Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation
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.
|Type||Television network |
|Owner||Government of Zimbabwe|
|1963 (as Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation)|
|Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation, and later |
Zimbabwe Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation
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. However, it was not until 1941 that the first professional broadcaster was established. 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.
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). However, CABS continued to operate as a radio station aimed at African audiences. 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).
Introduction of televisionEdit
Television was introduced on 14 November 1960, first in Salisbury, with transmissions in Bulawayo beginning seven months later. It was only the second such service in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria, and the first such service in southern Africa, as South Africa did not introduce television until 1976.
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, and Davenport and Meyer, the latter of which operated LM Radio, based in Mozambique, then under Portuguese rule.
RTV was taken over by the government, with the RBC initially acquired a 51 per cent stake in the service, which became part of the RBC in 1976. RBC TV was funded by advertising and a television licence fee. Television reception was confined mainly to the large cities, and most viewers were whites. 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. By 1973, RTV was broadcasting 42 hours a week from three transmitters, and 61 716 combined radio and television licences had been issued.
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. 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". In response, the RBC Director General, James Neill, resigned, citing political interference.
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). However, afternoon and evening news relays of the BBC remained unchanged.
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. 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. Programmes about Rhodesia were subjected to jamming, but other programmes were not affected. In 1968, the BBC ceased broadcasting from Francistown, and the relay station was transferred to the government of Botswana.
The RBC operated two main services, the English-language General Service (or National Network), 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). 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.
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.
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. 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.
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). 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.
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. Despite this, the Corporation's name remained unchanged.
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. 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.
Establishment of ZBCEdit
Following independence, the state broadcaster became the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC). 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". 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.
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. Radio Four was established in 1982, as an educational channel.
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. In addition, the television service, now known as ZTV, only reached only 32 percent of the country's territory.
The conversion to colour television began in late 1982, using the PAL B system. Colour transmissions were finally introduced in 1984. 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. A second television channel, available only in Harare, was introduced in 1986.
At independence, 30 per cent of television programming was locally produced. By late 1982, local programmes accounted for 40 per cent of output. 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. Despite this reliance on foreign content, in the 1980s, the locally produced drama The Mukadota Family became the most popular programme in the country.
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. 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". However, the government announced that the ZBC monopoly on broadcasting would be abolished by the end of 1997.
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. This channel lasted until 2002, when it was controversially taken off the air for allegedly violating the Broadcasting Services Act.
Accusations of pro-government biasEdit
In 2015, Freedom House described ZBC coverage as overwhelmingly favouring the ruling ZANU-PF. 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.
ZBC has six radio networks, which are;
- National FM - broadcasting news and current affairs in various indigenous languages,
- Radio Zimbabwe - broadcasts only in Shona and Ndebele,
- Power Fm (formerly Radio 3 / 3FM) - broadcasting pop music,
- Classic 263 (formerly Spot FM or SFM) - carrying sports, news and current affairs 
- Khulumani FM - station designed for the metropolitan province of Bulawayo and Matabeleland region 
- 95.8 Central Radio - broadcasting for Gweru .
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, but this station was decommissioned in August 2015.
News bulletins include the morning Good Morning Zimbabwe, produced by Admire Mhungu, lunchtime news, Nhau Indaba and News Hour. 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.
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- National FM
- Radio Zimbabwe
- Power FM
- Classic 263
- Khulumani FM
- Central Radio
- Zimbabwe: ZBC to Launch Channel Two, The Herald, 13 April 2010
- ZBC fires hundreds, closes TV station, Daily News, 12 August 2015
- ZBC-TV Programme Line Up