St Helena Online

Tag: broadcasting

Saint FM supporters win funding vote in LegCo

A vote to end “unfair” media funding on St Helena has been pushed though Legislative Council.

But it was not made clear whether this would put money into the coffers of Saint FM Community Radio – or if so, how soon.

Nor did the motion say whether the government should stop financing St Helena Media Services (SAMS), which has received more than a quarter of a million pounds since being set up by the government in competition with independent media.

Some councillors voted against the motion, that “this Council calls upon the government to take immediate steps to create a level playing field, both financially and otherwise, for all local media organisations.”

There were concerns that money spent establishing SAMS would be wasted if it was unable to continue operating for long enough to become viable as a business.

Councillor Ian Rummery said: “It is reasonable that all media are treated the same.

“How that is done is a matter for our budgeting system to work out. That might mean some lose money and others will gain money to bring them into balance.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be done like that. Maybe clever management of fees for advertising could be used to help bring this about.

“I could not support the ongoing system where there does appear to be a wide disparity of treatment of the two groups of media we have on this island.”

The motion was introduced by Brian Isaac, a strong support of Saint FM Community Radio, which was revived by its own listeners in early 2013.

The station had abruptly closed down at Christmas 2012, shortly before SAMS Radio 1 went live.

The debate faltered when it became clear that some councillors who wanted to support Saint FM warned that they felt obliged to vote against the motion because of the way it was worded.

Mr Isaac then put forward a new motion, simply calling for funding for Saint FM, and the debate was adjourned overnight.

But on Tuesday (15 October) the original motion was reinstated.

Although the vote was split, the Speaker, Eric Benjamin, declared: “The Ayes have it. The Ayes have it” – meaning the motion had succeeded.

Ironically, the debate was part of the first formal Legislative Council session to be broadcast on the internet – thanks to SAMS Radio 1.

A note from Simon Pipe, editor of St Helena Online: Reporting of this story has been delayed for personal reasons. This blog began as a degree project and continued while I began building up paid work as a very part-time university teacher. On Tuesday, as this debate was taking place, I was preparing for a successful job interview at Coventry University. I will shortly be taking up a humble but full-time role in the journalism department, which will enable me to qualify to teach in higher education. I hope to be able to continue running the website in a low-key way, possibly with the help of students; however, my St Helena activities will clearly have to be scaled down from now on. It’s been fun, and I thank the St Helena Independent and many individuals who have given great support, including staff in the government press office.

Saint FM makes a comeback on Ascension

From Saint FM Community Radio:

We are pleased to announce that we are now streaming our services to Ascension Island as of today (1 October 2013). A special message to the Ascension community was delivered today at 1200 GMT from Saint FM CR. We are actively looking to improve the service we deliver: please do not hesitate to contact us support (at) saint . fm if you have any queries. We are also looking for feedback from the Ascension community audience on the reinstated service.

Saint FM broadcasts on Ascension and Tristan da Cunha ceased when the station abruptly closed, a few days before Christmas 2012. The station was re-launched as a community enterprise by a rescue group formed by private individuals, but various technical challenges have had to be overcome to re-instate the service on Ascension and across St Helena.

Click here to follow the story of a station that was revived by its own listeners.

Saint FM rises again on Ascension

Saint FM Community Radio can be heard live on Ascension from 1 October 2013, a message to St Helena Online has confirmed.

It comes six months after the station was revived as a community enterprise on St Helena, following its abrupt closure at Christmas 2012 in the face of new competition from a government-funded company.

Councillors on St Helena have been urged to reconsider the level of funding for South Atlantic Media Services, which publishes The Sentinel newspaper but has so far launched only two of three promised radio stations for the island.

With the re-launch of Saint FM, the justification for launching another station has been questioned privately by island politicians and media-watchers.

New radio group bids to revive Saint FM

Efforts are being made to relaunch Saint FM – as a charity.

Founder Mike Olsson, who closed the station on 21 December 2012, will not be a member of the management committee, but will produce the daily news bulletins and provide technical support.

He had announced that the closure would be permanent. After Christmas, he put the station up for sale.

The island has been without a local radio station since Boxing Day, after the closure of Radio St Helena to make way for new government-funded radio stations that turned out not to be ready to go live.

Veteran Radio St Helena staff are understood to be involved in the Saint FM relaunch.

An application to become a registered charity has been submitted (17 January 2012) and a new broadcasting licence will be needed. It is not clear how long it will take to get clearance to resume transmissions.

The station would continue to broadcast from its previous home in Association Hall, in Jamestown’s Main Street – at least initially.

