The History of Radio in South Africa

How it all came to be

The history of radio in South Africa can be traced back to the early 20th century, when the first experimental radio transmissions were made. In 1923, the South African government established the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), which was to become the national public broadcaster. The SABC began regular radio broadcasts in 1936, and by the 1940s, it was operating multiple national and regional stations.

During the Apartheid era (1948-1994), the SABC had a monopoly on radio broadcasting in South Africa and was controlled by the government. The government used this control to enforce censorship and to promote its own political agenda. However, radio was also a powerful tool for resistance and change, with banned political groups using illegal underground radio stations to disseminate their message and mobilize support.

In the 1990s, with the end of the Apartheid era, the South African government began to liberalize the broadcasting industry. In 1993, the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) was established, with the mandate to regulate and license private commercial radio stations. The first private commercial radio station, East Coast Radio, began broadcasting in Durban in July, 1988.

Since then, the number of private commercial radio stations has grown rapidly, and today there are over 200 radio stations in South Africa, with a mix of public and private ownership. Community radio also plays an important role in the South African radio landscape, providing a platform for local voices and community-focused programming.

In recent years, the rise of digital radio and streaming services has brought new challenges and opportunities for radio in South Africa. Many stations now offer live streaming and podcasting, allowing listeners to access their favorite programs at any time, from anywhere. Radio continues to play a significant role in shaping the cultural and social fabric of the country and providing news, information and entertainment to the population.