Readership doubles for Falkland Islands news service during pandemic

Posted on: April 10, 2020 by admin

Juanita Brock, editor of the South Atlantic Islands News Team (SAINT), spoke to the SoE about how the media in the UK’s most remote overseas territory has been coping with the coronavirus crisis.

SAINT’s news service, distributed by email and subscription, provides daily updates to Falkland residents. It is one of several news outlets, including a weekly newspaper, TV and radio service, which informs the 3,500 inhabitants of the self-governing islands.

While SAINT’s daily coverage has been adapted to include a new section on Covid-19 with press releases from the Falkland Islands Government, Brock explains how balancing news of the outbreak with positive stories has been a draw for readers at home in lockdown:

“I have twice the readers as I did before. SAINT’s clients go to their computers, cup of coffee in hand, and read the news. I aim to make it positive and enlightening as well as factual and well researched.”

These statistics echo the record readership statistics found in British mainland based papers. Readers are now ritualistic, says Brock, turning to their computers or daily-delivered papers to seek clarity – with a dose of fact-based optimism – to sustain life in lockdown.  

The draw of an enlightening and well-edited news service is clear during the coronavirus outbreak. The Islanders haven’t seen such a disruption to their daily life since the Falklands War over the territory between Britain and Argentina in 1982. In 2013, inhabitants voted to remain a British overseas territory and although they remain self-governing, foreign affairs and defence matters are handled by the British government.

Brock tells the SoE that while her service is “obliged to cover COVID-19, it is not on the front pages.” The first confirmed case of the coronavirus in the Islands was reported last week at the large RAF base Mount Pleasant, 50 kilometres from the capital Stanley. 

Therefore, Brock believes that the news provided by SAINT “has become more popular as people (many in lockdown) are getting tired of repetitive but necessary messages about handwashing and social distancing, etc.”

SAINT provides updates on issues affecting the Islands including fisheries and environmental news, matters affecting the surrounding South American countries as well as substantial sections on financial news: including market reports and daily summaries of the relevant local exchange rates (the Falkland Islands use the FKP pound which carries the same rate as GBP).

In terms of other news outlets, Brock tells us “all of our media outlets are alive and well”. The weekly newspaper the Penguin News, so named after the Islands’ large population of the bird, has “stepped up to cater to the needs of the community by providing the latest news about COVID-19.”

Much like newspapers in Great Britain, Penguin News has offered free home delivery for its readers.

In addition, the Islands offer their own Falkland Islands Television and Radio service. Brock says “FITV has completely covered local health news. […] All their news is dominated by COVID-19”.

As with mainland listeners turning to BBC Radio 3 and 4, the local Falklands Radio “still has a wide variety of programmes – mostly music ones.” However, the radio’s incorporated news bulletins do not escape updates of the pandemic, “their news is dominated by the pandemic with daily coverage of all events.”

Despite being over the age of 70 and in 12-week lockdown, Brock’s outlook remains productive and cheerful as she goes to her desk every day. “That hasn’t stopped me from producing daily news,” she says.

Subscribe to news from the Falkland Islands by emailing SAINT’s news team.