- HEINRICH HERTZ a German inventor discovered wireless radio in the late 1800’s, when he proved energy (and thus sound) could be sent point-to-point without using wires.
- GUGLIELMO MARCONI an Italian inventor and businessman is consider the “Father of Radio” because he turned the Hertz discovery into a product (wireless radio), got a patent for it and started his own company for it.
- LEE DEFOREST is considered the first “unofficial Disc Jockey” because he played music from the top of the Eiffel Tower.
- During World War II, radio became the dominant medium for news about the war. EDWARD R. MURROW, was the first and most famous network war correspondent from World War II . Bonus fact: Murrow worked for CBS and is consider by many to be the greatest and most influential journalist in broadcasting history.
Brief History of Radio in South Africa
The first station in South Africa was put up by the South African Railways in Johannesburg on December 29, 1923. The Scientific and Technical Club in Johannesburg took over on July 1, 1924. The Cape and Peninsula Broadcasting Association started a similar service in Cape Town, on September 15, 1924. The Durban organization began broadcasting on December 10, 1924. Financial support came from listener’s licenses.
Because of the limited area covered by the three organizations, each functioning separately, the revenue from listeners’ licences was low, with the result that these enterprises did not pay. That was why the financially stronger Schlesinger organization, with the permission of the Government, formed the African Broadcasting Company on April 1, 1927, in which the three broadcasting organizations were incorporated. This new organization had the sole rights of broadcasting. As the financial difficulties were not yet overcome, the Prime Minister, General Hertzog, ordered an inquiry into all aspects of broadcasting. Thus the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) was created under Act No. 22 of 1936, in which it was stipulated that broadcasts should also be made in Afrikaans within the following year (up to then programs had been presented in English only).
The English and Afrikaans Services were for many years known as Radio South Africa and Radio Suid-Afrika respectively. They are now called SAFM and Radio Sonder Grense (RSG), and aeach broadcast 115 1/2 hours of programs each week. These cultural services are beamed nationwide on FM, while RSG is also available on short wave.
The first radio station, ‘JB Calling’ began broadcasting in Johannesburg on 1 July 1934. Stations in Cape Town and Durban hit the airwaves the same year.
The three stations combined to form the African Broadcasting Corporation.
The African Broadcasting Corporation was dissolved and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) was established by an Act of Parliament. It was emphasised that Afrikaans radio should be introduced by 1937 (other stations were all in English). The Charter for the SABC was developed by John Reith credited as developing the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) model of public broadcasting.
The first direct transmissions were made in African languages by telephone line.
The National Party came into power and started implementing policies of separate development and promotion of Afrikaans people (‘die volk’ [the people]) and nationalist Christian values based on Calvinism.
SABC introduced Springbok Radio – the country’s first ‘commercial’ service, broadcasting entertainment (including dramas and comedies).
Radio Bantu established broadcasting in African languages to ‘homeland’ areas set up to accommodate different ethnic groups to further apartheid’s philosophy of “separate development”.
Then Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Albert Herzog tells the Senate (upper house of parliament) that “(t)elevision as a destroyer of the human spirit is a bigger menace than the atom and hydrogen bombs”.
In June 1963 underground leader of the then banned African National Congress, Walter Sisulu, made the first pirate broadcast from Radio Freedom, “the voice of the ANC”. After the ANC was forced into exile,Radio Freedom negotiated access to shortwave frequencies in a number of supportive countries (including Zambia, Angola, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Tanzania) and broadcast into the country. It was reportedly regularly jammed by the South African authorities.
On the 20th July 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon and Neil Armstrong made history with his moon walk. Lobbying for television hots up as South Africans are denied the chance to view the moon landing. It was insulting, one senator declared, to be “bracketed with the most backward peoples of the world such as the Eskimos who have not got television”.
The ‘Commission of Inquiry into Matters Relating to Television’ is established, headed by PJ Meyer, to investigate the introduction of television. The report endorses the introduction of television – with strict conditions:
An SABC-controlled radio and television service….should…. give direct and unequivocal expression to the established Christian Western set of norms and values that are valid for South African society …. All radio and television services shall have a Christian and a broad national character … (T)he broadcasting services of our country will be introduced and presented by norm-conscious officials and in such a way that the morals and morale of the community will not be undermined and especially that no programmes harmful to the youth of our country will be presented.
SABC’s first television channel goes on air on 5 January 1976. It broadcasts in colour in Afrikaans and English.
Purported “independence” is given by the apartheid government to the Transkei as part of the National Party’s programme of separate development. The SABC facilities in Transkei become the Transkei Broadcasting Corporation.
Advertising is allowed on SABC television (up to then it was funded through a licence fee).
Commercial radio station Capital Radio goes on air broadcasting from the Transkei. It broadcasts a mixture of music and news. Capital Radio closed down in the 1990s.
Following the so-called independence of the Bophutatswana homeland, Bophuthatswana Broadcasting Corporation takes over the SABC facilities for this region. The Bop Broadcasting Corporation later launched Bop TV in 1983.
Another commercial radio – Radio 702 – goes on air. It was initially an adult music format station but in 1988 became a talk station. Radio 702 now broadcasts on FM in the Gauteng province of South Africa.
