Mr Bean, Manchester United and our obsession with talking about the weather … these Algerian perceptions of England were the first subjects of conversation when I met the 12 Algerian local radio managers I would be working with for the next three days.

One of four groups of Algerian Local Radio Managers.

One of four groups of Algerian Local Radio Managers.

I have been sent to this massive North African country by BBC Media Action, the BBC’s international development charity. It is currently supporting Radio Algeria to transition from a state broadcaster into a public service model. My responsibility is to offer management training for the men and women who run Algeria’s network of local radio stations, delivering the same three day course, four times during my visit.

It’s the first time I’ve ever been translated, a strange experience that takes time to find a rhythm. But my brilliant interpreter Sarah switches seamlessly from perfect English, to French and Arabic to communicate my stream of consciousness to the group. The experience makes you realise how much your own language is peppered with idioms. I found myself explaining phrases like ‘red herring’ and ‘take the Mick’ before Sarah found the appropriate local version!

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Commercial radio is on the way here, but at the moment these stations are the only ones in town. (And when I say town, I mean one in each of Algeria’s 48 provinces. The largest of these, Tamanrassat is over three times bigger than the UK! There are station managers on this course travelling further to the training centre in Tipasa than I did from Manchester.)

Without competition, there is no audience research. Without audience research, there is no pressure to focus each station on a particular demographic. But many of the Radio Algerienne local outpost transmission areas overlap, so there is already a professional pride in not losing listeners who live in your Wilaya to a station in the neighbouring area.

One of our biggest debates on the first course was whether it was right to fix a consistent breakfast presenter in the schedule through the week, as the presenters all wanted to present the show, therefore it should be rota-ed equally.

My guidebook describes the Algerian people as ‘incredibly hospitable and eager to show you their beautiful country’ and this was definitely evident on a night out in beautiful, Parisi-esque Algiers, with Khaled from Radio Chlef and some of his pals.

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Language aside, perhaps there is more that unites us in radio than sets us apart. Balancing programme hours against diminishing resources, facing new competition, motivating broadcast staff and the search for new talent are all key discussions here. Just like back home.

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