses, the spread of the electrical telegraph, etc. increased the potential for transmitting and communicating news. Moreover, readers proved to be more interested in being given something to think about than in being told what to think.

Photo: KOB
Mendel Levin Nathanson (1780-1868) became the editor of a stagnating Berlingske Tidende in 1838. Nathanson focused on news and was a pioneer within business coverage, which resulted in longterm success. He was the editor until 1858 and again in 1866-68.

Press Reform

The press found its new role in providing more and independent news more quickly. The ’press reform’ is normally dated back to Henrik Cavling’s reorganisation of Politiken in 1905, which introduced all the new trends simultaneously. However, the new technology and the much larger number of journalists required to produce the modern newspaper were expensive, and the competition among the newspapers for income from readers and advertisers became keener. This led to newspaper closures in 1925-1938 and again from around 1958 until 1971.

In addition, the daily newspapers faced competition, partly from the district press, local advertising weeklies which from small beginnings in the second half of the 19th century multiplied in the 1920s, and partly from a completely different media type: the radio. From around 1920, pioneers broadcast on an amateur basis and during the 1930s, radio captured almost 75% of all households as listeners. The strength of the broadcast medium was and is the speed of its news coverage. Initially, the printed press succeeded in partly controlling the radio news through a state monopoly radio lasting until 1964, but it was no longer the only purveyor of news.

Photo: Fred. Riise. KOB 
Viggo Hørup (1841-1902) was primarily a politician. In 1884, he was one of the founders of Politiken, which became the main organ of the Liberal opposition. His polemic leading articles made the newspaper known and feared in conservative circles. 

Photo: Juncker-Jensen. KOB 
Emil Wiinblad (1854-1935) became editor of Social-Demokraten in 1881, when it was dominated by political theory. By focusing on specific, often revealing reportage about workers’ lives, he increased its circulation and its political influence.

Increased Competition and Television

With the economic boom of the mid 1950s, competition between newspapers again gathered momentum as many new opportunities for consumption and entertainment took up readers’ time and money. After World War II, the press production apparatus was moreover worn-out or destroyed and required new investment. New technology exerted further financial pressure. The pressure of competition from other media also grew. There were more radio channels – two from 1951 and three from 1963 – and the number of district weeklies increased again. In addition, there was a new medium – television – which could not only provide news, but do so with live pictures.



Monopoly Press

The newspaper closures of the 1960s spelt the end of the four-paper system. It was followed by local monopoly press as the three or four newspapers in each major city were gradually reduced to one. Since such a newspaper must have broad appeal, the press further toned down its political commitment and instead prioritised comprehensive news coverage supplemented by increasing amounts of background and analytical material.

The local press outside the capital was subject to particular pressure as the major morning newspapers increased their national circulation. In the 1970s, the two Copenhagen tabloids followed suit, resulting in a veritable sales boom countrywide over the next twenty years. The local newspapers focused on their true strength – local news – and increased their local coverage significantly. However, from the mid 1980s, they faced fresh competition in the form of local radio and television. A new round of newspaper concentration followed in the 1990s, this time in the form of mergers so that the remaining newspapers cover ever larger areas. Another factor was the free household distributed district weeklies, which during the same period generally strengthened their editorial content. As a countermove, the national newspapers bought or started their own district weeklies, both to get the advertising revenue themselves and to prevent further competition.

Photo: Juncker-Jensen. KOB Photo: Juncker-Jensen. KOB
Henrik Cavling (1858-1933) became the main architect of the “press reform” as editor of Politiken from 1905. Fast news dissemination, a broad news profile and direct, colloquial language replaced longwinded opinion journalism.
Franz v. Jessen (1870-1949) was one of the pioneers within foreign reportage. His articles from the crisis areas of the world – including the regicide in Belgrade in 1903 and the Russo-Japanese war – were always sober and wellinformed about international politics.
Photo: Haueralev. KOB Photo: KOB
Court singer Emil Holm (1867-1950) was the first head of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (1925-37). He contributed a serious and professional profile to a new medium dominated by amateurs through his wholehearted focus on art and culture. Louis Schmidt (1885-1952) edited Århus Stiftstidende 1918-52. Under his editorship, it overtook two equal competitors and became the dominating local newspaper as a result of its focus on a combination of national and local coverage.


Current Trends

In 1988, the state monopoly of national television was broken, which together with the growth of satellite and cable television resulted in an explosion of available television channels. This had negative consequences, particularly for the tabloids and weekly entertainment magazines.

From 2001, a number of free newspapers began to be distributed, which has placed further pressure on the traditional newspapers.

