Saint FM ‘to close on Friday’

Saint FM, St Helena’s only independent radio station, has announced that it is to close down. Owner Mike Olsson has blamed competition from government-funded stations that are expected to go on air shortly. The closure was announced on air in this report by VINCE THOMPSON.

The decision was taken earlier today [Wednesday] to close Saint FM permanently at 4:00pm this coming Friday, 21 December.

Keeping a private sector radio station on the air has always been difficult in St Helena and over the last two years or so it has become almost impossible as a result of the St Helena Government’s attitude towards private sector media and its policy of supporting and favouring government-financed media.

Despite Saint FM’s undoubted popularity, world-wide broadcasting capability and successful involvement in community fund-raising projects, the radio station’s editorial policy to encourage open debate and expression of opinion has always been a point of controversy with the Island’s government and other establishment interests.

The government’s attack on private sector media has already threatened the existence of Saint FM’s media partner, The St Helena Independent.  It was found possible to resurrect the Island’s only private sector newspaper through further cost cutting measures.  Throughout this period the government poured hundreds of thousands of pounds into the government subsidised St Helena Broadcasting [Guarantee] Corporation making it extremely difficult for an unsubsidised private sector media business to compete.

Unlike the weekly Independent newspaper Saint FM broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week and relies on a minimum number of paid staff and a lot of goodwill from volunteers, the public, the government and other business interests to keep going.  It has become increasingly difficult to continue broadcasting as relations and co-operation with government have worsened in recent months and weeks.

Mike Olsson said it is the total effect of the continual and increasing number of obstacles and awkwardness put in the path of the daily job and increasing the workload which makes you wonder if all the hours needed to keep a private sector radio station on the air can be sustained.

Mike added that recent difficulties with Cable & Wireless, who repeatedly closed down transmission of Saint FM while working on equipment at High Knoll Fort, caused a great deal of unnecessary extra work in order to sort the problem out.

He also stated that, while the governor’s Christmas message was in no way a reason for closing down Saint FM, the very fact that Mark Capes should use a Christmas message as an advert for government-financed media shows very clearly the attitude of certain key officials within government towards private sector media and the private sector in general.

St Helena Online is attempting to contact the island government for a response.

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