VINCE THOMPSON broke the news of the relaunch on the station’s Facebook page. He wrote:

It’s Official – Saint FM is coming back.

On Tuesday evening, this week, it was decided to restart Saint FM.

The constant requests from almost everyone which have been made to Saint FM staff every day could no longer be ignored.

The new Saint FM will be organised very differently from the Saint FM we all know.  After seven years in the hot seat, Mike Olsson is taking a back seat.  There will no longer be someone in the studio to answer phone calls from the early hours until bed time.

Donna will continue to work at Saint FM and hopefully Sinead will too, but Mike’s absence will leave a big hole which cannot be filled completely.

The new Saint FM was launched as a charitable organisation on Tuesday evening.  Nineteen people gathered at Association Hall to agree the new charity’s constitution and to elect the officers and committee who will be responsible for the new radio station.

The official name of the new Saint FM is Saint FM Community Charity.  The chairperson of the charity’s management committee is Julie Thomas, Les Baldwin is secretary and Liz Johnson the treasurer.

There are seven other members of the management committee, including experienced broadcasters, Saint FM employees and of course, someone who knows how to keep accounts properly.

Mike Olsson is not on the management committee.  Mike will continue to provide the radio news and will be available to sort out the radio equipment when technical problems arise.

After seven years of working 18–20 hours a day, seven days a week, Mike is now trying to sort out a normal life for himself.

There are two main reasons why Saint FM is being launched as a charity.  First, while the old Saint FM was very popular, had support from many people in all sorts of ways and was very much part of the community, the new Saint FM will have stronger direct links with the people of St Helena through its charitable status.

The main direct link will be through official membership of Saint FM Community Charity.  Membership will have benefits and the management committee is kicking around some ideas of what the benefits will be.  Full details will follow later.

The second reason for applying for registered charitable status is, to put it plainly, all about money.

A radio station in St Helena cannot expect to make money without extra funds coming in from somewhere. For a private sector radio station, most of the money raised is from adverts and announcements. But the income from adverts is often only enough to pay the wages, the rent, the phone bills and the broadband charges.

There is little or nothing left over to put aside to pay for new radio equipment when the old equipment doesn’t work properly.

There is also no money left over to pay for improvements to the service offered by the radio station; this includes an additional member of the full time staff.

Some of the extra money needed to keep the radio station on the air will be raised by asking listeners and supporters to become members of the Saint FM Community Charity.

Becoming a member will mean paying a membership fee. The standard adult membership fee will probably be set at five pounds, with a reduced membership fee of one pound for juniors and people on benefit.

There may also be special corporate and overseas membership status. The computer streaming links with the Falklands, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha need to be re-established and it is not certain yet whether it is still possible to re-connect with all the South Atlantic islands.

As The Independent goes to print, no firm date has yet been set for launching the new Saint FM on air.  Confirmation of registered charitable status and the broadcasting licence are still required.

Mishievous Mike advertises ‘rival’ for sale – and it’s not a joke
Saint FM closure – links

‘We changed the island’ – Mike halts the heartbeat of St Helena

A candle burned in the crowded studio of Saint FM as the last song played out on St Helena’s best-loved radio station.

A few minutes earlier, station founder Mike Olsson told listeners around the world: “I think we changed the island. We have been able to bring more openness and more information to the people.”

He chose to end eight years on air with the old Seekers hit, The Carnival Is Over. When it faded, he switched off the transmitter and the flame was blown out.

For those present, it symbolised “the end of independent radio on St Helena and the plunging of the island into darkness”.

With three new stations due to launch some time in January 2013, albeit with start-up funding from St Helena Government, not everyone on St Helena would agree with the sentiment.

Officials in the Castle are now attempting to make sure the island’s airwaves do not fall completely silent when its only other existing broadcaster, Radio St Helena, closes down at the end of Christmas Day, after exactly 45 years on air.

St Helena Online had been told that the new stations might not go live until late January. The St Helena Broadcasting (Guarantee) Corporation is understood to have had to overcome substantial difficulties to launch them.

However, a government spokesman has now said it was hoped the launch would be “a bit sooner” in January.

He said it was too early to give definitive information, but officials were “working to bridge any radio gap between midnight on 25 December, and SHBC’s start-up.”

Radio St Helena station manager Ralph Peters has told St Helena Online that he may be able rescue a programme of messages from UK Saints, recorded by Johnny Clingham for Saint FM to play on Christmas Day.

Ralph has said he could broadcast the programme on Christmas afternoon if Johnny can get it to him via the internet.

