‘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.

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