‘It gives me great pleasure…’ Julie declares Saint FM open

72324_609825422364928_1430260508_nSt Helena’s first independent radio station went back on air on 10 March 2013, nearly three months after its shock closure. JULIE THOMAS, chair of the new Saint FM Community Radio, re-launched it with this on-air speech.

Good morning and a very warm welcome to all of our listeners. What a momentous occasion, another milestone achieved: history in the making as we announce the resurrection of Saint FM.  

For the majority of us, the closure of this station on 21 December 2012 left us with a sense of loss; a household member had been taken away. These feelings were amplified only four days later, when Radio St Helena said its final goodbye on Christmas night and left the airwaves.

Radio had died, and so had part of our culture. Gone were the familiar voices that helped shape our day; gone was the ability to sustain relationships within our community; and more importantly, gone was the ability to be kept informed of the activities taking place on island and overseas that affected our daily lives.

Our ability to communicate was snuffed out, during a time when communication is of utmost importance.

It is these exact reasons that were instrumental in stimulating the journey that has been undertaken.

On 15 January this year, a number of radio enthusiasts met at Association Hall to start the ball rolling. A management committee was formed on that very night, with one goal, to get Saint FM back on air. 

The journey, albeit two months, has from the onset demanded hard work, required consistent dedication, and has most certainly tested our endurance on more than one occasion; attributes, we are more than aware, we will have to continually possess to enable us to overcome the challenges ahead.

Our initial plan was to operate Saint FM as a charitable organisation, with sufficient funds to operate only. Our sole purpose was and still is to “inform, educate and entertain” our community, and provide the same values for those abroad who have an invested interest in our island. Unfortunately these sentiments were not shared by the Charities Commission, who declined this application.  

To overcome this hurdle, and to enable us to achieve a legal entity, we applied and were successful in becoming a company limited by guarantee. This was granted on 15 February 2013 and solved the concern raised by Council when applying for our broadcasting licence, as although willing to grant a licence, they were unable to do so in the name of Saint FM Community Charity, our initial name, as that status had been declined.  We are therefore officially registered as Saint FM Community Radio (Guarantee) Limited.

Our application for a broadcasting licence was resubmitted and Council was reconvened on 22 February, when full approval of our licence was agreed.

To enable us to apply for this licence, we were required to submit a business plan, to include a technical appraisal and frequency allocation request; our aim; our planned revenue streams and expenditure; and our medium and long term developments.

Therefore, it took a great deal of deliberation and hard work to achieve such a task in a timely manner.

Alongside of our legal entity as a limited company, we operate as an association, which enables us to raise funds to assist with the day-to-day operational costs and permits us the ability to collect annual membership fees.

Our latest challenge has been the ability to transmit. We have been tasked with the installation of our entire transmission equipment due to Cable & Wireless not being able to assist at this time, due to current workload. 

Test transmissions have therefore been running for a few weeks now, reaching clientele in Jamestown and neighbouring areas only. Yesterday, this coverage was extended to include St Pauls, Half Tree Hollow, Longwood, Alarm Forest and the majority of Levelwood, therefore there is more work to be done to ensure we cover the remaining districts, namely Blue Hill and Sandy Bay.  

Fine tuning of some areas are still required and will be done throughout the coming week.

When this is complete, we will focus our energy on reconnecting with our loved ones overseas, through live streaming.  You will be kept updated on the progress made and advised when we are in the position to offer this vital link.

Before I conclude, I would firstly like to thank a number of important people; these are:

  • My management committee, consisting of Liz Johnson, Les Baldwin, Ralph Peters, Tony Leo, Nick Stevens, Tina Yon-Stevens, Prudy Joshua, Vince Thompson and Donna Crowie. Your valued input has and will continue to make this mission possible;
  • Mike Olsson, for giving us full reign of his equipment and for providing all the technical assistance;
  • Donna Crowie, our Station Manager, for being so patient throughout the downtime of the old and the resurrection of the new;
  • Claire Bennett, our newly appointed Assistant Station Manager, for coming on board to share this journey with us;
  • Our existing members, who have supported us and shown faith in us from the onset. You have truly been an inspiration;
  • The families of all those involved, who have been tolerant during the weeks of regular meetings, non-stop phone calls and interruptions;
  • Our voluntary producers, who are eager to be back on air and who have come on board at short notice to present programs today and into the coming week;
  • And to all of the many helpers who I haven’t mentioned, many who have been instrumental in getting us where we are today.

Thank you all. 

We will continue to provide you with more information throughout this programme on what can be expected from Saint FM, in relation to our broadcasting capabilities, but without further delay, it gives me great pleasure to officially declare Saint FM Community Radio open. 

THANK YOU

SEE ALSO:
Supporters switch on to Saint FM radio revival
Situation? What situation? Castle untroubled by radio silence
Why we closed Saint FM, by Mike and Bernice
‘Shops are silent. There’s disbelief’ – islanders mourn Saint FM

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