Denmark’s Radio

When I taught English as an additional language, I advised my students to listen to podcasts, watch tv and see films in English. Anything to expose them to the language in an enjoyable way. The theory is, if you experience pleasure your brain will give you an extra boost to remember vocabulary or assimilate syntax.

Taking my own advice, I would listen to the radio while washing up or what have you and watch the news of an evening.

In the end, I had to stop because of the relentless xenophobia of the Danish media. I was not experiencing pleasure, I was not entering a flow-state. I was constantly irritated. I remember putting on a local radio channel in the early days and had to switch it off when they were asking the leader of the far right what she wanted to listen to.

The state of Danish news is probably a post in itself but I just wanted to focus on Danish radio.

Left to myself, I bought an internet radio and split my attention between Alouette, BBC 6 Music and occasionally NPR or Radio 4. I just stopped listening to the Danish radio because nothing good was coming of it. But then I got a boyfriend and he likes to listen to programmes on the radio, rather than music all the time when he is driving. So, I have had to listen to a lot of talk radio in my time here.

On ordinary FM, there are two talk radio channels that I know about. 24/syv and P1. P1 is more traditional and 24/syv is more modern. As much as I enjoy Radio 4 and NPR, P1 rubs me up the wrong way. If they talk about Denmark, it tends to be in terms of how Denmark is the best at something. There’s always something of the 9th grade geography project about their pronouncements on other countries and cultures. Of course there is some interesting, quality programming that does not irritate me. There are tech shows and shows about the Danish language which never get on my nerves. But if they talk about anything to do with current events or world news, the lack of self-awareness or introspection grates on me. 24/syv never gets to me in the same way, I advocate for this channel if music is not an option.

We recently got a dog and we leave the radio on when we go out so she does not feel so lonely. The kitchen radio is usually tuned to P1 so the boyfriend can listen to it while he cooks. In the past couple of months, and it may be coincidence, almost every day I walked into the kitchen, they were talking about Islam. They have a lot of repeats so maybe I was walking into the same show at different points but I don’t think I was. They never say anything offensive or ignorant but it’s remarkable how much they go on about Islam without involving Muslims. It’s just non-Muslim talking heads talking about The Other.

Anyway, it was getting to me and sometimes P1 has shows that involve animal noises or odd noises as illustrations, so I tuned the radio to a music channel. The commercial ones are alright, they just play music really. I managed to tune it to P4 one day, this is a local channel that plays middle of the road pop and rock. This works for dogs and humans. Until the other day, they were talking about the word ‘neger’ and whether it was socially acceptable to say anymore.

Again, it was just the perspective of white Danes. One white Dane went on about his ‘dark’ friends from Denmark and how some of his best friends (from his time in America) were black. His major point was ‘they’ don’t mind. The lack of awareness that his impression based on a self-selecting sample of people answering a socially awkward question might be subjective was striking.

Then they interviewed various white people who insisted that their intention was magical so anyone taking offence just did not understand the spirit in which their racial slur was intended. They pulled out their kindly old grandmothers who were simply not able to keep up with a changing political landscape and language as examples for why no one needs to keep up.

I had to stop listening because although they were coming down generally on the side of ‘well, it’s outdated now’, the premise for the most common arguments of why the word is not that bad grind my gears.

(When I turned the radio on again, they were discussing the word ‘åndssvag’ (moronic/retarded/daft), and how it had become taboo. Again, no one with special needs were asked how the word made them feel. It was just about how people with privilege feel about showing consideration with their choice of words)

What strikes me is that some of the radio channels funded by mandatory licence fees are keeping integration from happening. The immigration debate, issues surrounding multiculturalism, world religions 101, the changing face of politeness as a culture evolves; all these issues are discussed in such a way to drive a subtle ridge between the intended listener and The Other. Foreigners are rarely involved in discussions about integration (though I have heard it, they picked three good immigrants to talk about the adorable ways Danes are different). Islam is discussed almost non-stop which serves to make the divide seem more important and unbridgeable than in reality. Changes to Danish society are presented as being imposed on the Danish people, rather than adopted by them.

What would be better would be programming that includes us. Programming that talks with or to us rather than about us. Stories about how similar we are for every story about how we are different. It would be an improvement for programs to engage in critical thinking, rather than the bland regurgitation of a talking point.

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