SABC News International

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 network
Country South Africa
Availability South Africa


by the Government of South Africa
Slogan "This is your SABC."
"Vuka Sizwe!" (Nation Arise!)
Broadcast area South Africa
Owner Government of South Africa
Key people Ben Ngubane[1]
Solly Mokoetle[1]
Launch date 1936 (radio)
1976 (television)
Digital channel 576p
Television SABC 1
Television SABC 2
Television SABC 3
Official website

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

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 a state monopoly for many years, and was controlled by the government. During National Party rule from 1948 onwards, it came under increasing criticism and accusations of being biased towards the then ruling party. 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 officially in Afrikaans as Suid-Afrikaanse Uitsaaikorporasie (SAUK), but this term is now only used by the SABC when referring to the Corporation in the spoken word on SABC2's Afrikaans TV news and on the Afrikaans radio station RSG. Although, the Afrikaans newscasts on SABC2 uses SABC Nuus instead of SAUK Nuus. The term is also still widely used by Afrikaans print media.

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 – moth-balling many Afrikaans language programmes. These actions, combined with the disposal of many of the 'historic' remnants of Afrikaans-dominated broadcasting (such as the Liewe Heksie puppets) have been labelled 'revenge' by some commentators. The SABC 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

Station Language Website Webcast
SAfm English [1]
5FM English [2]
Good Hope FM English, Afrikaans [3]
Metro FM English [4]
RSG Afrikaans [5]
Radio 2000 English [6]
Ukhozi FM Zulu [7]
Umhlobo Wenene FM Xhosa [8]
Thobela FM Pedi [9]
Lesedi FM Sotho [10]
Motsweding FM Tswana [11]
Phalaphala FM Venda [12]
Munghana Lonene FM Tsonga [13]
Ligwalagwala FM Swazi [14]
iKwekwezi FM Ndebele [15]
Lotus FM English (for
the Indian
community) [16]
X-K FM  !Xu, Khwe [17]
tru fm
(formerly CKI FM)
English, Xhosa [18]


Early history (1975–1995)

In 1975, 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 R250 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 1 January 1982, two channels were introduced, TV2 broadcasting in Zulu and Xhosa and TV3 broadcasting in Sotho and Tswana. Later was launched TV4, broadcasting for black urban audience. 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 in 1994 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, supposedly be more representative of different language groups, but in effect giving preference to English, a minority language. These new channels were called SABC 1, SABC 2 and SABC 3. This resulted in an illogical grouping of languages, and the downgrading of Afrikaans, which now had its airtime reduced, a move that angered many Afrikaans-speakers. In recent times, however, 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.

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

1975 to 1996

  • TV1
  • TV2 *
  • TV3 *
  • TV4 *
  • TV2 TV3 and TV4, replaced by CCV in 1994 [19]

1996 onward

  • SABC 1 Nguni Languages Primarily and English Secondarily
  • SABC 2 English, SeSotho Venda and Afrikaans
  • SABC 3 English, Afrikaans


A throwback to the Apartheid days, many opposition politicians believe the SABC to be the mouthpiece of the ANC government or "SANC",[4] 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.[5]

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.[6]

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.[7] The interview held was deemed by the public eye to have sidestepped '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.[8] In response, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange issued an alert concerning the SABC's apparent trend toward self-censorship.[9]

In June 2006 the International Federation of Journalists denounced the cancelling of the Thabo Mbeki documentary, citing "self censorship" and "politically influenced managers".[10]

Also in June 2006, SAfm host John Perlman disclosed on air that the SABC had created a blacklist of commentators.[11] A commission of inquiry was created by SABC CEO Dali Mpofu into the allegations that individuals were blacklisted at the behest of Zikalala.[12][13]

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

Shortly before the ANC's 2012 elective conference in Mangaung, the board of the SABC handed control of news, television, radio and sport to COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng. The board's decision was interpreted by some at the SABC as a calculated attempt to ensure that an ANC faction close to President Jacob Zuma was given positive coverage.[14]

During a press conference, held by the SABC on 6 December 2012, to explain why it had prevented three journalists from participating in a discussion on how the media would cover the ANC's elective conference in Manguang, Hlaudi Motsoeneng said that whenever the ANC is discussed on the SABC an ANC party representative must be present.

See also


External links

  • Official SABC website
  • IOL – SABC battles the image of being a State Mouthpiece
  • The Star – Air the Laundry
  • IOL – SABC gags Mbeki 'unauthorised' documentary
  • Report of SABC Commission on Blacklisting

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