Situation? What situation? Castle untroubled by radio silence

The lack of a fully-functioning radio station on St Helena has been met with unconcern by the island’s government.

In an echo of the “Crisis? What crisis?” headline in the UK’s Winter of Discontent in the 1970s, it said there was “no situation” to be concerned about.

It closed Radio St Helena on Christmas Day 2012, even though three replacement stations were not yet ready to go live, as had been expected.

A government statement before Christmas said the independent new stations it was funding would go live some time in January. By the beginning of February, only one of the three channels was active, with no programme presenters.

It was transmitting a mix of music, news, extended interviews and a relay of the BBC World Service.

On 31 January 2013, The Sentinel newspaper gave a candid report on the technical problems holding up the launch of its broadcasting operation – three days after St Helena Online asked for an explanation.

They included problems sending a signal from Jamestown to High Knoll, and delays in the complex task of setting up the computerised play-out system – without the training usually given by the supplier. New parts to solve antenna problems missed a sailing of the RMS St Helena. Studio cubicles had yet to be sound-proofed.

St Helena Online editor Simon Pipe (who is in the UK) also sent an email asking for the government’s position on the outcome of its investment, and received the following responses.

St Helena Online: It’s now been more than a month since Radio St Helena closed down and still no sign nor sound of the new SHBC radio service. Whilst I recognise that the SHBC is a private organisation, nonetheless I think the situation is now a matter of public concern.

 SHG: You are incorrect.  One radio channel (of the three) has been established and is up and running.  A mix of music, the World Service and five news bulletins each day, with hosted services beginning this week – is broadcasting.  As you are not on Island, you may have missed this.

Could you say whether SHG has a position on the lack of a radio station?

See answer above.

Is it doing anything to resolve the situation?

See answer above

Have you been kept informed of developments? Can you say what the difficulties are?

Yes on the first point. No doubt Darrin [Henry, the SHBC chief executive] will be letting you know.

What is SHG’s view of the fact that the public has not been kept informed about the timetable for the new stations going on air, given that they are publicly funded? (Note: this question was sent before The Sentinel explained the situation).

An announcement accompanies every news bulletin, stating what information can be broadcast (public service news) and the state of play regarding the new services.

If the situation continues, would SHG considering intervening, by reviving Radio St Helena?

No – there is no ‘situation’.

Alternatively, would SHG be willing to allow the urgent relaunch of Saint FM by the proposed new media charity, without waiting for the 5 February ExCo meeting?

Saint FM voluntarily closed and its Licence automatically lapsed (this is a condition of the Licence). The application by its charitable successor will be treated in the same way as any other application would be, due process being observed.

Given that SHG has funded the new service, is it satisfied with it? Does it have any mechanism in place to monitor its performance?

The new media organisation is run independently by its own Board.  SHG’s connection extends no further than reducing its subsidy over time.

  • An application by a new charitable organisation to re-launch Saint FM was not included on the agenda for the executive council meeting on 5 February.  However, Governor Mark Capes reported that councillors had asked about it and were told that a special Exco meeting to consider it would be held on Monday 11 February.
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