With their more serious profile, the three large national morning newspapers, Berlingske Tidende, Jyllands-Posten and Politiken, have found it easier to maintain their circulation, primarily because their readers to a greater extent than the population in general prefer the more comprehensive and balanced news coverage that large newspapers can offer. The same trend is noticeable outside the capital, where four large regional newspapers have similarly had the resources to raise editorial standards. Radio and especially television have experienced a massive audience increase in the period since World War II, alongside a stronger focus on light entertainment in the form of music and television films and series.

A new factor is the growth of internet media. From the mid 1990s and especially since 2001, both printed media – led by the main newspapers – and electronic media have established and then developed an extensive internet presence.

Overall, media consumption is increasing, especially within electronic media, including the internet, while the printed media are stagnating.

Photo: Harry Hansen. KOB
Aksel Dahlerup (1897-1978) worked for the Danish Broadcasting Corporation 1927-67. He pioneered reportage created specifically for radio broadcasting, which used authentic means to portray the daily lives, companies and key events of the Danes.

Photo: Erling I. Pedersen. KOB 
Gunnar Hansen (1905-93) was a sports reporter for the Danish Broadcasting Corporation 1935-76. He became particularly wellknown as a gripping sports commentator. His hallmark was the exclamation “NU!” (Now) when goals were scored in football matches, which led to the nickname Gunnar “Nu” Hansen.

Daily Newspapers

During the last 25 years or so, the three large national morning newspapers have greatly increased their already large market share to almost 1/3 of the total circulation. One of the smaller national morning newspapers has disappeared, while the rest have increased their circulation. During the same period, the tabloids have lost almost 58% of their circulation and corresponding market shares. Among the regional newspapers, the large ones have increased their circulation significantly at the expense of the smaller ones, partly as a result of the mergers in recent years.

An important factor behind the shift in favour of the large national morning newspapers is that their contents profile prioritising foreign, national and cultural coverage appeals to welleducated people, who are more likely than the population in general to get their news from newspapers.

Overall, the daily press has lost some of its previously unassailable position. A household coverage of over 100% during 1910-1955, i.e. an average Danish household took more than one paper a day, has gradually declined to approx. 60%.

In autumn 2001, a new kind of publication, akin to the daily press, first saw the light of day in the form of free commuter newspapers: weekday newspapers with brief news stories distributed on public transport and in the streets. Originally these free newspapers were only distributed in Copenhagen, but since then they have spread to most of the country. In 2005, their total circulation reached approx. 550,000 a day. In autumn 2006, this newspaper type was further extended with various household distributed free newspapers.

Figure: Newspaper. Number of fully independent newspapers and circulation (1.000s)

District Weeklies

District weeklies are free, advertisementfunded newspapers, which are household distributed in a limited area once or at most twice a week. Each weekly typically covers one or two local authorities. Generally, 20-30% of the content is editorial, normally restricted to local matters.

The number of district weeklies increased until the mid 1970s and then declined somewhat. The total circulation has, however, continued to increase, i.e. the average circulation is now greater. An important factor is that most district weeklies now have a monopoly within at least part of their area and therefore are in a stronger financial position. Approx. 2/3 of all district weeklies are owned by newspapers and these account for just over 3/4 of the total circulation.

The district weekly household coverage is close to 100% – several households receive more than one a week – and they are read by 80-90% of the adult population.


Main Danish Newspapers

Three main morning newspapers
Berlingske Tidende [Copenhagen]. Founded 1749. Politically independent (conservative views).
Published seven days a week.

Weekday/Sunday circulation 2005: 125,000/147,000. {} Founded 1871. Non-party (conservative views).

