Challenges, Questions for Radio Algérienne

Sandrine Mercier shares her views during the one-day seminar on public service broadcasting.
ALGIERS, Algeria — Radio Algérienne and BBC Media Action held a one-day conference entitled “Journée d’études sur le service public dans les medias audiovisuels” here in September that focused on the transitioning role of the public service radio broadcaster in the country’s audiovisual landscape.

Professionals from national and regional stations of the Algerian broadcaster gathered together with representatives from public media in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany and Tunisia, to discuss the changing responsibility and function of public service broadcasters in the midst of increasing competition.

Accountability, quality

In his opening speech, Jean-Michel Duffrene, head of the BBC Media Action project in Algeria, pointed out that this summit serves as part of a common training program for the staff of Radio Algérienne. He explained that the event aims to prepare the broadcaster to face competition in the light of the new dynamism and pluralism that recent government legislation has brought to the audiovisual media arena.

“The best way for Radio Algérienne to serve the public is to look for a new position and status as a public radio, with the noble aims to meet listeners’ expectations and wishes,” said Duffrene. “We have to ask ourselves how adequately and fairly can public service be implemented, as there is no unique universal experience in the world.”

Referring to Radio France’s experience, Sandrine Mercier, who worked as a journalist and producer at France Inter for years and today is chief editor of the magazine “Acteurs du Tourisme Durable” (Actors of Sustainable Tourism), stated that her understanding of the public service is to offer good quality programs and services to a variety of people who have an assortment of tastes and preferences.

“For instance, programs at France Inter highlight the prominence and the importance of culture,” she said. “But because it is financed by contributors (citizens), we have to answer their demands and be accountable to them.” < Mercier explained that 40 percent of the French public listens to Radio France, proving that public service broadcasters can compete successfully in an aggressive radio market, through offering high-quality programs.

BBC Media Action’s Jean-Michel Duffrene speaks during the ‘Journée d’études sur le service public dans les medias audiovisuels.’
Respect and ethics

In their address, Diego Amario Lopez of Radio Nacional de España and Radhia Said of Radiodiffusion-Télévision Tunisienne conveyed a similar notion — “public service requires respect of the public. It should observe ethical questions as well as distinguish between public service and government service.” < Citing the example of news, the two speakers stated that public service broadcasters should transmit information that is impartial, neutral and objective, while also respecting the specificities and particularities of the audience.

For Mercier, “the role of public broadcasters is to inform the public, to present the facts so as to allow listeners to make up their minds on different matters, unlike commercial radio, which promotes a sensational and emotional manner to present the news.”

However, argued one participant, “public service is not only the monopoly of public radio, commercial radio can also offer high-quality services since they are also compelled to meet editorial and ethical requirements.

The debates that followed this encounter were informative and productive, said conference participants. “The conference gave us the opportunity to listen to other experiences from countries where public service was implemented long ago,” said Malya Behidj, moderator and director of Radio Algérienne’s Channel 3. “But we need to adapt and adjust these examples to fit them in the context of Algeria, and this is a new challenge.”

Laid Zaghlami reports on the industry from Algiers, Algeria.

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