Birgitta Bergmark was a television producer, a film-maker, an author, and a journalist. She also belonged to the pioneers within Swedish television. Her efforts within cultural and social reportage included a number of journalistic examinations into failures and weaknesses in contemporary Sweden as well as investigating similar conditions in other countries.
Birgitta Bergmark was born in Jönköping in 1934. She was the daughter of Nancy Eriksson, a Social Democratic party parliamentarian, and Torsten Eriksson, director-general of Fångvårdsstyrelsen (now Kriminalvårdsstyrelsen, prison and probation service). Birgitta Bergmark matriculated in 1953 at Kungsholmens enskilda läroverk in Stockholm, two years later she was employed as director of physical education at Gymnastiska centralinstitutet (GCI, now Gymnastik- och idrottshögskolan, GIH). In 1959 Birgitta Bergmark graduated from Stockholm college (now Stockholm university) with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, majoring in sociology. She wrote a dissertation entitled Övervakade pojkar mellan 15-18 år bosatta i Stockholm for which she was awarded a licentiate in 1963.
From 1956 to 1960 Birgitta Bergmark was married to Fritjof Haglund, a radio and television producer, and they had two daughters. Birgitta Bergmark was subsequently married to Torsten Bergmark, an artist and art critic, from 1960 to 1978 during which time they had a daughter and a son together. Finally, from 1979 until her death in 1999 Birgitta Bergmark was married to Alec Carlberg, the chair and secretary of Riksförbundet för hjälp åt läkemedels- och narkotikabrukare (RFHL, now Riksförbundet för Rättigheter, Frigörelse, Hälsa och Likabehandling), with whom she had a daughter named Julia.
Birgitta Bergmark taught within the sociology department at Stockholm college from 1959–1961. In 1961 she was employed by Sveriges Television as a producer for the culture section. When the TV2 channel was inaugurated in 1969 Birgitta Bergmark began to work for TV2 Fakta, and for a few years during the 1980s she served as deputy chief editor. From 1987 she was chief editor of the news section at Kanal 1. As a trade union activist Birgitta Bergmark represented Svenska Industritjänstemannaförbundet (SIF, Swedish union of clerical and technical employees in industry) at Sveriges Radio at several conferences during the 1970s and 1980s.
One of the first programme series produced by Birgitta Bergmark was a cultural review called Horisont. It was this programme which, during the early 1960s, broadened what had previously been a narrowly-defined cultural concept to include wider general social phenomena.
The 1962 programme Konsten är lång: ett program om att måla, sälja och köpa en tavla was a journalistic investigation into the employment situation for artists and the state of the Stockholm art market. The series of three programmes called Tycke och smak, from 1965, used a sociological investigation as the basic starting point, in which tenants were interviewed regarding their choice of home interior décor. Birgitta Bergmark played an important role in the formation and implementation of the investigation. The programmes sought to generate a discussion by confronting the figure of speech which claims that people’s preferences and tastes are not up for discussion. The 1968 programme Enastående konsttillfälle also adopted the consumer’s perspective by tackling the issue of the increase in sales of so-called non-nutritious food.
During the 1960s Birgitta Bergmark also produced several reports and documentaries on behalf of the social commentary section of programming. Mamma utan ring, from 1962, was a report on single mothers and the difficult financial situations and living conditions they endured. Many of the fathers involved either did not want to or could not supply necessary maintenance costs and limited supplemental benefits were available. Single mothers often suffered disapproval from appointed childcare experts who not infrequently took the moral high ground. These women often lived at home with their parents, worked as home help in situations where they were allowed to bring their children with them, or they stayed at women’s refuges who took them in until their child was one year old.
Some of the documentaries covered different milieus, such as Kontorsslav? Ett reportage från några stockholmskontor from 1965, Mellan bong och nota: Ett reportage om restaurangpersonal from 1966, Fästning, spinnhus, anstalt. Ur fångvårdens historia from 1967, as well as Sibirien – en arbetarstadsdel from 1969. Although students banned the press from entering the student union in Stockholm during the May 1968 occupation, they did allow a television crew to come in. The result was a documentary entitled Kårhusockupationen in 1968. Birgitta Bergmark, in collaboration with the film-maker Lars Westman, reported on the Sundsvall greasers in 1972 in a programme called Raggare. The team became embroiled in a serious brawl between the greasers and the police and were accused – even in the press – of having provoked the fight. The film crew was, however, entirely absolved of all suspicion. The footage shows the disturbance and its consequences. 25 years later Birgitta Bergmark and Lars Westman made a follow-up report.
In a series of reports called Arbetets kvinnor from 1975, aired as part of the UN’s International Year of the Woman, Birgitta Bergmark was responsible for producing Arbetets kvinnor. Jag känner mig betydelsefull, a report on women in industry. I huvet på en gammal dumburk: om televisionens kvinnor- och mansbild, from 1976, the art expert Barbro Werkmäster and cabinet minister Anna Greta Leijon discussed how female and male role models were portrayed on television. Arbetets döttrar, 1986, is a film by Jean Hermanson and Torgny Schunnesson which Birgitta Bergmark produced for TV2. The film deals with the monotonous, stressful, and physically wearing work women performed in two factories, Malmö Strumpfabrik and Abba i Kungshamn.
Birgitta Bergmark also made an impact in other countries beyond Sweden. One of the earliest was Mallorca 2 timmar och 50 minuter med jet: ett reportage från en sällskapsresa, 1965. In the 1975 programme I Portugal pågår revolutionen, she covered developments in Portugal following the 1974 revolution. Nine years later Birgitta Bergmark documented the bloody events of Italy in the 1984 programme Röda brigaderna, whilst Våldtäkten och rättvisan, from 1991, portrays the struggle of a Swedish woman who, after being raped in Sicily, fights for her right to due judicial process and when she finally gets it she is subject to latent violence.
Within the framework of the Dokumentären series Birgitta Bergmark contributed an episode entitled Och därmed Basta, from 1996, which focused on the first employment cooperative in Sweden for drug addicts where these individuals were offered hard labour as an alternative to drugs and crime. Another episode, Offer för brott, from 1996, portrays the work of the victim support agency in Stockholm. The 1998 Vänd oss inte ryggen dealt with the conditions of the homeless in Stockholm and Det ska fan bli gammal, also from 1998, covered conditions for the elderly in Sweden.
During her career as a TV-producer, film-maker, and author Birgitta Bergmark produced many documentaries and written pieces on culture, violence, the lives of women, and society, both at home and abroad, always undertaken with empathy and interest.
Birgitta Bergmark died in Stockholm in 1999, in St. Göran congregation, aged 65. She is buried at Norra begravningsplatsen (the Northern cemetery) in Solna.