There are few broadcasters out there who have existed for over half a century, so it’s a distinction that Soborg-based DR TV is proud of. The Danish pubcaster got its start in radio in the ’20s before moving on to embrace television in the ’50s. Today, DR TV – the only station in Denmark that doesn’t run commercials – is the country’s main broadcaster, despite growing competition from TV2, TV3, and TV Denmark.
Michael Jensen, media consultant and researcher for DR TV, says the broadcaster’s toehold on the market has a lot to do with the fact that DR TV currently consists of two channels, not one. ‘The big change for us in recent years is that DR1 was the only channel on DR TV until 1996 and it aired all of our programs. Then, DR2 arrived,’ says Jensen. ‘In 1996 we started airing more film and culture programs, fiction, etcetera.’
For Jensen, the two-channel structure has allowed DR TV to broadcast more diverse programming and appeal to the widest variety of Denmark’s five million plus population. ‘The combined market share for both channels is 70%…,’ Jensen explains. ‘[With] two channels, there’s even more variety for viewers and there’s more opportunity to air material for both the majority of the people as well as different minorities…. DR1 is the channel for the whole family, whereas DR2 is the smaller channel directed to different target groups and special events.’ He continues, ‘We air fiction – Danish as well as foreign. We have news, documentaries, music and sports. Both channels have this wider output, so there’s nothing that we don’t air.’
Jensen estimates that about 55% of all programming on DR1 is non-fiction, compared with 60% on DR2. The rest is ‘entertainment’ – movies and sporting events. What does Jensen consider non-fiction? ‘When I say factual, I include 30-minute news magazines dealing with everything from money issues to politics, documentaries, some children’s, nature and health programs,’ he explains.
As for docs, DR TV execs are looking for a variety of subjects. ‘They better be different,’ says Jensen. ‘The docs we air are 30 minutes or one hour and they deal with all kinds of things… Some of them deal with social or political life in Denmark, some with raising children. You can’t really say that we’re looking more for one sort of programming. When the idea is good enough and there’s a case, then we go for it.’
Jensen estimates that last year DR TV aired about 200 hours of docs on both DR1 (which leans more towards political and business-oriented material) and DR2 (which tends to focus on cultural and arts programs). A large percentage – about 60% – were produced in-house, five to ten percent came from Danish prodcos, and the rest were acquired from international doc-makers. ‘As far as international producers go, we usually acquire material from the U.S. or U.K.,’ Jensen admits. ‘We probably air only two to three documentaries per year that are internationally coproduced. It’s not that many. Inside the Nordic countries, we do more coproductions. We buy quite a lot of acquisitions from abroad for DR2.’
Jensen notes that when it comes to acquisition rates, DR TV is flexible. ‘Sometimes you find a gem that you can buy for US$5,000 and other times you maybe pay $20,000. Since we’re a small country, buying stuff from abroad isn’t that expensive, because we don’t have as many viewers.’
Projects on the go for DR TV include The Chemical Kids, a 60-minute exposé on the chemical industry and the food we eat, by filmmaker Poul Erik Heilbuth; Disguised as Paupers, a 60-minute look at the rich elite in third world countries, also by Heilbuth; and Kayaking On Top of the World, 60 minutes by Danish production company Zentropa and DR TV.