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SABC redirects here, as this is the most common use of the abbreviation in English. For other uses, see SABC (disambiguation).
South African Broadcasting Corporation
Type Terrestrial television and radio broadcast
Country South Africa South Africa
Availability National; International (via SABC Africa, Channel Africa)
Founded by South African Government
Motto "This is your SABC." "Vuka Sizwe!" (Nation Arise!)
Slogan "Your South Africa. Your SABC." "Broadcasting for total citizen empowerment."
Key people Ben Ngubane[1]
Solly Mokoetle[1]
Launch date 1936 (radio)
1976 (television)
Former names African Broadcasting Corporation
Official Website
South African Broadcasting Corporation headquarters in Auckland Park.
SABC offices in Sea Point, Cape Town.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is the state-owned broadcaster in South Africa and provides 18 radio stations (AM/FM) as well as 3 television broadcasts to the general public.[2]


Company history


Early years

Radio broadcasting began in South Africa in 1923. The SABC was established in 1936 through an Act of Parliament, and replaced the previous state-controlled African Broadcasting Corporation, formed in 1927, which was dissolved in the same year. It was considered a monopoly for many years, and was controlled by the white minority National Party government. This led to the accusation of it being biased towards the then ruling apartheid regime. At one time most of its senior management were members of the Broederbond, the Afrikaner secret society and later drawn from institutions like Stellenbosch University. It was also known in Afrikaans as Suid-Afrikaanse Uitsaaikorporasie (SAUK), although this title is no longer used by the Corporation.

Until 1979, the SABC also operated broadcasting services in Namibia, which was then under South African rule, but in that year, these were transferred to the South West African Broadcasting Corporation (SWABC). This, in turn, became the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) after the country's independence in 1990.

Recent history

In 1996, the SABC and its services were restructured to better serve and reflect the fresh democratic society of post-1994 South Africa. It has since been accused of favouring the ruling ANC political party, mostly in the area of news broadcasting. However, it remains the dominant player in the country's broadcast media.

Criticism towards the public broadcaster intensified around 2003-2005, when it was accused of a wide range of shortcomings including self-censorship, lack of objectivity and selective news coverage.

Kaizer Kganyago, the spokesperson for the SABC, is also a member of the International Advisory Board of the African Press Organization.



The SABC was established by an Act of Parliament in 1936 taking over from the African Broadcasting Company which had been responsible for some of the first radio broadcasts in South Africa in the 1920s. The SABC established services in what were then the country's official languages, English and Afrikaans, with broadcasts in ethnic languages such as Zulu, Xhosa, Sesotho and Tswana following later. The SABC's first commercial service, started in 1950, was known as Springbok Radio, broadcasting in English and Afrikaans. Regional FM music stations were started in the 1960s. The SABC's choice of popular music reflected the National Party government's initial conservatism, with the music of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones generally frowned upon, if not banned from the airwaves, in favour of 'middle of the road' music like that of the U.S. group Bread.

In 1966 the SABC also established an external service, known as Radio RSA, which broadcast in English, Swahili, French, Portuguese, Dutch and German. It is now known as Channel Africa.

1996 restructuring

In 1996 the SABC carried out a significant restructuring of their services. The main English language radio service became SAfm. The new service, after some initial faltering, soon developed a respectable listenership and was regarded as a flagship for the new democracy. However, government interference in the state broadcaster in 2003 saw further changes to SAfm which reversed the growth and put it in rapid decline once more. Today it attracts only 0.6% of the total population to its broadcasts. The main Afrikaans radio service was renamed Radio Sonder Grense (literally 'Radio Without Borders') in 1995 and has enjoyed greater success with the transition.

Similarly, SABC Radio's competitors have achieved great levels of popular appeal. Primedia-owned Radio 702, Cape Talk and 94.7 Highveld Stereo have grown steadily in audience and revenue through shrewd management since the freeing of the airwaves in South Africa. Other stations such as the black-owned and focused YFM and Kaya FM have also shone, attracting audiences drawn from the black majority.

Station list


Early history (1971 - 1995)

SABC logo, used from 1976 to 1996.

In 1971, after years of controversy over the introduction of television, the SABC was finally allowed to introduce a colour TV service, which began experimental broadcasts in the main cities on 5 May 1975, before the service went nationwide on 6 January 1976. Initially, the TV service was funded entirely through a licence fee, as in the UK, but advertising began in 1978. The SABC (both Television and Radio) is still partly funded by the licence fee (currently R225 per annum).

The service initially broadcast only in English and Afrikaans, with an emphasis on religious programming on Sundays.

A local soap opera, The Villagers, set on a gold mine, was well received while other local productions like The Dingleys were panned as amateurish. Owing to South Africa's apartheid policies, the British actors' union Equity started a boycott of programme sales to South Africa, meaning that the majority of acquired programming in the early years of the corporation came from the United States. However, the Thames Television police drama series The Sweeney was briefly shown on SABC TV, dubbed in Afrikaans as Blitspatrollie. Later on, when other programmes were dubbed, the original soundtrack was simulcast on FM radio. With a limited budget, early programming aimed at children tended to be quite innovative, and programmes such as the Afrikaans-language puppetshows Haas Das se Nuus Kas and Oscar in Asblikfontein are still fondly remembered by many.

In 1982, a second channel was introduced, broadcasting in African languages. The main channel, then called TV1, was divided evenly between English and Afrikaans, as before. Subtitling on TV in South Africa used to be almost non-existent, although now many non-English language soap operas have started to display English subtitles. The second channel, known either as TV2, TV3 or TV4 depending on the time of day, was later rebranded as CCV (Contemporary Community Values). A third channel was introduced known as TSS, or Topsport Surplus, Topsport being the brand name for the SABC's sport coverage, but this was renamed NNTV (National Network TV).

