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The Heartbeat of St Helena

Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation.{a}

Launched in 2005, SaintFM became part of island life and was sorely missed when it closed

About this station

SaintFM (a privately-owned Limited Company) was St Helena’s first FM radio station and also its first independent-of-government broadcaster. It was entirely self-funding, receiving income from advertising; it received no government support.

Johnny Drummond
Johnny Drummond

August 2004
August 2004

The station was started by the late Johnny Drummond (left), who died in late-2003 and whose bequest provided the initial funding for the station. Talks about the new station began in August 2003 between Johnny and the later owner of SaintFM, Mike Olsson. Negotiations started soon afterwards and the broadcasting licence was issued on the 22nd July 2004.

One of the wishes Johnny had for the staff of SaintFM was that they receive professional training outside of St Helena. In May of 2004, Angela Williams and Emma-Jane Yon embarked on a three month training course at the Broadcast Training Institute of BUSH Radio in Cape Town.

One of the interesting features of the new station was that it would broadcast on the FM band, and hence would be in stereo - a first for broadcasting from St Helena! (Advert, right)

On 27th September 2004 the station commenced test transmissions on FM via a temporary aerial located at the former Hussey Charity School. (You can hear some of the test transmissions in our Audio Clips section.) After three months of test transmissions SaintFM officially opened with scheduled broadcasts on 3rd January 2005. Angela Williams presented her first morning show, The Wake Up Mix, from six in the morning, and was followed into the studio by Emma-Jane Yon. The official opening a few days later was attended by 80 guests, including Governor Clancy and the island’s bishop. The St Helena Herald, supposedly the island’s newspaper, but published by the government-funded St Helena News Media Board{5}, did not mention the launch!


Transmission to the island was supported by the island’s (then) telecommunications provider, Cable & Wireless, who provided access to their sites and power supply for a nominal fee. Main transmission was on 93.1MHz, from a transmitter at High Knoll Fort. This was fed by an uplink transmitter, originally on 90.0MHz but later switched to 106.7MHz, which also served Jamestown. Relays were later added for Levelwood/Sandy Bay (95.1MHz) and Blue Hill (91.1MHz). This is illustrated in the diagram, below, which also shows the approximate coverage areas of the relay transmitters.

Ascencion Advert

On Thursday 4th May 2005 SaintFM became the first FM station on St Helena to provide an international service via streaming audio. In addition to providing a service to anyone with an Internet-access Device, anywhere in the world, internet streaming meant the station could be relayed to Saints (and others) on the Falkland Islands, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha. In June 2006 broadcasts commenced in Ascension Island on 91.4MHz, locally re-broadcast by VT Merlin Communications. On 1st September 2006 SaintFM began broadcasting to Stanley on the Falkland Islands on 95.5MHz. The re-broadcast service was provided by KTV Ltd on the Falkland Islands under the title ‘KTV Radio Nova SaintFM’, and was extended to cover residents in the vicinity of RAF Mount Pleasant. And on 16th May 2008, the station achieved its ambition of extending broadcasts to St Helena’s sister island of Tristan da Cunha.


Van-side advert for SaintFM
Van-side advert for SaintFM

The majority of programming was music-based with a significant number of requests being played for islanders from relatives and friends overseas and vice-versa. As befits the musical preference of the many Saint Helenians much country music was played, but most popular music styles from the last 50 years were featured. Many of the station’s requests were placed by Saints contacting relatives worldwide or off-island Saints keeping in touch with those at home.

Interview in 2006: Mike Olsson (L); Adrian Green, Government Economist (R); Emma-Jane Yon at the controls

Interviews were also aired daily. Sometimes these could be quite challenging, and some government staff declined to appear on SaintFM as a result.

Weekday daytime programmes were usually presented by station staff, with evening and weekend programming performed by voluntary presenters. Local news (which also included events on Ascension Island, the Falkland Islands and Tristan da Cunha) was broadcast throughout the day. The station also provided international news bulletins at 8am and 10am and international and local sports updates at 11am and 1pm.

The programming style could best be described as ‘informal’. Minimal training was given to voluntary presenters and this produced a mix of variable quality output, resulting in something akin to Open Access Radio.

