Why we closed Saint FM, by Mike and Bernice

MIKE AND BERNICE OLSSON, owners of Saint FM, published the following statement on 29 December 2012, a week after closing St Helena’s first independent radio station:

The closure of Saint FM
“Cheating the hangman”

It was with great sadness we had to close down Saint FM on 21st December 2012. We apologise to staff, volunteers, listeners and all helpers.

Saint FM had a great impact on and off the island and was instrumental in opening up St Helena locally and internationally. Unfortunately, the importance was not recognised by our colonial masters.

Running a small private radio station on St Helena is far from a profitable business, but you can live with the losses if you can see a brighter future. Saint FM could not see a light at the end of the tunnel. The St Helena and UK governments have decided to dedicate hundreds of thousands of pounds* of taxpayers’ money into their own radio station where all equipment, salaries, electricity, rent and communication costs are borne by the state.

On top of it, the SHBC is also allowed to provide state-subsidised advertising. Where does this leave the private sector and a diversified media?

Saint FM is not broke and has no large debts, but with the gloomy prospects ahead, if we would have decided to continue until government squeezed us out, we would have suffered considerable losses. Government would have lost even more, but we can hardly compare the pockets of Saint FM with the vast budget of DfID (the UK Department for International Development).

We are aware that St Helena Government is very disappointed that Saint FM did not keep open until they had started their own operation in early 2013, but I believe that listeners and supporters have full sympathy with us for “swallowing the pill” and being masters of our own destiny, instead of waiting for the hangman to get us.

Happy New Year and thank you for all the support over the years.

Read more in the St Helena Independent on Friday 3 January.

Mike & Bernice

*The full extent of government funding for the St Helena Broadcasting (Guarantee) Corporation has not been revealed. It is thought to exceed £100,000. Further investment has been made in premises. 

0 Responses to Why we closed Saint FM, by Mike and Bernice

  1. Daniel says:

    Sorry to read this. I live in the USA and found the station very informative and entertaining to say the least. I have never been to Saint Helena and the odds of me getting there are remote at best. However, I support independent radio and listened to Saint FM regularly to hear what else was going on in the world… It is my hope as a Yank that Saint FM will return and soon.

  2. Robin King, Luxembourg says:

    Very sad that Saint FM has “disappeared” again from internet radios worldwide. A radio station which is off the air/no longer receivable…. instantly ceases to exist! Asking internet users to “log in and pay” before they can listen is completely unrealistic. Instead, ask worldwide internet users to join in the campaign to keep Saint FM afloat.

  3. Simon Pipe says:

    Fair comment, Robin – but it could be argued that trying to run a commercial radio station in a tiny place like St Helena, in competition with a government-funded station, is unrealistic in itself. But the people wanted the station back on air, and bringing that about has been a massive achievement – possibly the most significant example of community action the island has ever seen. Charging a fee for internet users has proved to be a necessity, but it remains to be seen whether the strategy is a good one, given that the state-funded rival remains free online. The charge is not high – especially for Saints overseas, for whom the station is a valued link with home. On the other hand, how would “worldwide internet users” support the campaign to keep the station afloat, other than by donating money? I should declare that my own membership has been paid for by the St Helena Independent in recognition of the work I do for the island media, but I did sponsor Tony Leo’s recent 26-hour broadcast challenge. (Simon)

  4. Robin King, Luxembourg says:

    OK – but other small communities around the world have very professional, low budget community radio stations; e.g. on the Isles of Scilly (UK), population about 800: Radio Scilly 107.9 FM is on the air 24 hours a day thanks to computerised programming (at night). Go to: http://www.radioscilly.com/listen-watch/ Radio Scilly has to compete with national and regional stations such as BBC Radio Cornwall. Other examples range from Manx Radio (Isle of Man) to tiny hospital radio stations; some of them now with almost cult status among internet radio enthusiasts: e.g. 1629 AM Newcastle (NSW, Australia) which plays oldies from the 1930s onwards! These streams are free and the listeners, enthusiasts and supporters are literally worldwide. Perhaps an informal network, exchanging programmes via the internet would bring Saint FM more worldwide friends – who could perhaps come up with fresh ideas and point Saint FM in a new, viable direction?

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