SABC television become widely available in neighbouring Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. The SABC also helped the South West African Broadcasting Corporation in Namibia to establish a television service in 1981 with most programming being videotapes flown in from South Africa. This became part of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation in 1990.

Recent history (1996 - present)

In 1996, almost two years after the ANC came to power, the SABC reorganised its three TV channels, so as to be more representative of different language groups. These new channels were called SABC 1, SABC 2 and SABC 3. This resulted in the downgrading of Afrikaans, which now had its airtime reduced, a move that angered many whites. However, in recent times, the SABC has started broadcasting more Afrikaans content on both on SABC2 and SABC3, with repeats of old programmes and new programmes being commissioned. The SABC also later absorbed the Bop TV station, of the former Bophuthatswana bantustan.

Other news broadcasts

The SABC carried CNN International news broadcasts from 1990, but discontinued them around the time of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. It used to but no longer carries BBC World news programming in the early hours of the morning. Instead, it now carries sport. South African viewers who can afford it, and want to view international news (unfiltered by SABC News), have to subscribe to DStv which broadcasts, amongst others, CNN International, BBC World News, and Sky News.

New services

In recent years, the SABC began broadcasting two TV channels to the rest of the continent, SABC Africa (a news service) and Africa 2 Africa (entertainment programming from South Africa and other African countries), in 1999. These were carried for free by DStv. In 2003, Africa 2 Africa was merged with SABC Africa. SABC Africa's news bulletins are also carried on the Original Black Entertainment (OBE) satellite television channel in the UK.

In South Africa itself, the SABC has announced the launch of two regional television channels, SABC4 and SABC5, with an emphasis on languages other than English. SABC4 will broadcast in Tswana, Sesotho, Pedi, Tsonga, Venda, and Afrikaans as well as English, to the northern provinces of the country. In the southern provinces, SABC5 will broadcast in Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele, and Swazi, as well as Afrikaans and English.

Unlike other SABC TV services, SABC4 and SABC5 will not be available via satellite.


In 1986, the SABC's monopoly on TV was challenged by the launch of a subscription-based service known as M-Net, backed by a consortium of newspaper publishers. However, it could not broadcast its own news and current affairs programmes, which were still the preserve of the SABC. The SABC's dominance was further eroded by the launch of the first 'free-to-air' private TV channel, called Satellite television also expanded, as M-Net's sister company, Multichoice, launched its digital satellite TV service (DStv) in 1995. Most of the SABC's TV channels are still provided as part of this service.

Station list

1976 to 1995

  • TV1
  • TV2
  • TV3
  • TV4
  • Topsport/NNTV

1996 onward


A throwback to the Apartheid days, many opposition politicians believe the SABC to be the mouthpiece of the ANC government or "SANC",[3] just as it was that of the National Party. Despite a change in government, this public perception was reinforced when, in August 2005, the SABC came under heavy fire from non-affiliated media and the public for failing to broadcast a scene whereby Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was booed offstage by members of the ANC Youth League, who were showing support for the newly-axed ex-Deputy President, Jacob Zuma[4] .

Rival broadcaster eTV publicly accused SABC of 'biased reporting' by failing to show the video footage of the humiliated Deputy President, but Snuki Zikalala, Head of News and ex-ANC spokesperson retorted by stating that their cameraman was not present at the meeting, a claim later established to be false when eTV footage was released which showed an SABC cameraman filming the incident.[5]

SABC's government connections also came under scrutiny when, in April 2005, Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe was interviewed live by Zikalala, who is a former ANC political commissar.[6] The interview held was deemed by the public eye to have side-stepped 'critical issues' and controversial questions regarding Mugabe's radical land-reform policies and human rights violations.

In May 2006, the SABC was accused of self censorship, when it decided not to air a documentary on South African President Thabo Mbeki, and in early June requested that the producers (from Daylight Films) not speak about it. This has been widely criticised by independent media groups.[7] In response, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange issued an alert concerning the SABC's apparent trend toward self-censorship.[8]

In June 2006 the International Federation of Journalists denounced the cancelling of the Thabo Mbeki documentary, citing "self censorship" and "politically influenced managers".[9]

Also in June 2006, SAfm host John Perlman disclosed on air that the SABC had created a blacklist of commentators.[10] A commission of inquiry was created by SABC CEO Dali Mpofu into the allegations that individuals were blacklisted at the behest of Zikalala.[11][12]

Critics, including the influential newspaper, Mail and Guardian (Vol 24, No 35) have accused the broadcaster of cultural myopia by failing to recognize the diverse cultural mix of South Africa and excessive favoring of certain ethnic groups in their choice of entertainment offered particularly by the TV services.

See also


  1. ^ a b "SABC Corporate - Board of Directors". South African Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2010-02-16. 
  2. ^ "SABC Station List". Retrieved July2006. 
  3. ^ "Mail and Guardian interview with Democratic Alliance spokesperson Helen Zille". Retrieved August2005. 
  4. ^ "Mail and Guardian article on Youth League Controversy". Retrieved July2006. 
  5. ^ "Sunday Independent on Deputy-President footage". Retrieved July2006. 
  6. ^ "Sunday Times on Robert Mugabe Interview". Retrieved July2006. 
  7. ^ "IOL News Report". Retrieved July2006. 
  8. ^ "IFEX Self-Censorship Warning". Retrieved July2006. 
  9. ^ "IFOJ comment on Mbeki documentary". Retrieved July2006. 
  10. ^ "John Perlman disclosed blacklist". Retrieved July2006. 
  11. ^ "IOL on blacklisting allegations". Retrieved July2006. 
  12. ^ "MG on blacklisting allegations". Retrieved July2006. 

External links


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