This is the International Section of
The Broadcast Archive

Maintained by:
Barry Mishkind - The Eclectic Engineer

South Africa Broadcasting:

South Africa Broadcast History:

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.

On May 1, 1950, the third program service, Springbok Radio, was introduced. It was probably the most popular of all the SABC's services, but following the appeal of TV in the late 1970's and the resulting loss of revenue, its audience steadily declined and the station closed at the end of 1985, despite protests from many loyal listeners.

Meanwhile, a broadcasting service for the Africans, or Bantu, had become necessary, and on August 1, 1952, the Rediffusion Service was established. Broadcasts were made in three Bantu languages to the townships in Soweto west of Johannesburg. From June 1, 1962, broadcasts were made in Tswana and North Sotho from Pretoria. This was followed on January 1, 1963 with Zulu from Durban, and from June 1, 1963 Xhosa from Grahamstown. In February 1965, broadcasts in Venda and Tsonga were inaugurated from studios in Johannesburg and transmitted from stations in the Northern Transvaal province.

The broadcast infrastructure in South Africa is operated by Sentech (Ltd.), which was originally formed as the signal distribution company of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in October 1992. The network was formerly owned and operated by the SABC, which through de-regulation within the industry in 1996/7, brought about Sentech's current portfolio within the industry. We are state-owned, but self-governing company with a board of directors. Present employees in the Company are around 550. We operate over 750 FM transmitters alone, at some 300 sites around the country. We additionally operate the networks for five television channels. Three of which are SABC, remainder are privately owned. We operate C and Ku-band satellite linking (via PAS7 and PAS10) for terrestrial distribution to major sites and centres. We also run our own DTH platform, with full subscriber-base management and encryption facilities. Last but not least, we operate an extensive HF broadcast facility just outside of JHB. Our base of customers here include the BBC, TWR and AWR to name just a few. TX's range in output powers from 100kW to 500kW. Incidentally, there are four 100kW TX's on this site, which are reputed to be the oldest operational units of their type in the world, supplied by Thomson CSF.


The inception of an FM broadcast service in South Africa, began on September 1, 1961 from the Brixton Tower (now known as the Sentech Tower). There were a total of six dual 10kW transmitters at this site, originally supplied by Rohde and Schwarz. These 'veterans' were replaced in 1987, after some 26 years of service, with 10kW NEC tube rigs (also dual configuration). Interestingly enough, we also have a 20kW NEC TX (comprised of 10kW plants in active parallel), which for our market is uncommon. The remainder of South Africa was initially served by medium wave TX's, which were essentially localised to the larger centres (these being Bloemfontein, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Pietersburg). A massive drive through the 1960's and 70's saw the roll-out of the FM network to the the rest of the country. Much of the original equipment supplied was through technology exchange programmes, meaning that the transmitters were of European design, but manufactured in South Africa. Original networks were based on 3kW tube FM equipment, operating into channel combining equipment to allow the use of a common transmit antenna system, with a gain of around 10-12dB. We embarked on a huge programme in the late 1980's to effect replacement of these ageing FM transmitter and antenna systems. In world terms, it was the single largest contract awarded to a local manufacturer for the supply of FM transmitters. These systems are 1kW solid state TX's manufactured by Plessey Tellumat. Again, the focus of this programme contained the elements of technology exchange, but with significant quantities of local design initiatives, to stimulate this sector of the industry.

The first FM transmission of the English and Afrikaans Services, Springbok Radio and the South Sotho and Zulu Services was made on Christmas Day, 1961. FM stereo tests began in Johannesburg in 1985. The first station to go FM stereo was Five FM, from the Sentech Tower in 1986. Five FM was also credited as the first station to go nationwide in FM stereo on 1 December 1988.

Public Commercial Services

These services are owned by SABC and are identified as Metro FM and Five FM. Both services have TX's at major centres in SA and target young audiences (16-25). Metro FM's format is essentially hip-hop/urban, whilst Five FM caters for alternative/dance/some urban tastes.

Public Broadcast Services

These services are SABC owned and focus essentially on the indigenous languages spoken in certain areas of the country. Because of this the studio location is placed where the concentration of this language is greatest.

SAFM (Based at SABC JHB) National English programme
RSG (in Afrikaans Radio Sonder Grense) NAtional Afrikaans programme
Ukhozi FM (at SABC Durban) Regional Zulu programme
Umhlobo Wenene (at SABC Port Elizabeth) National Xhosa programme
Radio 2000 (in JHB) NAtional music and entertainment station.
Ligwalagwala FM (at SABC Nelspruit) Regional Swazi programme
Munghana Lonene (at SABC Polokwane) Regional Tsonga Programme
Thobela FM (same as above) Regional Lebowa programme
Phalapala FM (same) Regional Venda programme
Lotus FM (at SABC Durban) National Indian programme

Private Commercial Radio

The six, once 'regional' programmes as was operated by SABC, were sold off to private owners through de-regulation in 1996/7.The format adopted tends is Adult Contemporary and variations thereof. These stations include the following;

94.7 Highveld Stereo (JHB)
East Coast Radio (Durban/KZN)
KFM 94.5 (Cape Town/Western Cape)
Radio Oranje (Bloemfontein/Free State/Northern Cape)
Jacaranda 94.2 (Pretoria/North West Province/Northern Province)
Radio Algoa (POrt Elizabeth/Eastern Cape)

New stations as were licensed by the regulatory authority (now referred to as ICASA) include the following;

Kaya FM 95.9 (JHB) Jazz orientated
YFM 99.2 (JHB) R+B/Hip-hop formats
Classic FM (JHB) As name implies.
P4 RAdio (Durban) Jazz
P4 Radio (Cape Town) Jazz


The Sentech Tower is considered to be our flagship TX station and is home to 17 FM services in total. These are identified by the following names as listed below. A discussion on how these are grouped and owned will follow;

Five FM (20kW TX)
SAFM (10kW TX)
RSG (10kW TX)
94.7 Highveld Stereo (10kW TX)
Classic FM (10kW TX)
YFM 99.2 (10kW TX)
Kaya FM 95.9 (10kW TX)
Motsweding FM (10kW TX)
Ukhozi FM (10kW TX)
Lesedi FM (10kW TX)
Metro FM (3kW TX)
Radio 2000
Umhlobo Wenene FM
Thobela FM
Phalapala FM
Lotus FM
Munghana Lonene FM

(The last six services are all on 1kW TX power. Also note that not all services are combined onto one antenna ) Typical erp of a 10kW service is in about 35kW).

The following services are also broadcast from this site;

MNET (two UHF 10kW PAL I channels)
DTT 2kW (DVB-T) pilot service, and
1kW DAB (Eureka 147) Multiplex (also pilot service)

Private Commercial Radio
In February 2006 P4 radio Cape Town was relaunched as Heart 104.9 FM 
In March 2006 P4 Radio Durban was relaunched as Gagasi 99.5 FM
You might want to include some information regarding  AM Commercial Radio
Radio 702 (Johannesburg) , currently Talk Radio 702,  commenced broadcasting in 1980 on 702 kHz and was initially a young adult music station, moving to a talk format in 1988. In March 2006, it won an application to move to FM. The first FM broadcast took place on 24 July 2006. The station continued broadcasting on the AM band until 28 June 2007 when the AM frequency was shutdown. The station is owned by Primedia.
Sister station 567 Cape Talk (Cape Town) commenced broadcasting on the 14th October 1997 on 567 kHz.
Community Radio (Mostly FM) 
A list of all the Community Radio Stations in South Africa is available at
Info from the website that may be of interest :
Community radio in South Africa began in 1994, when the county's broadcasting authority began the continuing process of assessing and granting licence applications from groups as diverse as rural women's cooperatives, Afrikaner communities and a variety of religious bodies.

The country now has over 100 community stations, broadcast in a number of languages.

Their scope and reach varies enormously - from the half-a-million Joburgers who make up the audience of Jozi FM to, for example, the mere one thousand people who listen to Ilitha Community Radio in the Eastern Cape town of Maclear.

Community radio stations


Early regulation of broadcasting was by

The current regulatory body is the Independent Broadcasting Authority, referred to as the ICASA.

Station Identification:

The English Services were known as Radio South Africa; it is now called SAFM.
The Afrikaans Services were known as Radio Suid-Afrika; it is now called Radio Sonder Grense (RSG).

My appreciation to Vaughan Taylor, Gary Deacon.  and Colin Miller for their kind assistance with this page.