Communication and Miscommunication in Tristan and St. Helena
- It was announced today in St. Helena that the popular radio station Saint FM will be closed permanently on Friday. Saint FM has provided an important broadcasting link to to the people of Tristan. Below are today's announcement from St. Helena Online, followed by a 2008 announcement of the then-new service, from the official Tristan website.
The Independent and Saint FM are both owned by the courageous Mike Olsson.
In my opinion, the use of DFID funding, which comes from hard pressed British taxpayers, to start and subsidise an unnecessary and competing government newspaper and radio station, is a wasteful violation of Britain's long tradition of freedom of expression.
I don't presume to speak for the people of Tristan, or to know how this news will be greeted there, or to know how they feel about being isolated, compared to _feeling_ isolated.
BREAKING NEWS: Saint FM `to close on Friday'
19 December, 2012 by Simon Pipe
Saint FM, St Helena's only independent radio station, has announced that it is to close down. Owner Mike Olsson has blamed competition from government-funded stations that are expected to go on air shortly. The closure was announced on air in this report by VINCE THOMPSON.
The decision was taken earlier today [Wednesday] to close Saint FM permanently at 4:00pm this coming Friday, 21 December.
Keeping a private sector radio station on the air has always been difficult in St Helena and over the last two years or so it has become almost impossible as a result of the St Helena Government's attitude towards private sector media and its policy of supporting and favouring government-financed media.
Despite Saint FM's undoubted popularity, world-wide broadcasting capability and successful involvement in community fund-raising projects, the radio station's editorial policy to encourage open debate and expression of opinion has always been a point of controversy with the Island's government and other establishment interests.
The government's attack on private sector media has already threatened the existence of Saint FM's media partner, The St Helena Independent. It was found possible to resurrect the Island's only private sector newspaper through further cost cutting measures. Throughout this period the government poured hundreds of thousands of pounds into the government subsidised St Helena Broadcasting [Guarantee] Corporation making it extremely difficult for an unsubsidised private sector media business to compete.
Unlike the weekly Independent newspaper Saint FM broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week and relies on a minimum number of paid staff and a lot of goodwill from volunteers, the public, the government and other business interests to keep going. It has become increasingly difficult to continue broadcasting as relations and co-operation with government have worsened in recent months and weeks.
Mike Olsson said it is the total effect of the continual and increasing number of obstacles and awkwardness put in the path of the daily job and increasing the workload which makes you wonder if all the hours needed to keep a private sector radio station on the air can be sustained.
Mike added that recent difficulties with Cable & Wireless, who repeatedly closed down transmission of Saint FM while working on equipment at High Knoll Fort, caused a great deal of unnecessary extra work in order to sort the problem out.
He also stated that, while the governor's Christmas message was in no way a reason for closing down Saint FM, the very fact that Mark Capes should use a Christmas message as an advert for government-financed media shows very clearly the attitude of certain key officials within government towards private sector media and the private sector in general.
St Helena Online is attempting to contact the island government for a response.
Background information from 2008:
Saint FM's First Tristan da Cunha Broadcast
The Official Opening of Saint FM's broadcasts to Tristan da Cunha took place on Wednesday 16th May  at 2pm. The Acting Governor, Ethel Yon said that it was "an historic occasion and worthy of celebrating as it gives the people of St Helena and its sister islands, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, a way of communicating with each other over the airwaves and bringing these remote communities in the South Atlantic feeling much that much closer to each other." Bishop John, Father Michael Griffiths, the Attorney General, Ken Baddon, the FCO Staff Officer, Ernie Manley and the formal Master of the RMS St Helena, Bob Wyatt also spoke to the people of Tristan.
Acting Governor Ethel Yon's address:
Good afternoon, greetings from St Helena to the Administrator, David Morley, the Island Council and all the people on Tristan da Cunha. This is an historic occasion and worthy of celebrating as it gives the people of St Helena and its sister islands, Ascension and
Tristan da Cunha, a way of communicating with each other over the airwaves and bringing these remote communities in the South Atlantic feeling much that much closer to each other. Where we are today is through the hard work and dedication of Mike Olsson and his small team at Saint FM to whom I pay tribute.
I understand that Saint FM started scheduled broadcasts in January 2005 and started streaming on the internet in May 2005, but this did not stop there. FM broadcasts then commenced on Ascension in May 2006 with help from VT Communications and Cable and Wireless. This proved very popular with Saints on Ascension and certainly did much to stamp out some of the isolation between families on St Helena and Ascension. Mike then decided to go a step further and in September 2006 FM broadcasts reached the Falklands. Mike's aim was to reach all of the South Atlantic Islands. He very much wanted to reach Tristan da Cunha and through sheer determination he succeeded. You've reached your goal, Mike. I do know how very much the Saints on Ascension and the Falkland Islands enjoy the broadcast from Saint FM and we hope that all of you in Tristan da Cunha will also enjoy these broadcasts. Many of the Tristanians are well known on St Helena, so on behalf of all of us on St Helena, warmest wishes to all the people on our sister island of Tristan da Cunha. Greetings are also extended to all Saints on Ascension, Falklands and wherever you are in the outside world.
Also present at the launch were Fiona Rogers from Tristan, Terry Richards, (who has hosted many Tristanians on training on St Helena), Ernie Manley and Claire Burton from FCO.
David Morley recorded a message which was included in the launch. If any website readers want to send messages, to be broadcast on Saint FM, the e-mail address is studio@...
This report is based mainly on an article first published in the St Helena Independent of 16th May 2008, with additional information from David Morley.