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Danish Radio embraces 'Christian values' in new contract

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 2/13/2011 12:00:00 AM | SAMUEL DOVERI VESTERBYE

Danish Radio has changed its official guidelines to include more focus on Danish Christian values, leaving critics fearful of moves towards Christian nationalism. While opposition figures have denounced the recent move as a case of discriminating ‘value politics’, the governing coalition have expressed their desire to 'avoid shying away from ... Danish Christian culture'

Denmark’s state-owned broadcast service Danish Radio, or DR, has sparked political controversy after officially changing the wording of its media contract to include “Christian values” earlier this year.

The change in DR’s so-called “public service contract,” the legal internal policy guideline dictated by Denmark’s Culture Ministry, was announced in early February of this year and has since drawn both support and criticism from different sectors of Danish society. The new wording of the contract states that “DR should emphasize on its role as a promoter of Danish art and culture as well as Danish cultural heritage, including the Christian cultural heritage.” Many in the country’s academic community have voiced strong negative reactions against what is being perceived as “nationalist conservative” policy from what is a public institution.

“This is a method of taking us hostage in a nationalistic Christian project,” Dr. Mikael Rothstein, a lecturer of religion at the University of Copenhagen, told the Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review on Saturday. “DR should be ours in common, but with these changes it appears to be more exclusive than inclusive,” he said.

Several politicians from the governing coalition have expressed their support for the new changes, emphasizing the positive aspects of Danish Christian values.

“Our society is built around our heritage in terms of culture and Christianity, it’s simply undeniable” said Rasmus Jarlov, a Danish parliamentary deputy from the Conservative Party, one of the three parties in the current governing coalition. “We must stand by our values, including Christianity, and not shy away or be ashamed,” he told the Daily News.

[HH] ‘Honoring our heritage’ or creating divisions?

The inclusion of religious values in DR’s contract has added to the fears of religious and ethnic minorities who may be affected by growing nationalism in party politics.

“There is no reason to include anything Christian in the public service contract,” said Holger K. Nielsen, a parliamentary deputy from one of Denmark’s main opposition parties, the Socialist People’s Party, or SF. “It creates divisions and appears to be heavily influenced by national conservative elements, which are creeping into our public sphere,” he told the Daily News.

Politicians from the governing coalition, including Culture Minister and Conservative Party member Per Stig Moeller, have defended the recent move, noting that Christianity plays an important role in Danish values and culture.

“The Christian culture heritage is a part of the Danish cultural heritage and I believe that there are good reasons to point this out, considering the direction of our society today,” said Moeller.

Other members of the governing coalition have echoed Moeller’s sentiments, saying that Danish society’s tendency to shy away from a common cultural heritage, which includes religious aspects, is a negative trend.

“Simply because demographic changes in Denmark have occurred over the years does not mean that our cultural heritage should change,” Moeller told the Daily News. “We can’t simply lose our identity and pretend that it doesn’t exist when clearly our common historical, religious and cultural heritage shapes our society to a large extent today.”

Some experts claim that the new changes could create severe divisions, while exacerbating an already tense situation with far-right sentiments growing nationally.

The past 10 years have seen a consistent attempt by the governing parties to create value politics, with the result being precisely changes as the one we are seeing now, said Rothstein.

“It’s not about open debate, but simply about implementing a Christian mission, which proves frightening and intolerant,” said Rothstein.

(HH) Accusations of gross misinterpretations

Danish media reporting has been critical of the new development, sparking concerns by conservative politicians that the media is unfairly focusing on the wording “Christian values” and that the entire situation has been grossly misinterpreted.

“The situation seems to have gotten out of hand, considering that several newspapers even managed to change the wording of the deal,” said Jarlov. “The exact wording doesn’t eliminate the previous emphasis on a Danish cultural heritage; it simply adds Christian values to the equation, while most newspapers have portrayed it as a radical change which solely focuses on religion,” he told the Daily News.

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