St Helena Online

Tag: radio

Saint FM vital to island spirit, says director Dieter

Tony Leo, as he appeared on the BBC
Tony Leo, as he appeared on the BBC

Three minutes into Dieter Deswarte’s BBC film about St Helena, viewers around the world heard the smooth welcome of Tony Leo, veteran island broadcaster.

“This is Saint FM Community Radio. The people’s station at its best,” he said. “Our unique little island will soon be a part of the bigger world…”

He wasn’t there just to help the script along. Saint FM logo 300The young film-maker places great significance on the radio station that was revived by its listeners, against resistance from officials who were funding a slicker, better-behaved rival.

Saint FM is helping islanders break away from a restrictive colonial past, as Dieter sees it.

“I spent a lot of time there,” he says. “I liked the way it wasn’t perfect but it was done with a lot of enthusiasm, for the island.

“And a lot of people are involved. They have a lot of volunteers. They struggle a lot financially, but it’s good that this came out of the people. It’s a great example of initiative and people getting on and trying to do something.

“I spoke to a lot of people and the independent media has done a lot for people in helping  them to voice their opinion. Because I think until it came around it was really, really difficult.

“It’s incredibly important. There is this colonial legacy and this past is still being processed, not only by the government but also by the people.

“It’s very important to have this idea that people don’t feel suppressed. That is something that is constantly causing frustration and conflict on the island.

“It can be made better by better communications between the people and its government. Also feeling they have a voice within the community.

“I think Saint FM and the Independent… the mere fact that it’s independent media, I think that’s something that the people really needed.”

It gives me great pleasure: Julie declares Saint FM open
New radio group bids to revive Saint FM

“I think Saint FM and the Independent… the mere fact that it’s independent media, I think that’s something that the people really needed.” SEE ALSO:  It gives me great pleasure: Julie declares Saint FM open New radio group bids to revive Saint FM

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.

St Helena’s Mister Radio just keeps on going: please support Tony Leo’s marathon broadcast

Tony Leo, live and lively in the studio for his marathon broacast. Picture by Saint FM
Tony Leo, live and lively in the studio for his marathon broacast. Picture by Saint FM

St Helena Online salutes the achievements of the indefatigable Tony Leo, St Helena’s own Mr Radio.

After 45 years on air, Tony decided he might as well move into the studio on a long-term basis. At 7am on Saturday, 6 July 2013, he began a marathon broadcasting session in aid of the relaunched Saint FM Community Radio.

It was classic Saint broadcasting; the hours rolled by but the chat was as perky as ever.

Readers who haven’t signed up to hear the paid-for internet streaming are encouraged to pay tribute to Tony’s efforts by doing so – or at least, to join St Helena Online in making a small (or large) donation.

Tony suggests a pound an hour…

Saint FM does not benefit from the tens of thousands of pounds paid by the British taxpayer to sustain the rival – and often very good – SAMS Radio 1.

Saint FM exists because people on the island were determined to get it back on air after it closed just before Christmas Day 2012.

It is possibly the best and biggest example of Saints acting together to give the people what they wanted, and not what the government decided they should have (the government, we should acknowledge, did grant a broadcasting licence).

It is, quite simply, the people’s radio station. For that reason, and for many others, it deserves support.

SIGN UP or DONATE via the Saint FM website.

Carnival catcall echoes round the world

Duck! Deon de Jager pilots a plane down Main Street. Picture: Debbie Wahle
Duck! Deon de Jager pilots a plane down Main Street. Picture: Debbie Wahle

Radio listeners around the world have been regaled with the story of the low-flying aircraft that turned out not to be quite low enough when it led the St Helena Carnival procession down Main Street.

Writer Mark Stratton took advantage of the episode to open his piece on the island for the BBC World Service programme, From Our Own Correspondent.

carnival 500Click the pic for an updated Carnival gallery

As a result, a cheeky heckle from the crowd has been heard around the globe – and it didn’t exactly pay a compliment to the company that’s earned plaudits for its Herculean work to fill in an entire valley to make way for the island’s new airport.

“It was carnival day in Jamestown,” the piece began. “The quaint capital’s high street of Georgian buildings and purple flowering jacarandas was thronged with St Helenians in fancy dress, blowing whistles and banging drums.

Clear for take off - picture by Barbara George
Clear for take off – picture by Barbara George

“A ripple of laughter swept through the crowd. The procession’s only motorised float was just too tall to fit under a large carnival banner strung across the street.

“But this was no ordinary float. It belonged to South African construction company Basil Read, which back in 2011 was awarded a 375 million dollar contract to build St Helena’s first-ever airport.

“Sitting astride a large scale model of an aircraft on top of this float was Basil Read’s project director, sporting an airline pilot’s cap. He clambered off the model aeroplane’s fusilage to help deconstruct the float so it could fit under the banner.

“The irony of this wasn’t lost on the revellers. ‘They can’t even design a float properly,’ yelled a middle-aged wag in a lurid pink wig. ‘How on Earth can they build our airport?'”

Basil Read’s response is keenly awaited.

Mark Stratton also had a six-page spread in “Britain’s best-selling magazine about France”, called… France.