Outside broadcasts were a rarity for SaintFM, but the station did broadcast live from the RMS St Helena (1990-2018) while the latter was berthed in James Bay on 11th September 2007:

Governor Andrew Gurr, on air at Christmas 2007
Governor Andrew Gurr, on air at Christmas 2007

Even some ‘celebrities’ did programmes on SaintFM. The picture (right) shows Governor Andrew Gurr, who did a Christmas programme in December 2007, revealing a musical taste that spanned from classical music to The Goons. Curiously, it was the same Governor Gurr who only a few years later hatched the ‘single media’ plan that was ultimately to lead to the closure of SaintFM…

SaintFM also contributed to the community, particularly by providing Media Training to students at Prince Andrew School. This report appeared in The Independent on 16th October 2009:

PAS students

Groups of Year 8 and Year 9 students have recently been involved in a Media Studies course at SaintFM. Their training has covered live broadcasting, jingle-making and producing and editing their own shows. They have also had fun, playing and singing along to song requests. The students have interviewed a number of guests, including Jamie Roberts, Director of the St Helena National Trust, Miss Vyona Young, Deputy Head of Curriculum at Prince Andrew and Mr Paul Paxton, Senior Support Nurse. The Year 9 shows: ‘Youth Matters’ and ‘The Island through Our Eyes’ were broadcast on Tuesday, 13th October. Year 9 student, Vashti Thomas said: It was a challenge, but it helped me to develop my confidence. I really enjoyed it! Alexia Furniss, also in Year 9, commented: It was nerve-wracking doing the controls to begin, but when I got the hang of it, it was great fun. Hopefully I’ll be coming in as a voluntary presenter in the holidays. Tammy Williams of SaintFM said that she was pleased to see students learning what the media was about, adding I’m sure we have a few radio presenters in the making. Well done, everybody! Thanks are extended from Prince Andrew School to the staff at SaintFM who made this an enjoyable and educational experience for our students.

Idols logo

Idols winner Ray-C, with Ralph Peters
Idols winner Ray-C (R), with Ralph Peters

In 2007 SaintFM organised the island’s first (and only!) ‘IDOLS’ competition for local musicians, to coincide with world environment week. Eight singers took part in the show and SaintFM listeners were asked to vote on their favourite singer over a two week voting period. Contestants were: Ray-C, Nick Clevely, Marilyn Joshua, Kaylee Young, Natalie Fowler, Wayne Yon, Noleen Stevens and Helen Joshua. Raymond Cranfield, better known as ‘Ray-C’ was the overall winner with a total of 1,284 votes from listeners worldwide. He sang the song ‘Legacy’ written by Ralph Peters.

SaintFM prides itself in having provided community projects especially designed with radio listeners in mind. We always strive to connect Saints closer to home and bring about community spirit and interactivity through radio.{b}

First Starts
First Starts, published to encourage more first-time presenters to give it a go…

SaintFM Evacuated

Shortly after it opened, on 8th February 2005, SaintFM had to leave its premises at Association Hall due to a rockfall. The fall occurred at about 9pm and Mike Olsson and voluntary presenter Steven Ellick, who was on air at the time, had to relocate the station back to its previous home at Mike Olsson’s house. Fortunately the test equipment was still in place there so there was only a few minutes’ break in transmission.

Unfortunately Ann’s Place was severely damaged by the fall. Rock Guards carried out their usual checks and by the evening of 9th February SaintFM was able to move back to Association Hall.


SaintFM received no funding from the Government of St Helena so it needed to advertise to raise revenue. During 2005/6 the radio team at SaintFM created a number of rather cool adverts and anyone who was on St Helena at the time will remember them fondly. So as a tribute to all that imagination and creativity, we present some of them below. The voices you’ll hear are mostly those of the station’s presenters at the time, plus voluntary presenters like Joe Terry.

SEE ALSO: Audio clips of the station in action.

Below: Thorpe’s advertsOthers

If you have an audio clip of a SaintFM Advert you can contribute to this collection, please contact us.

Thorpe’s adverts

Thorpes is a grocery and hardware store in Jamestown. Its owner at the time, the late Nick Thorpe, was a strong supporter of SaintFM and paid for several advertisements. Here are a few of the more memorable:

We love the “knight in greasy overalls”

With some truly gooey sound effects

Probably produced during St Helena’s notoriously wet winter months. Please Note ‘Wellies’ are Wellington boots.

Out in the wilds of Sandy Bay, where “no electricity” is a selling point!

The male voice is Joe Terry and the cow is called ‘Buttercup’, not ‘Daisy’ as would have been more commonplace. Joe’s wife is called Daisy…


This advert made our dog howl every time it came on. We never found out why.

Not to be picky, but PW&SD most certainly did not build this city (Jamestown); most of it is Georgean and pre-dates PW&SD by around 200 years!

You know the way some adverts drive you crazy? For a while this was played immediately after the news. It was a race to get to the ‘off’ switch first…

Photo Gallery


The legacy from Johnny Drummond was given to set up a truly independent radio service, that would not be reliant on any funding from the Government of St Helena, and hence would be completely outside its influence. And this aim was realised - throughout its life SaintFM did not receive a single penny of government subsidy. The only monies it received from the Government of St Helena were payments for services provided, such as advertising. This put it into stark contrast with its competitor, Radio St Helena, which the Government of St Helena both owned and editorially controlled (see the article ‘Censorship, St Helena Style’ about what could and could not be broadcast on a Government-operated radio station).


