Copenhagen: Trouble at Danmark’s Radio

Posted on October 10, 2006



by sabine behrman
There is a common denominator for most public projects: more often than not they turn out to be much more costly than planned.

When it was announced that Danmarks Radio, the older of the two Danish public service companies, would move to new premises in the Copenhagen suburb of Ørestad, this seemed to be yet another attempt to bring life into an area, which the general population does not seem to want to embrace with particular ardour.

The budget was 400 million € (1999 index), the building was planned to be prestigious, and of course the opinion among politicians was that the expenses were to be kept within the budget.

Last year, however, it transpired that this wasn’t possible. There was talk of an increase of 10 %, mainly due to the costs in connection with the new concert hall.

Politicians were shocked. There was a general wish to see a head on a platter, and there were those who saw a chance to get rid of the CEO because he was so blatantly incompetent – and too much of a Social-Democrat. They wanted someone with solid business experience – and they found him in the current CEO, Kenneth Plummer.

A new broom that would sweep through the old national entertainment institution like a whirlwind and create an efficient, streamlined organisation. And he would never ever commit the crime his predecessor was guilty of: overrun the building budget.

On September 7, 2006, however, it turned out that Mr Plummer – who seems to think that he has ample time to pursue other interests as well – has not been able to live up to these expectations. On the contrary: now Danmarks Radio faces another financial slide. More than 20 % compared to the original figure, which means that the new building will cost at least 530 million €.

Something had to be done. The general public had not been prepared for this, so the financial manager was fired, and everybody else looked decisive. The CEO appeared on TV and explained why he still has got his job.

It seems as though the critical success factors have changed over the last year. Or maybe they haven’t. Maybe it was just a matter of getting this broom – and not a question of what would follow in its wake.