The conduct of St Helena Government has been called into question after the island’s state-funded media organisation was forced to change its name.
The Castle has refused to acknowledge that it has any case to answer, despite being given a second chance to do so.
A press release has since attempted to pass off the name change as a positive new development for “the new media organisation on St Helena” – ignoring the existence of the far newer group attempting to revive the rival Saint FM.
The government has declined to admit the change was forced on the company as a result of its own error.
It said that 13 February 2013 marked “two significant developments in the new media organisation on St Helena – the full launch of the first of three new FM radio stations, and the renaming of St Helena Broadcasting (Guaranteed) Corporation Ltd to South Atlantic Media Services Ltd (SAMS).
“SHG congratulates the staff and community-run board of SAMS [formerly SHB(G)C] for this latest milestone in serving the community.”
The name change was prompted by the island’s registrar of companies after a complaint by Mike Olsson, who registered ownership of the title St Helena Broadcasting Corporation when his new rival was being set up.
He had secured it for £50 after the government asked him to publish an advert seeking staff for the new organisation – giving its name before it had registered it.
The island’s chief magistrate, John MacRitchie, is understood to have advised that the government then breached company law by registering another name, obviously very similar.
Mike Olsson began legal action ten months later, when Mr MacRitchie took over as legal adviser to the company registrar.
He replaced Attorney General Ken Baddon – who was also the man who registering the inappropriate name.
On 28 January, St Helena Online sent the government a series of questions about the new services.
Most of its response was published on the website on 8 February 2013, and in the St Helena Independent.
But the government was given a second chance to answer one question that it had dodged.
It had been asked:
“Please also give a comment about the fact that the “Guarantee” corporation has had to change its name, given that it was registered by the Attorney General and now the chief magistrate has advised that this should not [have] happened.”
The press office response ran to just 12 words: “Any questions about company names should be put to the organisation concerned.”
But the government is the organisation concerned.
St Helena Online then sent a courteous follow-up email, headed: “thanks – please reconsider response on one point.”
It said: “You say the issue of the company name is for the company concerned, but my question was about the actions of the Attorney General in registering the SHB(G)C – if he did indeed do so.
“Given that he would have been acting in his SHG capacity, it is appropriate to put the question to SHG. I therefore ask you to reconsider your response.”
A response was received, confirming that the Attorney General had registered the company name. This was a matter of public record, it said.
But the government still failed to acknowledge that a mistake had been made, or offer any explanation or apology.
Mike Olsson said: “I cannot help feeling sorry for the ‘Guarantee Corporation’ people, who either did not know about this, or were told that everything was hunky dory.”
- Even after the St Helena Broadcasting (Guarantee) Company changed its name in late January 2013, it continued to operate in public under the contested name for another four weeks. It eventually announced the change to South Atlantic Media Services on its website – which was still headed with the old name. By 17 February 2013, the website was still published under the title owned by Mike Olsson, and still under the address “shbc.sh”.
(This story was briefly taken down when it was discovered that St Helena Government had not failed to respond to a request to reconsider its response. However, the response given did not alter the broad thrust of the story).
The media organisation set up by St Helena Government has had to change its name from St Helena Broadcasting (Guarantee) Corporation because it was too similar to one owned by its rival – the St Helena Broadcasting Corporation. In a breathtaking swerve, The Castle has blamed “another party, for reasons unknown, pre-registering a company name virtually identical to SHB(G)C’s”. In fact, it was The Castle that registered a company name virtually identical to the SHBC’s. MIKE OLSSON, owner of Saint FM and the SHBC name, reveals how the government mishandled the setting up of the media organisation from its very early days.
In June-July 2011 there were negotiations between SHG and Saint FM. The original plan was to buy Saint FM and use the trade name and equipment in the government’s new media.
This fell through as the SHG bid was unrealistic in monetary terms and took no consideration to the staff in Saint FM. I did not at the time know what they should call their new media organisation.