Click the pic to read Mark Stratton's article
Click the pic to read Mark Stratton’s article

His article begins: “Michel Dancoisne-Martineau looks nothing like Napoléon. He is taller, leaner and bespectacled”.

The article tells how Michel arrived on the island as a student and was adopted by the honorary French consul, Gilbert Martineau, who wanted to retire and asked him to take over. “I said yes as I was craving money and it was originally only for three years,” said Michel.

The writer says that after a quarter of a century, Michel still feels very French and merely a guest on St Helena.

“I wondered if his time had felt like being in exile. ‘No, never,’ said the 46-year-old from Picardy, ‘I’m comfortable being the only Frenchman on the island and it was my choice to come here.’

“Asked if there was anything he missed, Michel said: ‘Yes, confit de canard. Every time I go to Paris I do my confit de canard. Then there are veal and oysters… it’s food-related things I miss.'”

In English, confit de canard is duck’s leg. Perhaps Michel could get some in, to share with Rémi, the other resident Frenchman on St Helena…

Listen to From Our Own Correspondent reports from St Helena: 
By Mark Stratton, April 2013
By Horatio Clare, December 2012
By Simon Pipe, October 2009

IN PICTURES: St Helena Carnival 2012, by Debbie Wahle and Barbara George

Supporters switch on to Saint FM radio revival

SaintFMCC JT 640Supporters sign up to join the new organisation that’s reviving Saint FM radio station. The photograph of a promotional event in Jamestown on 16 February 2013 has been contributed by John Turner, who said: “I think this tells the story”. Governor Mark Capes has promised to summon executive councillors to consider a licence application as soon as legal formalities are sorted. A decision is expected imminently – with councillors thought to have pressed for approval (18 February 2013)

Saint FM ‘wins backing from councillors’

The team attempting to revive Saint FM radio station appears to be close to success.

But a government press release announcing the “launch” of the state-funded SAMS Radio 1 makes no mention of the bid, despite it apparently winning support from executive councillors.

St Helena Online understands that councillors pushed to approve a licence application for Saint FM in the face of reluctance from senior officials, following public pressure.

Julie Thomas, chairman of the group behind the bid, reports that some legal formalities still need to be sorted after it failed to meet the requirements for charity status.

A push for people to sign up as members of the new broadcasting organisation is being held in Jamestown on Saturday, 16 February 2013.

An advert has also been placed for an assistant station manager. Mike Olsson, who founded the station in 2005 and closed it on 21 December 2012, will not be a part of its management committee, though he will supply news bulletins.

In a message to supporters, Julie Thomas writes: I would like to thank the general public for their constant support; it is certainly inspirational during these testing times.

Failing to become a registered charity caused apprehension, as this was one of the reasons our application had been delayed initially.

I am pleased to report however, that our application was considered by Exco on Monday of this week (11 February 2013) and the correspondence advised that the outcome was favourable but we would need to address a few issues in relation to the legal status of our association, due to the charitable status not being successful.

The letter advised that the Governor is willing to summon the council to meet again at short notice, pending our response.

Our preferred way forward was to establish a company limited by guarantee, to avoid an individual member of the management committee taking on the full responsibility of the broadcasting licence. This is a democratic structure and the incentive for members to become involved is not profit, but commitment to the objects of the organisation.

The application to register our company, Saint FM Community Radio (Guarantee) Limited, was submitted on Tuesday. A timely response was received on Wednesday suggesting a few changes, and more detailed explanation in relation to the association restricting its undertaking to one that is of an educational nature.

We have been busy defining our Articles of Association to take into account the advice given and it is hoped that this will be submitted today (Friday, 15 February).

If approval of our application is received, this should result in ExCo meeting once again, to finalise their decision.

In the meantime, to boost momentum we are advertising for the position of assistant station manager; and on Saturday from 11.30 am, the management committee will be in Jamestown, outside the New Horizons centre, giving a preview of what we hope to stand for, and the opportunity to register as a member.

Annual membership will cost £5 for employed citizens and £1 for the unwaged.  Membership is optional; however for Saint FM Community Radio to achieve its objectives, we need your support.

  • NOTE: No details have yet been given of ways to give support from overseas.

St Helena Online congratulates a worthy adversary

Simon Pipe writes: I’d like to congratulate the team behind the launch of the new SAMS Radio 1 on St Helena.

It has always been the stance of St Helena Online that there are legitimate questions to be asked about the manner in which the island’s new media organisation came into being. New questions emerge, and the ongoing conduct of the government deserves investigation.

This website will continue to challenge The Castle, including on the peculiar press release that appeared to announce that the organisation’s change of name was a milestone in public service. Very odd.

But as a former print and BBC journalist, now teaching media skills at two universities, I am well aware of the extremely daunting scale of the challenge that has faced Darrin Henry and his team, both technically and editorially.

The existence of this website cannot have made that challenge any easier. I have no doubt at all that it has been right to support truly independent media on the island, in competition with SAMS.

The Sentinel has produced some important journalism – not least when it demonstrated that some councillors did not have a clear idea of how government should work.

I believe there have been errors of editorial judgment, but I have a few of those to my own name. But none of that takes away from the achievement that The Sentinel and the new radio station represent.

Had they been my achievement, I would feel very, very proud.

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.