This is the International Section of
The Broadcast Archive

Maintained by:
Barry Mishkind - The Eclectic Engineer
updated: 5/1/07

Zimbabwean Broadcasting:

From Colin Miller:


Broadcasting began in 1932, when stations were opened in Salisbury and Bulawayo, using callsigns ZEA and ZEB respectively. During World War II, studios were built in the old Post Office building on Manica Road in Salisbury. Early editions of the World Radio Handbook indicate short-wave use by 1 kW stations at Salisbury and Bulawayo, and 1.5 kW transmitters at Gwelo and Umtali. By 1954 the short-wave facilities had been upgraded to two transmitters of 7.5 kW and one of 300 watts at Salisbury. A chain of 2 kW medium wave stations was established in towns along the main railroad route. For economic reasons, these facilities were installed in existing Post Office buildings and linked to the main studios by telephone lines.

During the fifties, the Central African Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was created, consisting of present-day Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. The Federal Broadcasting Corporation was set up in 1958 and was modeled on the BBC. It existed until the end of 1963 when the Federation was dissolved prior to the independence of Malawi and Zambia. Southern Rhodesia then became a separate country, and the Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation was formed.

In the early sixties, all short-wave operations were centralized at the Guinea Fowl site near Gweru. This station is situated almost at the geographical center of Zimbabwe. The first transmitters were rated at 10 and 20 kW. High-powered Thomson transmitters of 100 kW were added in 1968. Vertical-incidence omnidirectional antennas served an area within a 200-mile radius of Gweru.

Also in 1968, the RBC expanded its services further with a number of local community stations. The first of these was known as Radio Jacaranda in Salisbury, named for the purple-blossomed trees that line its streets in September and October. This was followed by Radio Matopos in Bulawayo. The Matopos is a hilly area near the city, and also the site of Cecil Rhodes' grave. The last local station, Radio Manica, was located in Umtali, a picturesque town situated on the Mozambique border.

In 1975 the first FM stations opened in the Salisbury and Bulawayo areas and the network was gradually expanded to 22 stations covering the whole country.

Zimbabwe gained its independence on April 18, 1980, and Robert Mugabe was elected Prime Minister. He has been the country's only ruler since independence. Majority rule was established at last, following many years of White domination and the guerilla war. After independence many towns had their names changed. Salisbury was called Harare, Gwelo became Gweru, and Umtali was renamed Mutare. The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) was created, and is the sole broadcasting authority in the country. Shortly after independence the radio services were reorganized. The General Service was renamed Radio 1, while the African Service was known as Radio 2.

Today, the ZBC operates four radio channels. Radio 1 broadcasts for 19 hours a day in English, thus covering a broad spectrum of listeners. Programs include news and information, a variety of music, light entertainment, sport, comedy, quizzes and drama.

Radio 2 also broadcasts for 19 hours a day, in Shona, Ndebele and other vernacular languages. The station serves the majority of the rural and urban population that is largely Black. Two thirds of music played on Radio 2 is produced locally. The station's program lineup includes discussions, features and drama on social, cultural, sporting and economic issues.

Radio 3 is a 24-hour commercial music station aimed at the youth. It provides fast-paced music, entertainment, information and education. The majority of its listeners are young people who are highly receptive.

Finally, Radio 4 is an educational channel, which broadcasts for 19 hours a day in Shona, Ndebele, English and the minority languages of Chewa, Tonga, Venda, Kalanga and Shangani. The audience demographics depends on the nature of the educational programs being broadcast at the time. Radio 4 works closely with the Ministry of Education's Audio Visual Services, as well as other relevant government ministries and non-governmental organizations.

Short-wave transmissions were temporarily discontinued in 1991, as it was felt that the country was adequately covered by FM transmitters. However, in October 1994 relays of Radio 1 and Radio 2 were resumed on a test basis, and on December 5 President Mugabe officially inaugurated the short-wave service at the Guinea Fowl site near Gweru. The site now consists of two log-periodic antennas and two Continental 100 kW transmitters.


Our sincere thanks to Colin Miller, for sharing this information with us.

  • History
  • Regulation
  • Station Identifications

Zimbabwe Broadcast History:

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Early regulation of broadcasting

Station Identification: