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The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) is the state-controlled broadcaster in Zimbabwe. It was established as the Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation (RBC), taking its current name in 1980. Like the RBC before it, the ZBC has been accused of being a government mouthpiece with no editorial independence.[1]

(ZBC) (in English)
TypeTelevision network
Radio network
OwnerGovernment of Zimbabwe
Launch date
1963 (as Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation)
Former names
Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation, and later
Zimbabwe Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation
Official website



Introduction of radioEdit

Radio was first introduced in the then Southern Rhodesia in 1933, in Belvedere in Salisbury (now Harare) by Imperial Airways, which was used to provide radio guidance and weather reports.[2] However, it was not until 1941 that the first professional broadcaster was established.[3] This was known as the Central African Broadcasting Service (CABS) and had responsibility for broadcasting in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and Nyasaland (now Malawi) as well as Southern Rhodesia.[2]

Following the creation of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1953, a new organisation was established on 1 February 1958, known as the Federal Broadcasting Corporation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (FBC).[4] However, CABS continued to operate as a radio station aimed at African audiences.[2] When the Federation was dissolved in 1963, the FBC was succeeded by a new organisation responsible for broadcasting in Southern Rhodesia, known as the Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation (RBC).[5]

Introduction of televisionEdit

Television was introduced on 14 November 1960, first in Salisbury, with transmissions in Bulawayo beginning seven months later.[6] It was only the second such service in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria,[7] and the first such service in southern Africa, as South Africa did not introduce television until 1976.[8]

It was initially operated by a private company, Rhodesian Television (RTV) on behalf of the then FBC, with its major shareholders being South African companies, including the Argus Group of newspapers, parent company of the Rhodesia Herald,[9] and Davenport and Meyer,[10] the latter of which operated LM Radio, based in Mozambique, then under Portuguese rule.[11]

RTV was taken over by the government,[12] with the RBC initially acquired a 51 per cent stake in the service, which became part of the RBC in 1976.[13] RBC TV was funded by advertising and a television licence fee.[14] Television reception was confined mainly to the large cities, and most viewers were whites.[15] Umtali (now Mutare) only received television in 1972, by which time it was estimated that more than 90 per cent of the white population had access to the service.[8] By 1973, RTV was broadcasting 42 hours a week from three transmitters, and 61 716 combined radio and television licences had been issued.[16]

Unilateral Declaration of IndependenceEdit

In 1965, the white minority government of Ian Smith issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence, under which censorship of broadcasting and the press was imposed, and key posts at the RBC were gradually filled by supporters of the ruling Rhodesian Front party.[17] The previous year, the Deputy Minister of Information, P. K. van der Byl, described the aims of his Ministry as "not merely to disseminate information from an interesting point of view but to play its part in fighting the propaganda battle on behalf of the country".[18] In response, the RBC Director General, James Neill, resigned, citing political interference.[19]

On 1 January 1965, the RBC had ceased to relay the morning world news bulletin from the BBC, and replaced it with a bulletin from the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).[20] However, afternoon and evening news relays of the BBC remained unchanged.[21]

The British government, which had denounced UDI as illegal, began broadcasting BBC programmes into Rhodesia by building a radio relay station in Francistown, in the then Bechuanaland Protectorate, now Botswana.[22] The Rhodesian government retaliated by clandestinely building a 400 000 watt transmitter nicknamed "Big Bertha", in order to jam the signal from the smaller BBC transmitter.[23] Programmes about Rhodesia were subjected to jamming, but other programmes were not affected.[24] In 1968, the BBC ceased broadcasting from Francistown, and the relay station was transferred to the government of Botswana.[25]

The RBC operated two main services, the English-language General Service (or National Network),[26] aimed at the white audience, and the African Service, broadcasting in English, Shona and Ndebele, aimed at black listeners. The RBC also established three community stations with a multi-racial audience, Radio Jacaranda (Salisbury), Radio Matopos (Bulawayo) and Radio Manica (Umtali).[27] In 1975, an Ndebele language service operating out of Bulawayo, known as Radio Mthwakazi, was established, using the "Big Bertha" transmitter previously used to jam the BBC's broadcasts from Francistown.[28]

As armed opposition to white minority rule mounted in the 1970s, Africans in Rhodesia increasingly began to turn to short wave radio broadcasts from neighbouring countries, which carried programmes from exiled nationalist movements, with the Zimbabwe African National Union's Voice of Zimbabwe operating from Mozambique, and the rival Zimbabwe African People's Union's Voice of the Revolution operating from Zambia.[29]

