Looking Back: New radio service goes on air

The Herald, 1 November 1960

NEW broadcasting transmitters which will enable the African service of the Federal Broadcasting Corporation to “go regional” come into operation today.

A 10kw shortwave transmitter will open in Gwelo to serve the whole of Southern Rhodesia and a medium wave transmitter (337 metres) in Salisbury will cover the city and neighbouring townships.

The Gwelo transmitter will broadcast in the 60-metre band from 6am to 8:10am and from 5:45pm to 9pm and on the 31-metre band from noon until 5:45pm.

QSL card issued by the Federal Broadcasting Corporation in the 1960s. Image: penan.net

The new transmitters will enable broadcasts to Southern Rhodesia in ChiShona and Sindebele to break away from the Lusaka transmitter, which up to now has been covering the whole federation in eight African languages and English.

The Southern Rhodesia regional programmes will originate in studios at Harari (Salisbury), and Luveve (Bulawayo), and will be carried by landline to the transmitters at Gwelo and Salisbury.

The new Southern Rhodesia regional transmitters will broadcast in ChiShona and Sindebele every day of the week.

On Thursday, the main programmes of the day will be in ChiNyanja. A new 20kw shortwave transmitter also comes into operation tomorrow on the “A” programme in Lusaka.


Radio is a very critical communication tool in the socio-economic, cultural, political, technological and/or religious development cycles. Radio is also an important national security component.

Radio was introduced in the then Southern Rhodesia in 1933 with the aim of giving guidance and weather reports. The Southern Rhodesia Broadcasting Service’s (SRBS) target audience was the white settlers. In 1941, a second broadcaster — Central African Broadcasting Service (CABS) was introduced.

Since then radio has evolved with the changes in technology to become a major vehicle in promoting developmental policies at Government and community levels. Apart from creating content that informs and educates, radio also offers entertainment and creative platforms for diverse audiences.

QSL received for shortwave reception of Radio 3 service in New Zealand, 1995
© Radio Heritage Foundation, Chris Mackerell Colleciton

Today, radio transmission is not just a monopoly of the national broadcaster (Zimbabwe Broadcasting Services). There are private players providing radio services. Community radio licenses will also be issued.

The other players include Star FM, Capitalk 100.4 FM, Diamond FM, Nyaminyami FM and ZiFM stereo.

Modern Zimbabwe station logos

Whereas Shona, Ndebele and English were the major languages of transmission, today, all of the country’s 16 national languages are now used to broadcast. The 75 percent local content policy has resulted in innovation and diversity.

The internet has added a major advantage in broadcasting. Live streaming and other social media packages have enabled radio broadcasters to reach larger audiences globally. Despite the competition, this has created major business opportunities for broadcasters to grow their revenue streams.

© Harare, January 1, 2021

This material remains © Zimbabwe Newspapers (1980) Ltd and is only to be used for non-commercial personal or research use. Any other use requires permission of the copyright holder.

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