A second television channel is introduced on SABC, broadcasting in African languages such as IsiZulu, isiXhosa, Sesotho and SeTswana.
Venda and Ciskei are given “independence” and take over broadcasting facilities (Radio Thohoyandouand Ciskei Broadcasting Corporation) for their regions.
M-Net – South Africa’s first subscription broadcaster – is launched. It is backed by a consortium of newspaper publishers. Rumours abound that it was given a licence to appease the Afrikaans press who face competition for advertising due to television. It is restricted in its licence from broadcasting news and current affairs.
Liberation movements are unbanned and there is agreement to negotiate a new democratic future.
Civil society organisations join together to set up the Campaign for Independent Broadcasting (CIB) to lobby and fight for the transformation of the SABC from a state broadcaster into a public broadcaster and for the establishment of an independent regulatory authority. The Campaign includes a wide range of media, labour and other civil society groups as well as a number of political parties and movements including the ANC, the Democratic Party and the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO). The political parties and movements, however, are by mutual agreement not included in the steering committee of the CIB to ensure that civil society controls the organisation.
Bush Radio in Cape Town (the first community radio station in the country) is formed (although it could not yet broadcast as it was refused a temporary licence).
The ANC and the apartheid government agree to appoint an independent board of the SABC prior to the first democratic elections in 1994. It was agreed that a selection panel made up of judges would call for public nominations to the Board and make recommendations on appointment. Over 700 nominations were made. Despite the agreements, however, then State President FW de Klerk refused to appoint seven of the proposed new members or the recommended chairperson. After negotiations, and the resignation of de Klerk’s nominee for the chair, the Board elected its own chairperson (current Minister of Communications Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri).
Parliament passes the Independent Broadcasting Act of 1993 providing for an independent regulator for broadcasting.
Bush Radio goes on air illegally in May for four hours before being closed down by police.
Radio Zibonele went on air later that year illegally for two hours a week. It was broadcast from a health clinic in Khayelitsha near Cape Town with equipment stored under a clinic bed until broadcast time. Community health workers ran the station focused on delivering health messages.
Parliament establishes an Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) to regulate broadcasting “in the public interest” under the IBA Act.
First democratic elections are held in April 1994 and the ANC is elected into power.
The IBA launches the Triple Inquiry Report – looking into public broadcasting, South African content and cross-media control.
The first community radio stations receive temporary one-year licences from the IBA.
Multichoice (owner of subscription television service M-Net) launches Digital Satellite Television (DSTV) – taking advantage of what they claimed was a gap in the existing legislation (the IBA Act) that did not specifically provide for licensing of satellite broadcasting services.
Parliament agrees to privatisation of six of SABC’s radio stations. These are “sold” off through licensing processes to private players. However, despite recommendations from the IBA that the funds raised should be invested in the SABC to assist in its transformation, the state treasury takes the money.
SABC relaunches its television channels and new policies. Different languages are represented across the three channels.
The IBA licences eight new commercial radio stations in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.
The Broadcasting Act (No 4 of 1999) comes into effect following a white paper process. The Broadcasting Act amongst other things amends old legislation relating to the SABC and provides for it to be corporatised and divided into public and public commercial wings.
1996 – 1998
The former Bantustan broadcasting services are incorporated into the SABC (Transkei Broadcasting Corporation, Ciskei Broadcasting Corporation, Venda and Bophuthatswana Broadcasting Corporations).
E.tv, the first national private free to air television channel is awarded a licence and launched.
The Independent Communications Act of South Africa (no 13 of 2000) is promulgated and the IBA is merged with the South African Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (SATRA) to form the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).
The Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) is launched as a statutory body, funded as a public-private partnership, to provide financial and other support to community and small commercial media.
The Electronic Communications Act is promulgated – changing the face of regulation of broadcasting and telecommunications. The Act provides for convergence between broadcasting and ICTs and puts in place mechanisms for issuing individual and class licences. Community radio and television stations no longer have to go through protracted applications for licences but merely need to seek authorisation for a class licence.
Soweto Community TV is given a one year community television licence.
ICASA awards licences to four new broadcast licensees – Walking on Water (a dedicated Christian service), On Digital Media (broad spectrum offering), e-Sat (a satellite service from e.tv) and Telkom Media (a broad spectrum multi channel subscription and internet protocol TV service controlled by the incumbent telecommunications operator). E-Sat decides to reject the licence as it states the market will be oversaturated.
South Africa switches on its digital signal in preparation for full digital switchover by November 2011, anticipating a dual illumination period of three years before the analogue signal is turned off.
President Kgalema Motlanthe signs the Broadcasting Amendment Bill into law, giving Parliament the powers to recommend the removal of the SABC Board. After the Bill is enacted, Parliament recommends to the President the removal of the SABC Board on the grounds of failure to perform their fiduciary duties. By that stage, the majority of board members had already resigned. The board is replaced by an interim board, and a permanent board is selected.
The Department of Communications releases a draft Public Broadcasting Services Bill.
ICASA issues an invitation to apply for commercial broadcasting licences in the primary markets of Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.