Hungarian Government statement

For public service broadcasters, Denmark’s Ministry of Culture is authorised to suspend or revoke licenses. Commercial media outlets fall under the jurisdiction of the country’s media authority (RTB).

country experts

Erik Nordahl Svendsen served as the first director of the Mediasecretariat for the Radio and Television Board (RTB) when it was created in 2001. Prior to that, he served as head of the media research division for Denmark's public broadcaster, DR. He has researched and written extensively on regulation of PSB in Europe and is a frequent lecturer and an external examiner at Danish universities. His most recent publication, "From Sovereignty to Liberalisation: Media Policy in Small European Countries," appears in Small Among Giants: Television Broadcasting in Smaller Countries (eds. G.F. Lowe and C.S.Nissen, Nordicom 2011).


Expert assessments: Sanctions

This claim is only partially accurate. The Minister of Culture under certain conditions has the power to revoke the license of one public service broadcaster, TV 2/Danmark A/S, but not of others—either because under the Radio and Television Broadcasting Act (the “BAct”)62 these outlets do not have a license or because the Radio and Television Board (RTB),63 not the Minister, has the power of revocation. The Minister of Culture does not have any sanctioning powers under the BAct besides the mentioned TV 2/Danmark A/S. In addition, the Minister of Culture can only revoke the license of TV2/Danmark A/S at the recommendation of the RTB. Hence, the reference above misleadingly generalises from the unique TV 2/Danmark A/S example.

The RTB, as the statement correctly notes, is the regulatory authority for commercial broadcasters, as well as for public service and audiovisual media services (TV and on-demand media). It has the power to suspend or revoke licenses for breaches to both technical and content-based regulations detailed in the Radio and Television Broadcasting Act (the “BAct”). It is important to note that Danish media regulations have few content-based restrictions and gives wide room for freedom of speech. The RTB’s power to suspend or revoke a license due to program content has been seldom used since the authority was established in 2001. The issue of incitement to hatred was behind several of these cases involving the Nazi radio station Oasen.

The BAct covers broadcast, cable and online media services, both public and private media. Print and electronic media like Internet newspapers (which are not audiovisual media services) are regulated by the Press Council and under the Media Liability Act, which outlines ethical guidelines and content regulations for all mass media.64 According to the Media Liability Act, all news media —broadcast, print and online press—must have a responsible editor. But because print and online news media are not required to register, the RTB cannot suspend or revoke their authorisation to publish. Video on-demand (VOD) services are not required to register however the RTB can discontinue a VOD program service if the service grossly or repeatedly infringes the law.65

The RTB also supervises all stations, licensed or registered, for compliance with their licenses as well as with rules in the BAct and ministerial orders. The Ministry of Culture is responsible for issuing ministerial orders, which detail many articles of the BAct, including general rules about advertising, satellite and digital terrestrial distribution, local radio, and regulations regarding the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive (EU AVMSD).66 Hence, the RTB supervises compliance with the EU AVMSD rules about advertising, protection of minors, incitement to hatred, and programming quotas, as specified by these ministerial orders.67

The BAct has no general content regulations concerning factual or balanced reporting. As mentioned above, standard rules about protection of minors and against incitement to hatred are contained in licensing agreements, as per ministerial orders. If violated grossly or frequently, the RTB can revoke a media outlet’s license.68 It is important to note that RTB does not have powers to impose fines, except in the special case of TV 2/Danmark A/S, although the RTB has never done so. As noted, the Minister cannot revoke TV 2/Danmarks A/S license unless this was first recommended by the RTB and if the infringement is gross or frequently repeated.69 The media authorities cannot impose sanctions on individual editors and/or journalists, as the sanctions specified under BAct are only against the holder of the license or registration. Nor does the Media Liability Act allow authorities to sanction individual editors or journalists.

The RTB uses a system of graduated sanctions that includes: 1) protest of infringement; 2) warnings about suspension, if not redressed or if repeated; 3) suspensions (temporarily, from one hour to three months); and 4) license revocation. Most cases of suspensions or revocations have involved local radio or TV stations for misusing the license for the allocated airtime. As noted, there have been several cases of suspensions and revocations related to content. In 2002, the RTB issued a three-month suspension of Radio Oasen for incitement to hatred. Radio Oasen promotes Nazi ideology, which is not prohibited in Denmark, but incitement to hatred violates terms of its license agreement. In 2006, the RTB revoked the license for Radio Holger for infringement of BAct Section 87, which requires broadcasters to keep to recordings of programs for three months. The RTB had received complaints over a specific program, indicating it was airing content that could violate licensing restrictions prohibiting incitement to hatred.70 More recently, the RTB decided on several cases related to Roj TV, which broadcasts by satellite to Kurdish populations in Turkey on a Danish license. The RTB received complaints from Turkish authorities that the station was airing violent images in violation of incitement to hatred regulations. RTB decided in all cases that the programs were normal news reporting and not incitement to hatred.71 As for all state agencies, decisions made by the RTB can be brought to the ombudsman,72 and can be reviewed by the courts. Appeals do not suspend the decision. The court’s decision can be appealed to a higher court, and if allowed by the independent appeals board, also to the high court.

61 This example is cited by the Hungarian Government under both “Criticism 1,” and “Criticism 18” in “Criticisms and answers formulated on the subject of the proposed media act examined in a European context,” Ministry of Public Administration and Justice, December 20, 2010, available at: 62 The Radio and Television Broadcasting Act of 2001, as amended by Act 1269 of December 2009. The official English translation of the BAct is not up to date, but all the sections cited in this review reflect current regulations; available at: 63 The Radio and Television Broadcasting Act established the Radio and Television Board (RTB) in 2001 as the independent regulator for all media under the Act’s scope. The RTB is currently served by the Agency for Libraries and Media: 64 The Press Council is established pursuant to the Danish Media Liability Act, available at: 65 Section 50 (3) of the Radio and Television Broadcasting Act (BAct). available at: 66 These are generally based in Section 48 of Radio and Television Broadcasting Act (BAct), available at: 67 Radio and Television Broadcasting Act (BAct), Section 48, available at: 68 Radio and Television Broadcasting Act (BAct), Section 50. The criminal code has other provisions, partly covering the same issues, but the media authorities are not bound by decisions in the courts on those grounds to revoke licenses, available at: 69 According to Section 44(a) of the Radio and Television Broadcasting Act (BAct), “The Radio and Television Board shall have the following tasks in relation to TV 2/DANMARK A/S’s public service programme activities in accordance with Part 6 a: 1) Supervise the public service programme activities; 2) protest any infringements of the Act and any provisions pursuant to the Act, as well as terms laid down in connection with the issuing of the licence; and 3) submit opinions to the Minister for Culture on the revocation of licences issued pursuant to Section 38 a.” Available at: 70 The case could not be decided since the recordings of the programme was not delivered, which the RTB found was sufficient grounds to revoke the license permanently. Infringement of Section 87 (the obligation to hold recordings up to three months) is mentioned as one material cause for revocation in Section 50 of the Radio and Television Broadcasting Act (BAct), available at: 71 The decision in one of the cases is translated into English: 72 See Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman at: