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Tag: St Helena Herald

Independent closure claims dismissed as ‘nonsense’ – but new book foresaw what would happen

Allegations that St Helena Government brought about the closure of the island’s only privately-run newspaper have been strongly refuted.

Cover of book "What Do We Mean By Local?"
BROUGHT TO BOOK: Islands chapter said losing adverts would kill the Independent

In a second statement on the affair, the government says its plans to help set up a state-funded rival “did not include any intention to see the Independent newspaper close down and it is nonsense to suggest this.”

But the threat to the St Helena Independent was foreseen in a book published only three days before the paper’s final edition appeared. It said withdrawing advertising – as the government has now done – would almost certainly kill off the Independent.

The government decided to switch its advertising from the Independent to the state-funded Sentinel, which was published for the first time on 29 March 2012. The  Independent put out a farewell issue on March 30.

SHG also decided not to renew a “service” contract with Saint FM, the Independent’s sister radio station – though owner Mike Olsson says this contract did not relate to the newspaper.

In the book, contributor Simon Pipe – editor of this website – referred to a new law that could force the closure of a newspaper.

“In Britain,” it said, “MPs and media commentators have recognised that legal regulation of the Press raises difficult issues. Actually closing down a newspaper would be pretty well unthinkable.

“Not on St Helena. The Media Standards Ordinance 2011 allows the St Helena Government to “terminate production” of any newspaper that is deemed by a Media Commission to have breached editorial codes on harmful, offensive or defamatory content.

“In reality, the power to close down a newspaper is not needed. The government can simply withdraw its advertising, which almost certainly would have the same effect.”

Click here for an extract from Media on Remote Islands book chapter

In an interview on Saint FM, Mike Olsson said that former governor Andrew Gurr had advised him to accept a buy-out offer from the new media organisation “or they are going to run right over you.”

The government’s new statement was issued amid ongoing disquiet over the way in which the new media organisation came into being. It said much of the comment on the issue had been distorted.

It began by praising the Independent’s “contribution to stimulating debate and comment on St Helena.”

It said councillors had approved the setting-up of the new community-owned media service – known as the St Helena Broadcasting (Guarantee) Corporation.

And it said it “could not continue to pay SHMP (the Independent and Saint FM) a very substantial sum each month to air certain material, under the terms of an arrangement made in 2009.”

The government said it had been paying Mr Olsson’s company an average of £1,690 each month, plus “many thousands of pounds” for advertising. It had also been funding the St Helena Herald, which closed in March 2012, and Radio St Helena, which is expected to be replaced by three new stations in the summer.

“This level of financial exposure could not continue indefinitely,” it said, but “SHG considered that it had a responsibility to ensure that Saints were served by a high quality and independent media, with less Government subsidy.”

The new media organisation aims to become self-supporting “in the short to medium term” – depending on how quickly the island’s economy grows, with an airport expected to bring tourism cash from 2015.

Mike Olsson challenged the government version of events in a statement, and in an interview on Saint FM with presenter Vince Thompson – who had also been a columnist on the Independent.

He said the contract with the government was not a subsidy, but involved a payment for services – including broadcasting to Saints overseas, and being able to broadcast emergency announcements within five minutes at any time of day or night.

He also said that the contract did not relate to the Independent, which survived on income from advertising and sales alone.

He also complained that he had not been allowed to see a report by former official John Styles, outlining his ideas for the new rival, “Like we are not stakeholders in the media at all in St Helena.

“The next thing I saw was Mr John Styles in my living room saying, ‘Can we send in
Cable & Wireless to value your equipment?’ He was shown the door quite quickly.”

A third source has said that Mr Olsson refused to consider “generous” offers to buy him out.

Mr Thompson also questioned the validity of claims that the new media service would be financially “sustainable” if it did not have to repay start-up funding – including the cost of refurbishing its new base in the Castle Gardens.

Full details of the financial arrangement between SHBC and the government have not been released.

But Mr Olsson attacked the government for publishing details of its payments to Saint FM. “What would normally be classified as ‘commercial-in-confidence’ has been dragged out in the public domain,” he said in a statement.

He also referred to a 2007 audit report, which he said established the principle that “as a subsidised organisation you cannot go out and compete with the private sector.”

That was the basis on which The Sentinel’s forerunner, the St Helena Herald, was banned from accepting paid advertising – which made it impossible to generate income it needed on top of its government funding.

  • Simon Pipe contributed a chapter on media on remote islands to an academic book about the state of local journalism. What Do We Mean By Local? Grass-Roots Journalism – Its Death and Rebirth, is published by Abramis, price £17.95.


The last post: as the Independent closes, writer Vince asks how the government is spending public money

The St Helena Independent is due to close on Friday, 30 March 2012 – on the day the government-subsidised St Helena Sentinel is launched.

The government has told this website the new media organisation – which will eventually include three radio stations and an online news service – has an “exciting” role to play in island life. Read more here.

Independent columnist Vince Thompson has sent through a message to flag up what he’ll say in his final piece:

“In tomorrow’s A Funny Thing Happened, renamed A Voice in the Wilderness for the last issue of The St Helena Independent, I compare the amount SHG are spending on their new government funded media with the dire need for more money in Education and Health.

“SHG seldom take their priorities seriously, any priorities they have change like the wind and getting the basics right is still a thing SHG need to learn to do.”

In a front-page editorial, here, Independent editor Mike Olsson says the paper is being driven out of business by unfair competition and withdrawal of St Helena Government (SHG) advertising.

John Styles, founder of the new paper, has countered suggestions it will be controlled by figures in The Castle in Jamestown.

Will you miss the Indy? Why does it matter to you? Please read the comments, then add your own below.

Don’t the Indy’s readers matter any more? Comment:

The Laws of Media and Private Enterprise:

  • When a newspaper is no longer useful to readers it will no longer be purchased.
  • If readers are no longer important to the advertisers, they will not advertise.
  • Government no longer advertises in the Independent.

Is it because the Independent’s readers are no longer important to the government?

Anonymous, South Africa

At a time when even politicians in London call to fill the “democratic hole” in the overseas territories, the SHG virtually eliminates a basic element of democracy: the free press. In the 21st Century you don’t need to print your own newspaper as there’s a place called the “internet” where a modern government can instantly publish any relevant information at lowest costs. Doing so may even result in something called “transparency” which can prevent misconceptions in the media. Instead of destroying one of the island’s few sound sectors by establishing a state monopoly, taxpayers’ money should better be used to increase internet penetration; thus anybody can easily access all relevant information and form their own opinion. Provision of internet access in contrast is a market that obviously requires government intervention as the private sector has been failing to supply demand in an acceptable manner.

Bernardo, UK 

This is very worrying, but perhaps I am being naive. HMG will be acting on the basis of what it perceives as British interests: pluralism and democracy on St Helena will be very low on the list of priorities, and in fact might be counter-productive to the attainment of Government objectives. If as many expect the airport fails to make the island economically self sustaining, and/or the Government finds a military use for the airport leading to continued loss of population, an independent newspaper would simply make the island harder to govern. I hope I am being overly pessimistic.

John Tyrrell, UK

It’s certainly a concern if the actions of government result in individuals losing their livelihood. And it’s particularly puzzling in this case because there seems to be no public interest reason to justify the government publishing a newspaper, when there is already one being produced by the private sector.

John Turner, St Helena

You said, “Can you live without the smutty jokes?”. Of course, it had no place in the publication.

“ggatian”, California

(note, an earlier version of this web post asked, “Will you miss the Indy? Can you live without the smutty jokes?”)

Simon Pipe, editor of this website, has sent the following message to Saint FM, the Independent’s sister radio station – which is to stay on air.

I was shocked – but not surprised – to read the news that the St Helena Independent is to cease publication.

Through the Indy, Mike and his team have probably done more than anyone to connect the world’s most isolated island with the rest of the planet – and of course, with the many Saints who have relied on the paper and Saint FM to keep them in touch with their homeland. In fact, I can’t think of anyone else who’s taken on this work – not even the people whose job it was.

The Indy has been an amazing achievement, but it could not last forever. In the UK, I can’t believe anyone would have attempted to do what the St Helena Independent has done so brilliantly – if sometimes infuriatingly. No one could say the Indy didn’t have character.

On Tuesday, I will go to London to attend the launch of a book about the future of the local newspapers. One of the chapters is about media on remote islands, and in particular, about the Indy. It speaks of the paper having a “frontier spirit”. One can almost imagine Mike sitting in his office with his feet on the desk, newsman’s hat titled forward, with a loaded pistol in the top drawer to face down anyone who threatens his editorial independence – with Tammy there to keep him in order when needed.

I did not always agree with the paper’s editorial line. I don’t believe all officials are self-serving bunglers. But the paper has made St Helena a much more open society – a fact acknowledged by one of his new rivals when I interviewed him for the book. This is important work that is not yet finished.

A free, open media, able to challenge government and things that just aren’t right, is vital to democracy – even at the most local level, which is where most people live their lives.

Sometimes, it takes awkward, pig-headed people to protect that. Just telling people what’s going on is just as important.

I wish the best of good fortune to my fellow journalists at the Sentinel. With the loss of the Indy, they now carry an even greater responsibility.

Add your voice to the debate here:

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St Helena’s new newspaper: challenging all comers?

The South Atlantic’s newest newspaper – due out at the end of the month – is to be called the St Helena Sentinel, according to notices that have gone up in Jamestown’s shop windows.

St Helena Herald, 1999-2012: the final edition

Only a few days ago this website was told the name was being kept secret.

Wikipedia lists a clutch of Sentinel newspapers in the United States, one each in England, India and Canada, and one – get this – in St Helena, South Atlantic Ocean. That was quick.

It will replace the St Helena Herald, which published its final issue on 9 March 2012. If anyone felt the state-funded paper was too close to the government, then it was only living up to its name: it meant, among other things, “a royal or official messenger”.

Does the name of the new paper – from an old Italian word, Sentina, meaning vigilance – tell us anything about its likely character?

One online dictionary defines a sentinel as a person or thing that watches or stands as if watching, which doesn’t sound very dynamic. Another says a sentinel is one who  gives a warning.

And a third says it is a soldier stationed as a guard to challenge all comers and prevent a surprise attack.

Is there something the publishers know that the rest of us don’t?

One thing’s for sure: it’s a much, much better name than The Island That Was Eaten By Goats.


Legal bill heralds the end of the Herald

Legal Bill heralds the end of The Herald

The final issue of the St Helena Herald is to be published this Friday (9 March 2012), even though island councillors have yet to change the law to allow it to happen.

The state-funded paper is to be replaced by a new publication, run by the fledgling St Helena Broadcasting Corporation.

The St Helena Media Board, which publishes the Herald, will continue to operate Radio St Helena until the SHBC is ready to launch three new FM radio channels on the island.

The Governor, Mark Capes, said: ‘Under St Helena law, the media board has a duty as long as it exists to publish a newspaper. As we need to keep the SHMB active until the new FM radio services starts transmitting in June/July, we must adjust the law to allow it to do so without being compelled to produce the Herald when the new newspaper is published.

Executive councillors were asked only last week to allow the St Helena News Media (Amendment) Bill to be put before the Legislative Council and be passed into law – with the paper’s closure already imminent.

However, councillors had already agreed to the setting up of the new community-owned media trust and the principle of closing the Herald and Radio St Helena.

One difficulty has been that the launch date for the new paper has been uncertain. Its name has not even been made public.

Staff have been preparing the launch in temporary premises behind The Standard pub. They will be taking over the Audit Office premises in Castle Gardens.

The broadcasting corporation was the idea of John Styles, who declined an invitation to chair the media board but offered to devise a new model for journalism on the island.

Critics has seized on the fact that the new organisation will be funded by government initially, with the hope that it can become financially independent as St Helena’s economy grows once the island’s first airport opens in 2015.

But Mr Styles said: ‘It is wrong and misleading to suggest that this will result in government control.

‘The new media organisation is owned by the independent voluntary sector. It has a board made up of senior representatives of the voluntary sector. It is totally independent of government.’

But the editor of the commercially-run St Helena Independent has launched a highly critical attack on ‘the Government Media Monopoly Company’, as he calls it.

‘We are trying to get some sense out of St Helena Government on the matter,’ wrote Mike Olsson in last week’s paper. ‘Obviously, if this fails, truth behind the government attack against the private sector has to come out.’

He pointed out that the Audit Service had clearly stated that subsidised bodies should not compete on the open market.

‘It is all very confusing really to have a government who says it supports private sector… and the Chamber of Commerce, the “crusaders of the private sector”, joined together to launch an attack on private sector, freedom of press and ultimately democracy.’

The broadcasting corporation says its core values are to cherish and preserve:

  • the media`s independence from the state
  • its impartiality and professionalism and
  • its honesty and integrity

Mr Styles said: ‘Although community-owned companies exist elsewhere in the world, the new media organisation will be the first of its kind in St Helena. To create something completely brand new in every way is difficult and challenging, but along with the challenge comes the personal satisfaction.’

Island media, 20 January 2012

Military interest in the airport (or not) – representation in the UK Parliament – underwater heritage – a Falklands cruise row – points mean immigration – cargo ship concerns – SHG breaches its planning rules – a ban on pets from Africa – and St Helena’s international cricket team. 

Not much news, but plenty of comment in this week’s St Helena Independent.

The editorial reports that the UK Ministry of Defence has denied taking an interest in the strategic potential of an airport on St Helena, now that tensions are hotting up between the Falklands and Argentina. Editor Mike doesn’t accept this: ‘If a dumb little Editor for a tin-pot newspaper on St Helena can see the connection between what is happening at the Falklands and the development of St Helena, I am sure MoD can see it as well.’

Mike also specutates on the type of aircraft that might be landing on Prosperous Bay Plain, now that the runway will not be as long as originally planned. The options appear limited, and as Johnny Clingham points out in his St Helena Community Blog, it looks as if there won’t be direct flights from Europe.

Democracy: The British overseas territories deserve better representation in the British Parliament,  according to Andrew Rosindell MP. Mr Rosindell wants to see a debate on the territories held in Parliament at least once a year, says a report re-published in the Shindy.

‘We give our 21 territories nothing,’ he says. ‘We have a democratic hole, with hundreds of thousands of people for whom we make laws, whom we ultimately govern and on whose behalf we can declare war, make foreign policy and sign international treaties. We have substantial control over their domestic affairs. Although the… Overseas Territories are not part of the UK they are substantially influenced and ultimately governed by this Parliament, so it is wrong for them to have no voice at Westminster.’

Underwater heritage: Divers have found plentiful evidence of the days when James Bay was a busy port. ‘A large number of ship’s anchors, some of them presumably dating all the way back to the 1600s, were found. However, they saw no wrecks.’ Marine archaeologists had been called in ahead of the next phase of the wharf development. A report on protecting this underwater heritage is on its way.

Falklands cruise ban: Three and a half thousand cruise passengers were refused permission to land at in the Falklands because 20 people on the Star Princess had symptoms of stomach flu, according to a re-published report from in The Scotsman. It says the chief medical officer consulted with a UK microbiologist before barring the visitors, on the grounds that a norovirus outbreak on the islands would put too much pressure on limited medical resources. Some Argentinian passengers had been planning to pay respects to loved ones, the paper was told. Penguin News said it may have cost the island’s economy more than £100,000 – nearly £47,000 in arrival tax.

Immigration points: Non-Saints wanting to move to St Helena or invest in the island will have to score enough points to qualify, according to Lewis Evans, the Immigration Executive at The Castle. It’s aimed at ‘protecting the local labour market while allowing migrants to come and do the jobs that there is no one on island to do.’ And also attracting investors. There’s no detail on how the points system would work.

Cargo concern: In his weekly column, Vince Thompson worries that there’s no evidence that anything’s being done about finding a cargo ship to replace the RMS St Helena when the airport becomes operational. He also wants a better service: ‘Too often we are told that something we want to buy was expected on the last call of the RMS but it didn’t arrive. Maybe what we want will be on the next ship. If, in an attempt to keep prices down, we have a cargo ship calling less often than the RMS does now, this kind of 19th Century business practice will have to stop.’

Vince also reports from the first-ever public meeting of the Planning Board, with the revelation that the government had started work on converting a house into flats without first gaining planning consent. ‘The Planning Board resisted the temptation to phone for the police and settled for a strongly worded letter to the Chief Secretary’s Office. It is not the first time a letter has been sent to that office drawing attention to this.’

Pet aversion: A public notice says pets can no longer be imported directly from Africa, because a six-month quarantine system is too difficult to maintain, and too harsh for the animals. It’s also abused. Instead, dogs and cats must now be imported through the UK, which has a tracking system to avoid the need for long quarantine. They can’t be carried on military flights, but must travel instead on an MoD supply ship to Ascension, and then on the RMS.

Lemon Valley: The tourist office reports that the landing stage in Lemon valley is now in place and can be used by boats. There are also plans for barbecues and beach shelters at Sandy Bay.

Sport: Training’s well underway for St Helena’s first-ever foray into international cricket. The International Cricket Council Division 3 T20 tournament in Johannesburg from the 25th – 30th April, at which Saints will compete against Cameroon, Gambia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Rwanda and the Seychelles. Sponsors are needed.

Island media, 13 January 2012

St Helena Herald: Disaster volunteers wanted – Linda’s prison medal – Farmers’ unsold crops – bikers seek new home

Casualties wanted: The island’s emergency services are planning a major incident exercise on January 27 and appeal for members of the public of all ages to volunteer as casualties. Other roles are available. The exercise will take place at the wharf, to test the ability of the emergency services to respond to a disaster.

Prison officer Linda Fuller has been awarded the Colonial Prison Long Service and Good Conduct medal, making history as the only person on St Helena to have completed 18 years’ service in the prison in Jamestown.

Farmers have aired frustration at having to plough their crops back into the ground because they cannot sell them, according to the Herald. They were told that tourism development should increase demand for fresh produce once the airport is operational. The issue came up at an information meeting about the airport, at which it was also reported that Basil Read, the airport contractor, will set its own wage levels without influence from St Helena Government.

Napoleon 200: A draft programme of events to celebrate the bi-centenary of Napoleon’s arrival on St Helena in 2015 has been drawn up, and is due to be presented to Legislative Council in February.

Saints Moto-Cross Club says it needs a new race circuit: the soil at Bradley’s Garage, where it currently holds competitions, is very light and throws up too much dust, causing a safety hazard. The club also says it has been waiting six months to hear whether it can take over the redundant Guinea Grass community centre, which has been empty for some years. It’s worth checking the club’s report in the Herald for Ed Thorpe’s pictures of the national championships.

And finally, a plea at the end of the moto-cross club’s report in the Herald: whoever has the chequered flag, please return it as soon as possible to Hudz.

Island media, 6 January 2012

St Helena Herald: Father Dale’s MBE – Airport construction work starts – National Trust seeks heritage protection law – Cameras trap wirebird predators – Sustainable Development Plan released – ‘Come home’ call to Saints overseas

Father Dale Bowers, Archdeacon of St Helena, is awarded the MBE in the New Year Honours List, in recognition of ‘unstinting contribution to life on the island. An announcement by Governor Mark Capes – interestingly, dated 23 December – says Father Dale ‘spends a lot of his time visiting the elderly in the community and actively supports youth and civil society organisations such as New Horizons and the Scouts.’ Father Dale has said the award reflects the work of many people.

The first airport construction workers arrived on the island on 4 January. They include a drilling team and a geologist, who start work on soil and rock investigations in Dry Gut, beneath the site of the runway. Ian Ferguson, Basil Read’s architect, is touring the island, looking at existing architecture to guide design of the airport terminal. A team is also on the island, to ensure all Basil Read staff understand environmental issues through the construction work.

A Sustainable Development Plan, setting out what St Helena must do to prepare for the opening of its airport in 2015, is available for comment, says the Herald. Neither of the island newspapers give details of the plan, which is available on the St Helena Government website. The plan describes the scale of challenge required to establish a viable economy with a vibrant private sector. It says improvements to health and education on the island rely on the transformation of the economy. Persuading dynamic St Helenians to return home is vital.

Ten thousand Saints could be living overseas, according the Matthew Joshua, the new Business Opportunities Promoter at the St Helena Development Agency. He tells the Herald the airport construction will create opportunities that might attract some of them back to the island. ‘Additionally, there will be increased demand for other skills and services, for example, in catering, accommodation, transport and leisure. To grow St Helena’s economy in a sustainable way we need as many appropriately-skilled Saints as possible to become part of the workforce.’ SHDA is conducting a survey to guage the range of skills held by Saints off-island.

St Helena National Trust says it wants a new law to protect the island’s heritage and help people manage historic properties in their care. The Trust newsletter – written by acting director Rebecca Cairns-Wicks – says the idea has won support from the council committees in charge of planning and leisure.

A new charity is being set up in the UK to help the Trust access more funding. Jamie Roberts, who ended a two-year stint as Trust director in August, has been working on the project as a strategic advisor.

Ben Jeffs, the archaeologist, was also on the island for four months until September to map the island’s heritage, to create a Historic Environment Record.  

Rebecca also reports on success in raising funds to conserve the critically endangered Spiky Yellow Woodlouse and She Cabbage Tree.

 A new director for the Trust has been appointed, due to arrive in April – details to come.

Wirebird project: Thirty two camera ‘traps’ have been set up to detect predators at three of the most important wirebird breeding areas – Deadwood Plain, Man and Horse and Prosperous Bay, writes Sheila Hillman in the Herald. Broad Bottom will be left with out predactor control, to help guage the effectiveness of the traps. Inked cards, baited with peanut butter, are being used along with wax blocks flavoured with chocolate and fish oil, to help analyse movements of rodent at 220 tracking tunnels. Cats caught in wirebird areas will be returned to their owners; feral cats will be humanely put down.

Jamestown in Bloom: Prizes totalling £900 are offered for the best floral displays in the street frontage in Jamestown, as part of celebrations for the Queen’s diamond jubilee.