In order to counter this, the RBC installed an FM network, while the government distributed FM-only receivers to chiefs and village headmen in the Tribal Trust Lands.[23] It also ran campaigns promoting FM-only receivers, pointing out that they were exempt from the annual licence fee, and how short wave broadcasts were affected by static noise and required retuning between frequencies throughout the day.[30]

Transition to independenceEdit

In 1979, following the adoption of a new constitution, Rhodesia was renamed Zimbabwe Rhodesia, and in common with other state institutions which were renamed, the state broadcaster was renamed the Zimbabwe Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation (ZRBC) or the Voice of Zimbabwe Rhodesia (VZR).[31] This also saw the debut of Mandy Mundawarara, the country's first black television newsreader, whose father, Silas Mundawarara, had become Deputy Prime Minister in the government of Abel Muzorewa.[32]

However, the Muzorewa government did not gain international recognition, and under the terms of the Lancaster House Agreement, the country officially reverted to British rule as "Southern Rhodesia", with Lord Soames as Governor.[33] Despite this, the Corporation's name remained unchanged.[34]

A number of other senior BBC staff were sent to the country to advise Lord Soames on election broadcasting, and also help the ZRBC with their preparations for independence.[35] In the run-up to elections being held in February 1980, the Governor's Information Adviser held discussions with the ZRBC, leading the Election Commissioner agreed to a scheme to ensure that all parties standing in the elections should have equal free time on the public media.[36]


Establishment of ZBCEdit

Following independence, the state broadcaster became the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).[37] In a reflection of the news ZANU PF government's political leanings, Robert Mugabe, previously described only as "a terrorist leader", was now described as "Comrade Prime Minister".[32] In addition, most of the white staff left ZBC after independence, and many of the black staff who replaced them had previously worked in for radio services operated by the nationalist movements from exile in Zambia and Mozambique.[38]

Radio services were reorganised, with three distinct networks being established: Radio One, the main English-language network, run by Africans but with some whites in key positions, Radio Two, combining the Harare and Radio Mthwakazi services and broadcasting in Shona and Ndebele, and Radio Three, replacing Radio Jacaranda.[39] Radio Four was established in 1982, as an educational channel.[2]

The legacy of economic sanctions meant that ZBC inherited antiquated equipment with spares difficult to obtain, as manufacturers no longer produced black and white television transmission equipment.[40] In addition, the television service, now known as ZTV, only reached only 32 percent of the country's territory.[41]

The conversion to colour television began in late 1982, using the PAL B system.[42] Colour transmissions were finally introduced in 1984.[43] As much of the machinery had been in used for over two decades, and was now obsolete, it proved more economical to buy entirely new equipment than to replace it.[44] A second television channel, available only in Harare,[45] was introduced in 1986.[46]

Local programmingEdit

At independence, 30 per cent of television programming was locally produced.[47] By late 1982, local programmes accounted for 40 per cent of output.[48] While some programming was in Shona and Ndebele, 80 per cent of programming was in English, of which most was imported, mainly from the US, Britain and Australia.[49] Despite this reliance on foreign content, in the 1980s, the locally produced drama The Mukadota Family became the most popular programme in the country.[50]

As the 1957 Broadcasting Act remained in force, ZBC inherited RBC's state monopoly on broadcasting, remaining accountable to the country's Minister of Information.[51] Expressing his dislike of independent broadcasting in 1995, Robert Mugabe, by now President, remarked "you do not know what propaganda a non-state radio station might broadcast".[52] However, the government announced that the ZBC monopoly on broadcasting would be abolished by the end of 1997.[53]

As a result, the ZBC's second TV channel was discontinued and replaced by Joy TV, the country's first independent channel, which operated on a lease agreement with the ZBC.[54] This channel lasted until 2002, when it was controversially taken off the air for allegedly violating the Broadcasting Services Act.[55]

Accusations of pro-government biasEdit

In 2015, Freedom House described ZBC coverage as overwhelmingly favouring the ruling ZANU-PF.[56] In 2003, a study conducted by the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ) in 2003 showed that one of the propaganda jingles, Rambai Makashinga or "Continue Persevering", was being played 288 times a day on the four ZBC radio stations, and 72 times a day on ZBC television.[57]


ZBC has six radio networks, which are;

Local radio stations run hourly news bulletins which range from two minutes to the longest being a ten-minute bulletin on weekends and holidays. Presenters include, Admire Mhungu, Innocent Manyenga, Memory Chamisa and Keith Mawoyo.

