Friday, April 19, 2024

SABC

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is the public broadcaster in South Africa, and provides 19 radio stations (AM/FM) as well as six television broadcasts to the general public. It is one of the largest of South Africa’s state-owned enterprises.

Official websitewww.sabc.co.za/sabc/

Opposition politicians and civil society often criticise the SABC, accusing it of being a mouthpiece for whichever political party is in majority power, thus currently the ruling African National Congress; during the apartheid era it was accused of playing the same role for the National Party government.

Company history

Early years

Radio broadcasting in South Africa began in 1923, under the auspices of South African Railways, before three radio services were licensed: the Association of Scientific and Technical Societies (AS&TS) in Johannesburg, the Cape Peninsular Publicity Association in Cape Town and the Durban Corporation, which began broadcasting in 1924.

These merged into the African Broadcasting Company in 1927, owned by, I. W. Schlesinger, a wealthy businessman, but on 1 August 1936, they were sold to the SABC, established that year through an Act of Parliament. The SABC took over the African Broadcasting Company’s staff and assets. It maintained a state monopoly on radio until the launch in December 1979 of Capital Radio 604, then Radio 702 in 1980. Although the subscription-funded television service M-Net launched in 1986, the SABC had a monopoly on free-to-air television until the launch of e.tv in 1998.

During National Party rule from 1948, it came under increasing accusations of being biased towards the ruling party. At one time most of its senior management were members of the Broederbond, the Afrikaner secret society and later from institutions like Stellenbosch University.

The SABC was a radio service until the introduction of television in 1976. There were three main SABC radio stations: the English Service (later known as Radio South Africa), the Afrikaans Service (later known as Radio Suid-Afrika and Afrikaans Stereo) and the commercial station, Springbok Radio.

Programmes on the English and Afrikaans services mainly consisted of news; plays such as The Forsyte SagaStory of an African Farm, and The Summons, written and produced in South Africa; serious talk shows; BBC radio shows; children’s programmes, such as Sound Box; and light music featuring South African orchestras, arrangers, musicians and singers. Accomplished musicians such as pianist and composer Charles Segal featured on all three stations regularly in shows like Piano Playtime. Accordionist Nico Carstens was a regular on the Afrikaans programmes.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

TermName
1994–1998Sisulu, Z.
1998–2000Mbatha, H.
2000–2000Khuzwayo, C.
2000-2005Matlare, P.
2002–2008Mpofu, D.
2008–2009Mampone, G.
2009–2011Mokoetle, S.
2011–2014Mokhobo, L.
2014–2015Motsoeneng, H.
2015–2015Matlala, F.
2015–2016Matthews, J.
2017–presentMadoda, M.

Radio

Establishment

Following its establishment in 1936, the SABC established services in what were then the country’s official languages, English and Afrikaans, with the Afrikaans service being established in 1937. Broadcasts in languages such as ZuluXhosaSesotho and Tswana followed in 1940.

Springbok Radio

Springbok Radio, the SABC’s first commercial radio service, started broadcasting on 1 May 1950. Bilingual in English and Afrikaans, it broadcast from the Johannesburg Centre for 113+12 hours a week. The service proved to be so popular with advertisers that at the time of its launch, commercial time had been booked well in advance.

The station featured a wide variety of programming, such as morning talk and news, game shows, soap operas like Basis Bravo, children’s programming, music request programmes, top-ten music, talent shows and other musical entertainment. One popular Saturday noontime comedy show was Telefun Time, whose hosts would phone various people and conjure up situation comedy, a similar brand of humour to the films of Leon Schuster.

By 1985, Springbok Radio was operating at a heavy loss. After losing many listeners with the handing over of its shortwave frequencies to Radio 5 and facing competition from television, it ceased broadcasting on 31 December 1985.

SABC News Service

The News Service was established in June 1950, replacing the programmes of the BBC. Although this was because the BBC broadcasts were seen as giving a British viewpoint of current affairs, there were also concerns that the SABC service would become overly pro-government, or “Our Master’s Voice”. By 1968, it had over 100 full-time reporters in the main cities and local correspondents all over the country, with overseas news provided by ReutersAFPAP and UPI. There was a News Film Unit which, prior to television in 1976, produced films for news agencies and television organisations.

SABC Symphony Orchestra

The SABC Symphony Orchestra has its origins in its three studio ensembles in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town and the Municipal Orchestra of the Johannesburg City Council. When the SABC centralised its broadcasting in Johannesburg, the future of the three ensembles were in doubt but at the same time, the Municipal Orchestra of the Johannesburg City Council had been disbanded. The SABC was able to form an orchestra of 80 musicians from these groupings in 1954, and while its main base was at the Johannesburg City Hall, it would tour the country. The orchestra would be led for many years by the SABC’s head of music, Anton Hartman, but had other conductors as well, such as Francesco Mander and Edgar Cree. There were also international composers such as Igor Stravinsky. The SABC Junior Orchestra was also created and began in February 1966 under Walter Mony.

Regional radio

Regional commercial FM music stations were started in the 1960s.

StationLaunch dateReplaced by
Radio Highveld1964947
Radio Good Hope1965Good Hope FM
Radio Port Natal1967East Coast Radio
Radio Jacaranda1986Jacaranda FM
Radio Oranje1986OFM
Radio Algoa1986Algoa FM

Popular music[edit]

Following the establishment of a republic and withdrawal from the Commonwealth in 1961, the Afrikaners’ goal was to promote their culture and so, at first, the SABC’s choice of popular music reflected the National Party government’s initial conservatism, especially on the Afrikaans channel, with musicians such as Nico Carstens. However Carstens was also ostracised by the SABC, as his music was influenced by the Coloured and Malay communities of Cape Town.

Eventually, musicians broke through the barrier, when the young, English-speaking Jewish musician and composer, Charles Segal collaborated with the older Afrikaans lyric-writer, Anton Dewaal, to write songs. Segal’s songs like “Die Ou Kalahari” became highly popular with the Afrikaans-speaking public. However, there was tight censorship over all broadcasts, particularly of pop music, with, for example, the music of the Beatles being banned by the SABC between 1966 and March 1971.

In 1966 the SABC established an external service, known as Radio RSA, which broadcast in English, Swahili, French, Portuguese, Dutch and German. In 1969 the SABC held a national contest to find theme music for the service. This contest was won by the popular South African pianist and composer, Charles Segal and co-writer, Dorothy Arenson. Their composition, “Carousel” remained the theme song for Radio RSA until 1992, when it was replaced by Channel Africa.

In 1986, the SABC ran a competition to promote South African music. Each of the 15 radio stations, represented by an artist, entered a song to compete for the Song for South Africa in the National Song Festival. The finals were broadcast live on television. The Radio Port Natal submission won the competition with the Don Clarke song, Sanbonani, performed by P J Powers and Hotline.

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.

By contrast, SABC Radio’s competitors, like Primedia-owned Radio 702Cape Talk and 94.7 Highveld Stereo have grown steadily in audience and revenue, while other stations such as the black-owned and focused YFM and Kaya FM have also attracted black audiences.

Programming policy

As of 12 May 2016, the SABC has implemented a policy to promote local content. 90% of all music played on the broadcaster’s 18 radio stations will be sourced from local artists with a focus on kwaito, jazz, reggae and gospel genres

Wikipedia Contributors, “SABC,” Wikipedia (Wikimedia Foundation, April 7, 2023), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SABC.

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