SaintFM Team 2012
The SaintFM Team in 2012

SaintFM always took a critical stance towards government, often bringing it into conflict with both individuals within government and with the government as a whole, which it could do because it was not dependent on the Government of St Helena for funding. But this ultimately led to its demise. On one occasion, station owner Mike Olsson was arrested for possessing leaked paperwork relating to the Solomons business empire{6}. SaintFM’s relationship with Governor Andrew Gurr, was not easy and that with his successor, Governor Mark Capes, was particularly strained. Despite this, government officials did put themselves up for interview, though not as often as they did for Radio St Helena where they could be more assured of a sympathetic interview.

It was thought by many that the government’s decision in 2010 to fund a new three-channel radio station on FM to replace Radio St Helena was, wholly or in part, a plan to kill off SaintFM. And it could be argued that, if this was the aim, it succeeded. After a barrage of government publicity for the new SAMS Radio 1 the station’s owner decided in December 2012 that he had had enough. SaintFM posted the following on Wednesday 19th December 2012 on Social Media:

SaintFM to Close Down on Friday

The decision was taken earlier today [Wednesday] to close SaintFM permanently at 4:00pm this coming Friday, 21st 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 SaintFM’s undoubted popularity, worldwide 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 SaintFM’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 SaintFM 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 SaintFM 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 SaintFM, 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. “Small private sector businesses cannot compete against governments who have almost unlimited resources by comparison”, Mike said. “It is clearly evident to all, they are prepared to use large amounts of public money on unnecessary schemes in order to pander to their prejudices while vital public services become worse with each passing week”.

SaintFM did indeed close down at 4pm on 21st December 2012. After a brief speech from the station’s owner, Mike Olsson, the final record played was ‘The Carnival Is Over’ by The Seekers; then the transmitter was switched off. (Audio, right{7}{10})

Audio Clips

Here are a few audio clips of SaintFM in action:{9}

SEE ALSO: Many of the station’s Adverts.

If you have an audio clip of SaintFM you can contribute to this collection, please contact us.

Read More

Article: After eight combative years, SaintFM drifts into the sunset

By Simon Pipe, published on St Helena Online 21st December 2012{8}

On the final morning, Mike Olsson ended his news bulletin with an apology. He was sorry, he said, but it had been hard to read the news on such a day.

Less than 48 hours earlier, he and Vince Thompson had announced on air that SaintFM would close at 4pm on Friday, 21st December 2012. St Helena’s first independent radio station would fall silent after eight years of exposing the powerful to scrutiny, and uniting St Helenians around the world.

Listeners might have sensed that something was up on the final Wednesday, when presenter Tony Leo said that the 4.15 news bulletin would be a few minutes late.

When it came, a good quarter hour behind schedule, it began as it so many had in 2012, with news of yet another funeral. And then followed SaintFM’s own death notice.

Unusually, it was scripted and read by Vince Thompson: after eight years in which Mike’s had been the ever-steady voice of the news, the station’s owner and founder had to ask someone else to find the right words.

When the bulletin ended, Tony Leo was subdued. What do I say? he asked. I’m a little bit shocked, to be honest. I didn’t know that was in the news for tonight. Do I say I’ll be back next week? No. It’s a shame, a shock and a disappointment.

Then he played a track by Crowded House: Don’t Dream, It’s Over.

Tony was himself the founding manager of the rival Radio St Helena, the government-owned station whose own closure was scheduled for midnight, at the end of Christmas Day 2012 - its 45th anniversary.

It was due to be replaced some time in January 2013 by three stations being launched by the St Helena Broadcasting (Guarantee) Corporation, set up by councillors with well over £100,000 in UK aid. Mike Olsson had been funding SaintFM from his own pocket, at a loss.

By SaintFM’s last day on air, there had been no public announcement of the exact launch date for the new stations. Not even their names had been made public by an organisation that purported to be ‘community owned’.

Within a short time of the news of SaintFM’s closure, listeners were sending in tributes, and expressing their feelings on the station’s Facebook™ page. Many came from overseas listeners - some with family on an island they had never visited.

Elaine Andrews wrote: I was in tears when I listen to the radio. I have listened for nearly six years and I truly love all that I hear. It’s the way you have of saying certain things. Hearing this on the radio tells me how close the Saints are.

And Kenickie Simon Andrews said: It feels like a family member going.

The idea of launching an independent station was conceived by Johnny Drummond, who was editor of the St Helena News and its successor, the St Helena Herald - a government-funded newspaper that closed in March 2012.

Discussions on the idea began in earnest in August 2003, but Johnny died only two months later.

Mike Olsson pressed ahead with the idea. In 2004 he was granted a broadcasting licence, and after three months of test transmissions, the station was formally launched on Monday, 3rd January 2005.

Angela Williams presented her first morning show, The Wake Up Mix, from six in the morning, and was followed into the studio by Emma-Jane Yon.