On the national languages desk readers include Nqobile Malinga, Patience Machokoto, Taboka Ncube, Faith Nare, Lucy Ngosolo and Caroline Sithole. Bulletins come out live on Classic 263 at 7 am, 8 am, 1 pm, 6 pm and 8 pm and running from Monday to Friday. The anchors are Nomalanga Vuma, Theophilus Chuma, Ian Zvoma, Butler Nhepure and Jonathan Marerwa.


ZBC's television service now consists of a single channel, known as ZBC TV. The ZBC re-established a second TV channel of its own, Channel 2, in April 2010,[64] but this station was decommissioned in August 2015.[65]

News bulletins include the morning Good Morning Zimbabwe, produced by Admire Mhungu, lunchtime news, Nhau Indaba and News Hour.[66] Rumbidzai Takawira, the anchor, is usually the host of News Hour.

Battle of the Chefs is one of the first food-related reality TV shows to air on ZBC.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ 'MuckRaker: ZBC has taken over the RBC's mantle', Zimbabwe Independent, 16 February 2012
  2. ^ a b c d World Broadcasting: A Comparative View, Alan Wells, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996, pages 157-159
  3. ^ Zimbabwe: A Survey, African Minds, 2009, page 10
  4. ^ Handbook to the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Federal Information Dept, William Vernon Brelsford, Cassell, 1960, page 552
  5. ^ Handbook of the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, 1988, page 142
  6. ^ EBU Review: Programmes, Administration, Law, Volume 71, Administrative Office of the European Broadcasting Union, 1962, page 12
  7. ^ Zimbabwe's Cinematic Arts: Language, Power, Identity, Katrina Daly Thompson, Indiana University Press, 2013, page 32
  8. ^ a b Sanctions: The Case of Rhodesia, Harry R. Strack, Syracuse University Press, 1978, page 235
  9. ^ Against the Grain: Memoirs of a Zimbabwean Newsman, Geoffrey Nyarota, Zebra, 2006, page 45
  10. ^ Viewing the Foreign and the Local in Zimbabwe: Film, Television, and the Shona Viewers, Katrina Daly Thompson University of Wisconsin--Madison, 2004, page 125
  11. ^ Who's who of Southern Africa, Volume 54, Ken Donaldson (Pty.) Limited, 1967, page 393
  12. ^ Media, Public Discourse and Political Contestation in Zimbabwe, Henning Melber, Nordic Africa Institute, 2004, page 15
  13. ^ Broadcasting: An Introduction, John R. Bittner, Prentice-Hall International, 1980, page 263
  14. ^ Broadcasting in Africa: A Continental Survey of Radio and Television, Sydney W. Head, Temple University Press, 1974, page 131
  15. ^ Censorship, Volume 1, Congress for Cultural Freedom., 1964, page 29
  16. ^ The Statesman's Year-Book 1976-77, J. Paxton, page 536
  17. ^ Censorship: A World Encyclopedia, Derek Jones, Routledge, 2001, page 2713
  18. ^ Rhodesia: The Road to Rebellion, James P. Barber, Institute of Race Relations, 1967, page 293
  19. ^ Combroad, Issues 50-57, Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, 1981, page 60
  20. ^ The Journalist, 1981, page 45
  21. ^ News Letter, Institute of Race Relations, London, 1965, page 23
  22. ^ Botswana's Search for Autonomy in Southern Africa, Richard Dale, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995, page 111
  23. ^ a b Africa Today, Volume 31, Africa Today Associates, 1984, page 46
  24. ^ Radio and Television Broadcasting on the European Continent, Burton Paulu, University of Minnesota Press, 1967, page 19
  25. ^ The Politics of International Telecommunications Regulation, James G. Savage, Westview Press, 1989, page 134
  26. ^ World Radio & TV Handbook, Oluf Lund-Johansen, Cardfont Publishers under license from Billboard Publications., 1973,
  27. ^ Black List: The Concise and Comprehensive Reference Guide to Black Journalism, Radio, and Television, Educational and Cultural Organizations in the USA, Africa, and the Caribbean, Volume 2, Black List, 1975, page 286
  28. ^ Broadcasting and Political Change in Zimbabwe 1931-1984, James Joseph Zaffiro - 1984, page 74