Jyllands-Posten [Århus]. Published seven days a week. Weekday/Sunday circulation 2005:
  149,500/203,000. {} Founded 1884. Politically independent (social-liberal views).
Politiken [Copenhagen]. Published seven days a week. Weekday/Sunday circulation 2005:
  128,000/164,500. {}
Other national newspapers 
Børsen [Copenhagen]. Founded 1896. Apolitical.
Published five days a week. Circulation
  2005: 68.900. {}
Information [Copenhagen]. Founded 1945. Politically independent.
Published six days a week. Circulation
  2005: 20.600. {}
Kristeligt Dagblad [Copenhagen]. Founded 1896. Politically independent.
Published six days a week. Circulation
  2005: 25.400. {}
B.T. [Copenhagen]. Founded 1916. Politically
  independent (popular, conservative views).
Published seven days a week. Weekday/Sunday circulation 2005: 95,000/141,000. {}
Ekstra Bladet [Copenhagen]. Founded 1904. Politically independent (popular, socialliberal
Published seven days a week. Weekday/Sunday circulation 2005: 107,000/143,500. {}
Large regional newspapers 
Fyens Stiftstidende [Odense]. Founded 1772. Non-party (conservative views). Published seven days a week.
  Weekday/Sunday circulation 2005: 60,500/76,000. {}
JydskeVestkysten [Esbjerg]. Founded 1918. Politically independent (conservative views).
  Published seven days a week. Weekday/Sunday circulation 2005: 78,500/89,500. {}
Nordjyske Stiftstidende [Aalborg]. Founded 1767. Politically independent (liberal views).
Published seven days a week.
  Weekday/Sunday circulation 2005: 69,000/80,000. {}
Århus Stiftstidende [Århus]. Founded 1794. Politically independent (liberal views).
Published seven days a week.
  Weekday/Sunday circulation 2005: 51,500/51,000. {}
Other major local newspapers 
Frederiksborg Amts Avis
Founded 1871. Liberal.
Published six days a week. Circulation 2005: 51.700. { and}
Lolland-Falsters Folketidende [Nykøbing Falster]. Founded 1873. Politically independent. Published six days a week. Circulation 2005: 22.200. {}
Sjællandske [Næstved/Slagelse]. Founded 1815. Political affiliation: Denmark’s Liberal Party.
  Published six days a week. Circulation 2005: 25.000. {}
Vejle Amts Folkeblad [Vejle]. Founded 1865. Political affiliation: Denmark’s Liberal Party.
  Published six days a week. Circulation 2005: 23.900. {}
National street distributed free newspapers 
metroXpress [Copenhagen]. Founded 2001.
Published five days a week. Daily
  distribution 2005: 232.800. {}
Urban [Copenhagen]. Founded 2001.
Published five days a week. Daily
  distribution 2005: 222.800. {}
Household distributed free newspapers 
24timer [Copenhagen]. Founded 2006.
Published five days a week. (No
  audited circulation figures.) {}
dato [Copenhagen]. Founded 2006.
Published five days a week. (No
  audited circulation figures.) {}
Nyhedsavisen [Copenhagen]. Founded 2006.
Published six days a week. (No audited
   circulation figures.) {}

Source: Danish Audit Bureau of Circulations.


Weekly Magazines

The light weekly magazines fall into two groups: family or women’s magazines and illustrated weeklies. The content of family and women’s magazines is dominated by fashion, home and life style coverage and light reading such as serialised novels and short stories.

The illustrated weeklies mainly contain news from the film, television and entertainment world, much of it celebrity gossip.

More broadly, the magazine press also includes a considerable number of monthly and quarterly publications, often of a fairly specialised nature, some of them bordering on actual professional journals. This group has experienced considerable growth in recent years.

Figure: Circulation. Distribution for the main newspaper types in 2005 (percentage)

Specialist Journals

Specialist journals and the related membership bulletins, periodicals, etc. constitute a numerically large magazine type, which is difficult to delimit, but has two shared characteristics: they deal with specialised subjects and each is very precisely targeted towards a particular readership.

Photo: Pressehuset. P.Schøn. KOB 
Børge Outze (1912-80) was head of the leading illegal news agency Information during the German Occupation. From 1945, he continued it as a newspaper independent of political or other interests.


Radio broadcasting began on an amateur basis around 1920, but already in 1923 three large Copenhagen newspapers began to broadcast news. In 1925, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (Statsradiofonien, in 1959 renamed Danmarks Radio, DR) was established as an exclusively license fee funded institution with state monopoly. At the same time, the competing radio news programmes were replaced by a single radio news service, Pressens Radioavis, which until 1965 was edited by the Danish newspapers. In 1951, DR introduced a second channel and in 1963 a third. Today, the structure is that Programme 1 (P1) offers a broad range of mainly informative and cultural programmes, Programme 2 (P2mu-sik) mainly broadcasts classical music, while Programme 3 (P3) is a music and news channel catering primarily to younger listeners. Programme 4 (P4) –established as part of P2 in 1992 and independent from 2001 - mainly broadcasts entertainment and regional news.

Since 1983, a considerable number of local radio stations have broadcast programmes of a largely local or specialised nature. These were originally financed by voluntary contributions from organisations, etc., but from 1988 sometimes also by advertising. In addition, the commercial Radio 2 has broadcast nationally since 1997. In 2003, Sky Radio bought the licence to a national fifth FM channel, but this closed again in 2005. In 2006, the channel was bought by TV 2 and it started broadcasting in February 2007 as TV 2 Radio. Also in 2003, a sixth FM channel, covering Zealand, Funen and Eastern Jutland, was bought by Radio 100FM (owned by the Dutch Talpa Radio). It broadcasts music and news and has recently become nationally available on the digital network.

Since 2002, digital broadcasts have been launched as DAB services. Most of these channels are owned by DR, but others are used by the commercial stations. Most of them are specialist channels.

Photo: KOB 
Laust Jensen (1914-96) had had a long career as a journalist and editor when he became Editor in Chief and Director of Jyllands-Posten in 1976. During the following eight years, he transformed it from a regional newspaper into the largest national morning newspaper in Denmark.


