Press release on ‘full launch’ of part-time radio station

Press release issued by St Helena Government on the belated ‘launch’ of a state-funded radio station – six weeks late, and for only six hours a day. And no mention of the rival station being backed by councillors.


14 February 2013


Today is United Nations World Radio Day (13 February 2013) and marks 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.

Hosted programming on the new station, ‘SAMS Radio 1’, commenced from 7am this morning, 13 February, initially with six hosted hours each day: 7-10am and 4pm -7pm, with World Service overnight. World news will also feature at 8am,10-11am, 1pm and 6pm. Two further channels, SAMS Radio 2 & 3, will follow shortly, one music-based and the other World Service-centred. The annual World Radio Day fosters international cooperation between broadcasters and promotes community access to freely-expressed information over the airwaves – principles echoed in South Atlantic Media Services’ values of community enrichment through sustainable media, editorial independence and impartiality, professionalism and international delivery. Since the start of SHB(G)C’s operations in 2012, beginning with production of the Sentinel newspaper in March, there has been much public comment, a lot of it positive, but much inaccurate and distorted comment too. SHG would like to clarify a few things.

Firstly, the setting up of a new, community-owned and run media service was mandated by the Elected Representatives of the people of St Helena, in both Legislative and Executive Councils. Councillors endorsed SHG’s proposal to set up a sustainable and modern service, run by Saints, to engage all audiences, including the younger sector and the Diaspora, at a time of change and challenges. This proposal also arose for important financial reasons, with SHG having to rationalise its various and significant funding of media services. This level of financial exposure could not continue indefinitely, but SHG and Council considered that it had a responsibility to put in place a sustainable, professional and independent media.

The new media organisation, from today named SAMS, is generating its own revenue and will gradually become self-financing. SHG’s involvement with SAMS extends no further than reducing its subsidy over time. Other assets, including the former accommodation of Radio St Helena, will also help generate revenue and mitigate the subsidy.

In setting up SHB(G)C, there was never any intention to damage any other news organisation, to ‘silence our critics’ or any other such nonsense. The fact is that the UK Government and SHG value the diversity of media and opinion in St Helena, just as in other Overseas Territories, and we fully recognise the contribution others make to informing and entertaining the public and stimulating debate. That is why the proprietor of SHMP as it then was (the Independent newspaper and Saint FM), was involved in discussions about the new media operation from the outset. He supported the idea of having one single media organisation and had begun negotiations with SHG to purchase his assets (and about his own role in the new set-up). But eventually he rejected SHG’s financial offer and left the negotiations.

A few other points are worth noting:

• SAMS is managed by its Board, which is drawn from the community and which SAMS appoints itself. It is completely editorially-independent across all its services, with a mission to enrich peoples’ lives with media services that inform, entertain and educate. The way SAMS operates is entirely in keeping with SHG’s strategic priorities to strengthen communities and family life on St Helena. To suggest that it and its newspaper and radio services (and website) are somehow ‘controlled’ by Government is absurd.

• Today’s name change, from SHB(G)C to SAMS, was precipitated by another party, for reasons unknown, pre-registering a company name virtually identical to SHB(G)C’s.

• Diversity and choice are important principles. So too are reliability and sustainability, as recently illustrated by the decision of the proprietor of Saint FM to close down his radio station at just 3 day’s notice. We must have a reliable service.

• SHG strongly supports the private sector and is actively growing the economy by introducing investor-friendly policies designed to make it more profitable for all businesses, both local and offshore, to invest in St Helena. An editorially independent and sustainable media service is important for St Helena at this time of social and economic transformation. SAMS’ new media services are a genuine achievement and an exciting prospect that will benefit all Saints, both in St Helena and overseas.


13 February 2013

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