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New radio group bids to revive Saint FM

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Efforts are being made to relaunch Saint FM – as a charity.

Founder Mike Olsson, who closed the station on 21 December 2012, will not be a member of the management committee, but will produce the daily news bulletins and provide technical support.

He had announced that the closure would be permanent. After Christmas, he put the station up for sale.

The island has been without a local radio station since Boxing Day, after the closure of Radio St Helena to make way for new government-funded radio stations that turned out not to be ready to go live.

Veteran Radio St Helena staff are understood to be involved in the Saint FM relaunch.

An application to become a registered charity has been submitted (17 January 2012) and a new broadcasting licence will be needed. It is not clear how long it will take to get clearance to resume transmissions.

The station would continue to broadcast from its previous home in Association Hall, in Jamestown’s Main Street – at least initially.

VINCE THOMPSON broke the news of the relaunch on the station’s Facebook page. He wrote:

It’s Official – Saint FM is coming back.

On Tuesday evening, this week, it was decided to restart Saint FM.

The constant requests from almost everyone which have been made to Saint FM staff every day could no longer be ignored.

The new Saint FM will be organised very differently from the Saint FM we all know.  After seven years in the hot seat, Mike Olsson is taking a back seat.  There will no longer be someone in the studio to answer phone calls from the early hours until bed time.

Donna will continue to work at Saint FM and hopefully Sinead will too, but Mike’s absence will leave a big hole which cannot be filled completely.

The new Saint FM was launched as a charitable organisation on Tuesday evening.  Nineteen people gathered at Association Hall to agree the new charity’s constitution and to elect the officers and committee who will be responsible for the new radio station.

The official name of the new Saint FM is Saint FM Community Charity.  The chairperson of the charity’s management committee is Julie Thomas, Les Baldwin is secretary and Liz Johnson the treasurer.

There are seven other members of the management committee, including experienced broadcasters, Saint FM employees and of course, someone who knows how to keep accounts properly.

Mike Olsson is not on the management committee.  Mike will continue to provide the radio news and will be available to sort out the radio equipment when technical problems arise.

After seven years of working 18–20 hours a day, seven days a week, Mike is now trying to sort out a normal life for himself.

There are two main reasons why Saint FM is being launched as a charity.  First, while the old Saint FM was very popular, had support from many people in all sorts of ways and was very much part of the community, the new Saint FM will have stronger direct links with the people of St Helena through its charitable status.

The main direct link will be through official membership of Saint FM Community Charity.  Membership will have benefits and the management committee is kicking around some ideas of what the benefits will be.  Full details will follow later.

The second reason for applying for registered charitable status is, to put it plainly, all about money.

A radio station in St Helena cannot expect to make money without extra funds coming in from somewhere. For a private sector radio station, most of the money raised is from adverts and announcements. But the income from adverts is often only enough to pay the wages, the rent, the phone bills and the broadband charges.

There is little or nothing left over to put aside to pay for new radio equipment when the old equipment doesn’t work properly.

There is also no money left over to pay for improvements to the service offered by the radio station; this includes an additional member of the full time staff.

Some of the extra money needed to keep the radio station on the air will be raised by asking listeners and supporters to become members of the Saint FM Community Charity.

Becoming a member will mean paying a membership fee. The standard adult membership fee will probably be set at five pounds, with a reduced membership fee of one pound for juniors and people on benefit.

There may also be special corporate and overseas membership status. The computer streaming links with the Falklands, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha need to be re-established and it is not certain yet whether it is still possible to re-connect with all the South Atlantic islands.

As The Independent goes to print, no firm date has yet been set for launching the new Saint FM on air.  Confirmation of registered charitable status and the broadcasting licence are still required.

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