Radio station closure puts Christmas messages in doubt

Christmas messages from overseas may go unheard by people on St Helena because of the closure of the island’s only independent radio station, it is feared.

Johnny Clingham has recorded 50 personal messages from Saints in the UK, for a programme that was due to be broadcast on Saint FM on Christmas Day.

He was part-way through editing the programme when he learned that the station was to close on Friday, 21 December 2012.

Listening to personal greetings on the radio has been an emotive part of Christmas on St Helena for many years.

At one stage, Radio St Helena linked up with the Falkland Islands Broadcasting to share messages between family members who were separated for months or years at a time.

Johnny, who runs the St Helena and Ascension Island Community website, told St Helena Online he was still hoping to get the recordings to the island. They were also due to be heard on Ascension Island, where many Saints work.

He said: “I collected personal Christmas messages from three different St Helena gatherings round the south of England, in Reading, Cirencester and Swindon, where most of St Helenian community lives.

“This history is that this was previously done by Owen George of the St Helena Association and other organisers, who took personal messages from the UK. It would get air-mailed to Ascension in time for the nearest sailing to Christmas.

“Now I can upload the programme via the internet and Saint FM can download it.

“I did one from the St Helena Reading Sports which was very successful, hence the reason to continue with Christmas messages.

“At the moment I have about 50 recorded messages, along with a wedge of emails to be read for family and friends.

“The problem now is that it cannot be broadcast via Saint FM because of the station closure. The programme is 50% done and there is nowhere to send it.

“It’s taken me about six hours of recording, and I’ve spent three nights until about one in the morning collating it all together.

“I have also got a company to put together two professionally-made jingles for the radio station to be broadcast. That will all go by the wayside now.”

Radio St Helena has been asked if it would be willing to broadcast the messages instead. The government-funded station is due to close at midnight on Christmas Day after 45 years on air, in order to make way for three new stations.

They too will set up with state funding.

Johnny, who now lives in Wiltshire but hopes to return to St Helena one day, said the messages were a valued Christmas tradition. “I think they mean quite a lot to the local people on the island,” he said. “It’s a big highlight.

“Over the years more and more people have left the island, and it brings them a little closer to their family. They look forward to the messages we deliver more than the Queen’s Speech.”

Unlike Saint FM, Radio St Helena is not relayed on Ascension Island or the internet, meaning switching radio stations would still leave many people unable to hear the messages.

Mike Olsson of Saint FM has expressed his regret at being unable to broadcast the messages on Christmas Day.

Island’s media regulators ‘won’t be controlled from The Castle’

The people appointed to rule on media complaints on St Helena will be free of government influence, the island’s chief magistrate has insisted.

John MacRitchie has pointed out that their independence is protected in the new Media Standards Ordinance, which came into effect on 9 October 2012.

He also told St Helena Online that the law required Governor Mark Capes to be guided by independent legal advice before appointing media standards commissioners.

So far Jenny Corker and Steve Biggs have been appointed to the commission.

Mr MacRitchie – the island’s chief magistrate, and president of the commission – said it would initially follow codes of practice used in England. It may adopt its own standards in time, possibly taking a lead from the current Leveson Inquiry into media standards in the UK.

“If the findings of the Leveson Inquiry assists the commission in that exercise in due course, then fair and good,” said Mr MacRitchie.

Hearings will take place in private and the media cannot reveal the identity of complainants. Mr MacRitchie said it would be “illogical” to hear grievances in public hearings when they may involve defamatory or unfair material.

“My only concern is to ensure that any complaints made are inquired into in a just manner, and that decisions are taken independently and without partiality in accordance with the law.”

He said the commission’s job was “to protect the vulnerable, protect the public from defamatory, discriminatory, offensive or harmful material, ensure accuracy and impartiality in the delivery of factual material, prevent misleading, harmful or offensive advertising, exploitation of any unwitting member of the public and protect public safety, public health, public order and public morality.”

Mr MacRitchie would not be drawn on whether there were current concerns about media standards on St Helena.

Neither the UK code or the Media Standards Ordinance bans the press from being partisan – meaning it is allowed to take sides, but it “must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.”

The new regulations say people with complaints must put them to the publisher first. Only if the complaint is unresolved after two weeks should it taken to the commission.

Complaints must be made to the publisher within 28 days. Part or all of a complaint can be dismissed by Mr MacRitchie before it is put before the commission

As president of the commission, he also has the right to impound documents relating to complaints. He can also allow complaints to be made anonymously.

Witnesses can be required to give evidence on oath, as though in court.

The commission can decide to investigate a publication or broadcast even when no complaint has been made.