Castle dodges the facts on media name blunder

The conduct of St Helena Government has been called into question after the island’s state-funded media organisation was forced to change its name.

The Castle has refused to acknowledge that it has any case to answer, despite being given a second chance to do so.

A press release has since attempted to pass off the name change as a positive new development for “the new media organisation on St Helena” – ignoring the existence of the far newer group attempting to revive the rival Saint FM.

The government has declined to admit the change was forced on the company as a result of its own error.

It said that 13 February 2013 marked “two significant developments in the new media organisation on St Helena – the full launch of the first of three new FM radio stations, and the renaming of St Helena Broadcasting (Guaranteed) Corporation Ltd to South Atlantic Media Services Ltd (SAMS).

“SHG congratulates the staff and community-run board of SAMS [formerly SHB(G)C] for this latest milestone in serving the community.”

The name change was prompted by the island’s registrar of companies after a complaint by Mike Olsson, who registered ownership of the title St Helena Broadcasting Corporation when his new rival was being set up.

He had secured it for £50 after the government asked him to publish an advert seeking staff for the new organisation – giving its name before it had registered it.

The island’s chief magistrate, John MacRitchie, is understood to have advised that the government then breached company law by registering another name, obviously very similar.

Mike Olsson began legal action ten months later, when Mr MacRitchie took over as legal adviser to the company registrar.

He replaced Attorney General Ken Baddon – who was also the man who registering the inappropriate name. 

On 28 January, St Helena Online sent the government a series of questions about the new services.

Most of its response was published on the website on 8 February 2013, and in the St Helena Independent.

But the government was given a second chance to answer one question that it had dodged.

It had been asked:

“Please also give a comment about the fact that the “Guarantee” corporation has had to change its name, given that it was registered by the Attorney General and now the chief magistrate has advised that this should not [have] happened.”

The press office response ran to just 12 words: “Any questions about company names should be put to the organisation concerned.”

But the government is the organisation concerned.

St Helena Online then sent a courteous follow-up email, headed: “thanks – please reconsider response on one point.”

It said: “You say the issue of the company name is for the company concerned, but my question was about the actions of the Attorney General in registering the SHB(G)C – if he did indeed do so.

“Given that he would have been acting in his SHG capacity, it is appropriate to put the question to SHG. I therefore ask you to reconsider your response.”

A response was received, confirming that the Attorney General had registered the company name. This was a matter of public record, it said.

But the government still failed to acknowledge that a mistake had been made, or offer any explanation or apology.

Mike Olsson said: “I cannot help feeling sorry for the ‘Guarantee Corporation’ people, who either did not know about this, or were told that everything was hunky dory.”

  • Even after the St Helena Broadcasting (Guarantee) Company changed its name in late January 2013, it continued to operate in public under the contested name for another four weeks. It eventually announced the change to South Atlantic Media Services on its website – which was still headed with the old name. By 17 February 2013, the website was still published under the title owned by Mike Olsson, and still under the address “shbc.sh”.

(This story was briefly taken down when it was discovered that St Helena Government had not failed to respond to a request to reconsider its response. However, the response given did not alter the broad thrust of the story).

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