St Helena Government has issued a statement following the announcement that Saint FM radio station is to close, citing impending competition from three government-funded stations.
A spokesman has said that the decision to close the station was a matter for its owner, Mike Olsson.
The statement responds to criticism of the use of British aid funding money to set up the St Helena Broadcasting Corporation in competition with a private sector broadcaster. A story on this site has called it a misuse of UK taxpayers’ money, inhibiting freedom of expression.
The statement says:
You talk about ‘misuse’ of public funds to set up SHBC and ask about its accountability. As you will know:
- The people of St Helena, through their Elected Members, set policy on the Island
- The establishment of SHBC was approved by Elected Members in both Legislative and Executive Councils
- Councillors fully endorsed SHG’s intention to set up a sustainable and modern community-owned service, run by Saints.
- Financial reasons were also a driver for change, because SHG had subsidised both media groups on St Helena for several years. This was not sustainable.
- SHBC will provide three FM radio stations, the Sentinel newspaper and internet-based services, including television
- SHBC appoints its own Board and is community managed. The organisation is managed by its Board, which is drawn from the community. It is editorially-independent across all of its services, with a mission to enrich peoples’ lives with media services that inform, entertain and educate. This is especially important at this time, when St Helena is undergoing rapid social and economic transformation.
- SHBC is expected to generate sufficient revenue to be self-financing in the short to medium term.
The response also counters a complaint that Governor Mark Capes has been partisan in praising the “all-Saint” team behind the new media organisation, thereby appearing to endorse one organisation in favour of another.
Chief press officer Ian Jones said: “All he is doing is acknowledging and praising the achievements of Saints. I fail to see what is wrong with that.”
In fact, Mike Olsson has pointed out to this website that Saint FM is also run entirely by Saints, including many volunteers: those not born on the island all had St Helenian status, he said.