Photo: Nordisk Pressefoto. Vittus Nielsen. KOB 
Henning Fonsmark (1926-2006) in 1971 transformed Berlingske Tidende’s evening edition into a politicalcultural weekly newspaper. He was editor of Berlingske Tidende 1976-82 and then editor of Børsen. His socioanalytical books gave him the status of conservative chief ideologist.

Photo: Jakob Boserup. Scanpix
Henning Fonsmark (1926-2006) in 1971 transformed Berlingske Tidende’s evening edition into a politicalcultural weekly newspaper. He was editor of Berlingske Tidende 1976-82 and then editor of Børsen. His socioanalytical books gave him the status of conservative chief ideologist.


DR began television transmissions in 1951 and in 1953 added news programmes, replaced in 1965 by regular television news. This state monopoly was broken on 1 October 1988, when TV 2, a television station partly financed by advertising, began transmissions as a national channel combined with eight regions. Both stations are subject to public service obligations with regard to news coverage, educational programmes, etc. DR added a second channel in 1996, as did TV 2 in 2000, followed by two further specialised TV 2 channels in 2004-05. In December 2006, TV 2 launched a 24 hour news channel (TV 2 News). In 2002, it was decided to prepare for the privatisation of TV 2, although it will continue to have public service obligations. This decision has not yet been implemented.

The commercial stations are not subject to any such public service obligations and for the sake of ratings and associated advertising revenue primarily focus on entertainment. The first station of this kind was the London-based TV 3, which has broadcast via satellite since 1 January 1988. It has since been supplemented by TV3+, which is owned by Modern Times Group and operated through Viasat.

Local television trials began in 1983, initially without permission to broadcast advertising and with a ban on networking between local stations. Advertising was permitted in 1988 and networking in 1997, whereupon TvDanmark began broadcasting from April 1997 with eight regions (subsequently three). Programming focuses on entertainment and news is regional. Since 2000, TvDanmark has had two channels (now: Kanal 4 and Kanal 5). These channels are owned by Scandinavian Broadcasting System.

In 2005, an average Danish viewer watched television for 2 hours and 33 minutes a day. The two DR channels accounted for 33%, the four TV 2 channels for 40%, TV 3 for 9% and Kanal 4 + Kanal 5 for 6% (totalling 88%), while other channels combined accounted for 12%.

Photo: Scanpix 
Sten Bostrup (1939-2006) worked for the Danish Broadcasting Corporation television news for more than thirty years from 1967. As a result of his cultivated appearance, precision, trustworthiness and understated wit, he became Denmark’s “Mr News”.


The internet is widespread both in companies and private homes, e.g. 82% of all companies and virtually all media companies had their own website in 2005.

In 1997, 16% of all households had internet access, increasing to 36% in 1999 and 73% in 2005. An steadily increasing proportion of these have broadband or other permanent connections.

About half the time an average user spends on the internet is used to read newspapers and news generally. The DR and TV 2 websites have particularly large visitor numbers, but the major newspapers’ websites also have many visitors.

Figure: Advertising. Key figures for advertising expenditure 2004 (per cent)


The principal supplier of national and international news to all Danish news media is Ritzaus Bureau. The agency receives material from several foreign agencies, notably Reuters, and itself disseminates Danish news abroad. 86% of its material is news and some 11% general information. The agency was established in 1866 and has been owned by the Danish press since 1947.

The Advertising Market

Advertising expenditure has increased rapidly since the economic boom of the 1960s. The printed press accounted for more than half in the 1960s, but its share has since declined. This is partly due to the market shares taken by the electronic media, radio and television, but also to the advance of other, non-mass media advertising methods, notably printed matter.

Jette Drachmann Søllinge
Media Researcher,

Further information

Denmark’s official website

Statistics Denmark

(Media Statistics Bank)  

Internationalt Presse Center
(International Press Centre)
Vestergade 2
DK-1456 Copenhagen K
Tel. (+45) 3313 1615

Danske Dagblades Forening
(The Danish Newspaper Publishers’ Association)
Pressens Hus
Skindergade 7
DK-1159 Copenhagen K
Tel. (+45) 3397 4000

Danske Mediers Forum
(Danish Media Forum)
Secretariat: Pressens Hus
Skindergade 7
DK-1159 Copenhagen K
Tel. (+45) 3397 4000

Ritzaus Bureau
(Ritzau News Agency)
Store Kongensgade 14
DK-1264 Copenhagen K
Tel. (+45) 3330 0000

Danmarks Radio
(Danish Broadcasting Corporation)
DR Byen
Emil Holms Kanal 20
DK-0999 Copenhagen C
Tel. (+45) 3520 3040

TV 2
Rugaardsvej 25
DK-5100 Odense C
Tel. (+45) 6591 9191

This page forms part of the publication 'Mass Media' as chapter 1 of 1
Version 1. 17-04-2007
Publication may be found at the address


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