December 2012

Why did St Helena’s ‘objective’ media outfit fail to report the big story?

by Simon Pipe

21 December 2012: I will admit to admiring much that has been achieved by my fellow journalists at the St Helena Broadcasting (Guarantee) Corporation.

I would not wish to take on the daunting task of launching a newspaper and three radio stations within the space of a year, with a staff of brave novices. In many respects The Sentinel and the SHBC’s online newscasts bring new depth to coverage of St Helena affairs.

Features about island life have great cultural value at a time of change. And actually, I enjoy reading it all.

But on 21 December 2012, the SHBC’s news webcast unaccountably failed to mention one of the biggest stories of the year: the closure of its battle-bruised rival, Saint FM.

Not only that, but it opened with the following headline: “Radio St Helena closes its doors on Christmas Day.” It followed this up with extracts of an interview with Radio St Helena veteran Ralph Peters – without making any mention at all of the much more momentous news that Saint FM was closing that very day, mourned by Saints around the world.

It also plugged the fact that it would be launching its own radio stations in January 2013 – but didn’t say when, or even what they would be called.

Of course, Saint FM owner Mike Olsson had blamed the launch of the SHBC for the closure of his own station. He mischievously calls it the “government media organisation”, despite assertions of its independence. No one could accuse him of being balanced in his reporting of his own station’s demise. But then, he’s not funded by the state, and he can say what he likes within the law.

But the SHBC is funded by the taxpayer. That imposes moral obligations.

In his Christmas message, Governor Mark Capes praised the fledgling SHBC for its refreshing objectivity and honesty. “Objectivity” means reporting the news fairly, without fear or favour.

Ask the BBC: when news organisations make the news themselves, especially if they’re funded through any form of taxation, there’s a duty to be open and straight in reporting.

Omitting to cover a major news story is a form of bias.

Perhaps, though, this was not a wilful failure to report the news that Saint FM was closing.

Maybe the SHBC simply didn’t know.

Who owns the St Helena Broadcasting Corporation anyway?

Saint FM’s sister newspaper shut down in March 2012, but it rudely failed to stay dead.

This must have been an irritation to Darrin Henry, the Chief Executive Officer of the St Helena Broadcasting (Guarantee) Corporation.

The day after he launched The Sentinel, the St Helena Independent ceased publication… only to start up again a month later (with the help of St Helena Online).

Despite its many fine qualities – not least Darrin’s excellent photography – The Sentinel has apparently failed to attract as many readers as Mike Olsson’s Indy. Saints have stayed loyal to the old Viking.

As many will know, there’s another reason that Mike is a bit of an irritant to the people at the SHBC – more irritating, even, than the fact that he wasn’t born on St Helena.

When he heard that the government was setting up a rival and would be calling it the St Helena Broadcasting Corporation, he nipped out and legally registered the name for himself.

In other words, Mike Olsson owns the St Helena Broadcasting Corporation. Hence that baffling “(Guarantee)” bit in the the name of the real SHBC. It would be guaranteed to brass anyone off.

But sometimes, it’s best simply to salute the old rascal, and smile.

An old tortoise starts tweeting

Is Jonathan the Tortoise starting to believe his own publicity? Is his celebrity status, as the world’s oldest known living creature, slowly turning his head?

It would seem so. St Helena’s most celebrated resident has apparently decided he’s due some kind of lifetime achievement award, simply for achieving a long lifetime.

He wants to be a poster boy, no less – for the WWF (which used to be the World Wildlife Fund, but decided WWF was easier to spell).

We’re asked to believe that Jonathan has opened an account with the internet message-sharing site, Twitter. In a recent tweet in his name, it’s suggested it’s time to stop pandering to the panda that currently appears on the WWF logo:

@World_Wildlife How soon before I get to be the face of the org? I think we can all agree the panda’s had its due.

The WWF has not responded. The panda has also maintained a suitable inscrutable silence on the matter: presumably it doesn’t have a Twitter account.

Follow Jonathan the Tortoise: @TortoiseJon

Horses are out for the count

3 December 2012: St Helena’s three-yearly animal census is under way, with cats included for the first time. One animal no longer features on the form, however, says senior vet Joe Hollins:

“The old census form – and we have rewritten it – still had horses on it, and I believe the last horse died in the 1980s.”

Tortoises did not feature on the census. Unlike cats, they don’t kill endangered wirebirds; and things are not yet so dire on St Helena that they’re classed as livestock.

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