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St. Helena Government Broadcasting Station

By Ed Shaw

This article was originally published in the July 1974 edition of FRENDX, now The Journal of the North American Shortwave Association. It appears here with permission of NASWA.


Now you see it, now you don't. St. Helena was an the air for a very short time with experimental broadcasts, but no reports of the short lived broadcasts found their ways to St. Helena Island - Isolated away down in the reaches of the South Atlantic Ocean.

When word first broke that St. Helena was on (or planned to be) the air attempts to contact the station were not with the realization that a letter takes several weeks to reach the island. There is no air service to St. Helena and surface ship contact occurs about every ten days - half going to South Africa and half going to England considering all calls.

Your editor has had three communications with the secretary of Broadcast House at The Castle, and the following points are shared concerning the short wave service of St. Helena.

A series of tests were carried out on frequencies of 6100 and 11830 kHz during August-December 1973. The tests were not entirely satisfactory as expected. The frequencies are not yet firmly established. but NASWA is assured of advance notice of any changes made when broadcasting resumes.

Preliminary investigations to start shortwave in St. Helena began in 1971 or earlier, the main objective being to give St. Helena residents in Ascencion Island the opportunity to keep in contact with home. At the moment, the AM station on 1511 kHz serves St. Helena. A proper QSL card will certainly be prepared in due course. Regretfully, a special broadcast for North America would seem impractical since a limited (l KW) facility beamed to Ascension Island would have little likelihood of reaching the U.S.A. The station is building a small record library and would appreciate offerings of current popular music, or high fidelity recordings of the same.

Several brochures sent with the secretary's latest letter included a visitor's guide for the island, from which a few facts are given here. The island was the place of Napoleon's incarceration until death. His body was returned to France in 1840. The island is only 47 square miles, mostly green, mountainous interior surrounded by generally rocky coasts. The only town of any size is Jamestown with less than 2,OOO souls of the island's near 6,000 population. The entire population is a homogenous race except for approximately 200 mainly British caucasians - all employees of Cable and Wireless, the Post Office, Steam Ship Office. A half dozen other families have settled there from Britain.

Life in St. Helena would seem to be idyllic. Temperatures are moderate in Summer and sweater-worthy in winter. The hills tend to be several degrees cooler. Rain on the coastal areas such as Jamestown only amounts to 9 inches or so, while the hills average 30-40 inches. Greenery is everywhere. A price list of the 1974 index indicated that food stuffs and general commodities imported are comparable to U.S. prices of five years ago. Domestic produce and meats are considerably cheaper. There is little electricity available outside Jamestown. A short wave radio is an absolute essential entertainment, according to the brochure. There seems to be adequate facilities for maintenance of common household equipments.

Visitors to St. Helena are welcome, although immigrants are discouraged unless they bring an independent source of income and have arranged for their home in advance, A leisurely and graceful existence with hired service can be maintained for $5,000 or so per year. Hotels are not plentiful but few people visit St. Helena. Two tourist home type places offer room and board for approximately $3 - $7 per day per person.

The radio station plans to operate the short wave service the same as the AM service, Sunday through Friday. Sunday schedule is from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. local. Mondays 12 noon to 9:3O p.m., Tuesdayse 9:45 to 10 p.m. Wednesdayst 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Fridayst 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Now's that for a cock-eyed schedule?)

Programming is typically British for colonial outpost areas. Programs are drawn from BBC repertoire heavily. A few local talent programs and dances are occasionally broadcast. Local announcements are made each night at 8:30 p.m.


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