The official opening a few days later was attended by 80 guests, including the island’s governor and its bishop.

In time, internet streaming meant the station could be relayed to Saints on the Falkland Islands and Ascension Island; and on 16th May 2008, Mike achieved his ambition of extending broadcasts to St Helena’s sister island of Tristan da Cunha.

The link was marked with an on-air address by the acting governor, Ethel Yon. She told listeners:

This is an historic occasion and worthy of celebrating as it gives the people of St Helena and its sister islands, Ascension Island 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 SaintFM, to whom I pay tribute. SaintFM 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 Island in May 2006 with help from VT Communications and Cable & Wireless. This proved very popular with Saints on Ascension Island and certainly did much to stamp out some of the isolation between families on St Helena and Ascension Island. 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.

The closure announcement referred to deteriorating relations with St Helena Government.

It complained that Governor Mark Capes had used his Christmas message to advertise the new, media organisation, South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (SAMS), with its crisp and refreshingly objective reporting, soon to be complemented by three new FM radio stations.

The new organisation’s newspaper, the Sentinel, had perhaps not been so objective when it published an interview with His Excellency, in which he said councillors had been right to set up the SHBC because it’s vitally important, in any society at any time that we have a media operation that is objective and honest.

No justification was given for the remark, or another suggesting that a few sad people chose to dwell on negativity rather than contributing to island life with constructive ideas.

Mike Olsson has never been abashed about his enthusiasm for attacking the island government and others in authority. On one occasion, he was arrested for receiving leaked paperwork relating to the Solomons business empire.

Even his strongest critics have acknowledged his role in opening up public debate on a small island where for centuries, few had dared to speak out against those in power.

In a response to the closure announcement, a St Helena Government spokesman passed up the opportunity to reflect on the station’s undoubted contribution to island life, or the achievements of those who kept it on air against financial odds, on an economically-weak island of only 4,000 people.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London was more gracious. It said:

The UK Government and SHG values the diversity of media and opinion in St Helena, as in other Overseas Territories, and we recognise SaintFM’s achievements on St Helena - its contribution to stimulating public debate and to informing the public, as well as its entertainment value.

It defended the Christmas message from Governor Capes (who was on leave in the UK):

The establishment of SHBC this year is a great achievement. It is entirely appropriate for the Governor to note that publicly.

Councillors, frustrated by frequent attacks that did not always prove to be justified, met in secret and passed a Media Standards Ordinance, creating statutory regulation of the island’s media.

The new rules, protecting people from unfair attack, came into force only weeks before UK prime minister David Cameron said that introducing similar legally-backed regulation in Britain would be a dangerous step towards inhibition of free speech.

Rather than become the first person to make a complaint under a law that had been introduced to bring him under control, Mike chose instead to publish a robust editorial in the St Helena Independent, pointing out the many positive contributions that SaintFM had made to island life.

They included intervening to ensure that the 2013 Governor’s Cup Yacht Race went ahead, despite what he claimed was ambivalence within The Castle in Jamestown.

The station was to fall silent almost exactly 24 hours before the start of the race from South Africa to St Helena, on 22nd December 2012.

The final push came when the station received complaints from listeners that they could not hear its broadcasts. It had apparently been taken off air several times while engineers attempted to set up transmissions for the new radio stations.

In a discussion with Vince Thompson, Mike decided that after years of working 17-hour days - which included working into the night to put together the weekly St Helena Independent - he was no longer willing to cope with the frustrations of keeping the station on air. A few hours later, they broke the news of the station’s closure.

Mike paid tribute to his army of volunteer presenters and helpers - all of them Saints - and to the support of his wife, Bernice.

At four o’clock, he said, he would switch off the transmitter. There would be no big goodbye.


{a} Susan B. Anthony{b} SaintFM


{1} Governor Clancy (right) and others.{2} Now CEO of South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (SAMS).{3} In 2015 Andrew became a full-time presenter at SaintFM Community Radio, moving to SAMS Radio 1 in September 2016.{4} In 2008 Emma-Jane Yon, an accomplished artist who, inter alia created the refurbished windows in St. James’ Church, painted this design in the stairwell leading into the SaintFM Studios.{5} Which also ran Radio St Helena.{6} He was charged with theft, claiming he had broken into their offices to steal the papers. When it transpired, almost immediately, that he had been passed the papers from a source within Solomon’s itself (who he refused to identify), he was promptly released.{7} Even lower than normal resolution - sorry, but it was not our recording!{8} @@RepDis@@{9} SaintFM broadcast in stereo but to reduce download time these clips are presented in low-resolution mono - sorry!{10} We do not normally reproduce copyrighted music but in this case we have made an exception{8}. If you own the copyright to “The Carnival Is Over” by The Seekers and object to us including this extremely low resolution copy on our site please contact us.