In August 2011, a job advert was submitted to the St Helena Independent for St Helena Broadcasting Corporation Ltd, abbreviated to SHBC. My journalistic curiosity led me to go over to the company registry to check the records. I was interested in who the directors were and what their articles of association looked like. This information is in the public domain.
To my astonishment there were no records. They had not registered it before they issued the advert. This is especially peculiar as they were advertising it as “Corporation” and “Ltd”, which you can’t do if it is not incorporated.
As we were in negotiations about the future media, I thought it could be worth £50 to register St Helena Broadcasting Corporation (SHBC) Ltd. I did this the same day. After a couple of days I received the incorporation certificate.
I knew that the legal advisor to the Company Registry – the Attorney General, Ken Baddon – had seen my application. There was not much he could do about it. He couldn’t stop my registration.
Only a few days later, Ken Baddon registered St Helena Broadcasting Corporation (Guarantee) Ltd on behalf of the new organisation. He approved it himself.
Anybody with any knowledge about corporation matters would know that this was wrong. The two names are far too similar and would lead to confusion. Why Ken did this is beyond me. It was clumsy. I did not jump up and down about it but decided to bide my time.
In a second round of negotiations between SHG and Saint FM in August, SHG offered to buy my company, St Helena Broadcasting Corporation Ltd, together with Saint FM. These negotiations subsequently broke down as well.
By offering to buy SHBC, SHG had, in writing, recognised my right to the name. I continued to wait.
As the Attorney General was the legal advisor to the Company Registrar, I realised that the situation was a bit complicated as Ken Baddon had also registered the “Guarantee Corporation”. He would hardly give advice against himself.
Through another matter in November 2012, I was told that the Chief Magistrate, John MacRichie, was now legal advisor to the Company Registrar, and I brought the matter to him. The timing was also right as the “Guarantee Corporation” was preparing to go on air.
In the first days of January this year (2013), the matter was sorted. The Chief Magistrate gave an initial view on the matter which was, not surprisingly, very favourable to me. A copy of this advice was sent to the “Guarantee Corporation” for comment.
Terry Richards, the chairman of the “Guarantee Corporation”, saw that he would lose the battle and gave in immediately.
In 2011, the Attorney General had pushed through an amendment to the Companies Ordinance, saying that “by title of his office, acting on behalf of Her Majesty”, he could incorporate a company.
This was made to allow him to register the government media.
Already in the same ordinance was the following:
“212. (1) The Registrar of Companies is, under the general supervision of the Attorney General, responsible for the administration of this Ordinance.”
It is absolutely fabulous that the Attorney General can register any company on behalf of SHG, and then scrutinise the application himself. Colonialism is wonderful.
NOTE: As reported, St Helena Government has twice been given the opportunity to say that it was not the Attorney General that registered the SHB(G)C name improperly. In the absence of any denial, St Helena Online may reasonably assume that he was indeed responsible.
Simon Pipe writes: I’d like to congratulate the team behind the launch of the new SAMS Radio 1 on St Helena.
It has always been the stance of St Helena Online that there are legitimate questions to be asked about the manner in which the island’s new media organisation came into being. New questions emerge, and the ongoing conduct of the government deserves investigation.
This website will continue to challenge The Castle, including on the peculiar press release that appeared to announce that the organisation’s change of name was a milestone in public service. Very odd.
But as a former print and BBC journalist, now teaching media skills at two universities, I am well aware of the extremely daunting scale of the challenge that has faced Darrin Henry and his team, both technically and editorially.
The existence of this website cannot have made that challenge any easier. I have no doubt at all that it has been right to support truly independent media on the island, in competition with SAMS.
The Sentinel has produced some important journalism – not least when it demonstrated that some councillors did not have a clear idea of how government should work.
I believe there have been errors of editorial judgment, but I have a few of those to my own name. But none of that takes away from the achievement that The Sentinel and the new radio station represent.
Had they been my achievement, I would feel very, very proud.