  29. ^ Making sense of cultural nationalism and the politics of commemoration under the Third Chimurenga in Zimbabwe, Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni and Wendy Willems, Journal of Southern African Studies, 35 (4). pp. 945-965
  30. ^ International Journal, Volume 42, Canadian Institute of International Affairs, 1987, page 346
  31. ^ World Radio TV Handbook, Billboard Publications, 1980, page 185
  32. ^ a b Zimbabwe's News Media Change Tune Under Black Rule, Washington Post, June 1, 1980
  33. ^ Collective Responses to Illegal Acts in International Law: United Nations Action in the Question of Southern Rhodesia, Vera Gowlland-Debbas Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1990, page 91
  34. ^ ZIMBABWE BILL, HL Deb 17 December 1979 vol 403 cc1470-514
  35. ^ Obituary: Austen Kark, Daily Telegraph, 13 May 2002
  36. ^ Southern Rhodesia: Independence Elections 1980: Report of the Election Commissioner Sir John Boynton, MC, Salisbury, March 1980, John K. Boynton, Great Britain. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1980, page 31
  37. ^ EBU Review: Radio and television programmes, administration, law, Volume 31, Administrative Office of the European Broadcasting Union, 1980, page 62
  38. ^ The dual legacy of democracy and authoritarianism, Helge Ronning and Tawana Kupe, in De-Westernizing Media Studies, editors James Curran, Myung-Jin Park, Routledge, 5 Jul 2005, page 138
  39. ^ Proceedings of the African Women's Features Services Workshop, Marandellas, Zimbabwe, 12-23 October, 1981, UNESCO Regional Population Communication Unit for Africa, page 60
  40. ^ Zimbabwe- The First Decade, Elias Rusike, Roblaw Publishers, 1990, page 54
  41. ^ Country Market Survey, Department of Commerce, Industry and Trade Administration., 1982, page 6
  42. ^ International TV & Video Guide, Tantivy Press, 1985, page 204
  43. ^ A Concise Encyclopedia of Zimbabwe, Donatus Bonde, Mambo Press, 1988, page 410
  44. ^ Africa Calls from Zimbabwe, Issues 131-138, Africa Calls Publishers, 1982, page 22
  45. ^ Children and Women in Zimbabwe: A Situation Analysis, Update 1994, Unicef, 1994, page 40
  46. ^ Africa Film & TV, Z Promotions, 2001, page 217
  47. ^ Zimbabwe's Cinematic Arts: Language, Power, Identity, Katrina Daly Thompson, Indiana University Press, 2013, page 51
  48. ^ Report of Second Meeting of Monitoring Group on Follow-up to Intergovernmental Conference on Communication Policies in Africa: Harare, Zimbabwe, 26-29 October 1982, AFRICOM Monitoring Group. Meeting, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 1982, page 9
  49. ^ Children and Women in Zimbabwe: A Situation Analysis, Update 1994, Unicef 1994, page 41
  50. ^ How "American" Is Globalization?, William Marling, JHU Press, 2006, page 41
  51. ^ Media, democracy and development, Elin W. Andersen, Dept. of Media and Communication, University of Oslo, 1997, page 10
  52. ^ Critical Analysis of the Media Law in Zimbabwe, Nkosi Ndlela, Media Institute of Southern Africa. Zimbabwe Chapter, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, 2003, page 44
  53. ^ Zimbabwe, √ėyvind Thiis and Geoff Feltoe, in International Human Rights in Developing Countries Yearbook 1997, editors Hugo Stokke, Astri Suhrke, Arne Tostensen, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1998, page 396
  54. ^ Culture and Customs of Zimbabwe, Oyekan Owomoyela, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002, page 58
  55. ^ Zimbabwe: CURTAIN COMES DOWN ON JOY TV, Pambazuka, 6 June 2001
  56. ^ Zimbabwe Freedom of the Press, Freedom House, 2016
  57. ^ Zimbabwe: A Survey, African Minds, 2009, page 81
  58. ^ National FM
  59. ^ Radio Zimbabwe
  60. ^ Power FM
  61. ^ Classic 263
  62. ^ Khulumani FM
  63. ^ Central Radio
  64. ^ Zimbabwe: ZBC to Launch Channel Two, The Herald, 13 April 2010
  65. ^ ZBC fires hundreds, closes TV station, Daily News, 12 August 2015
  66. ^ ZBC-TV Programme Line Up

External linksEdit