Namibian Broadcasting Corporation

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Namibian Broadcasting Corporation
TypePublic Broadcaster
South Africa
FoundedMay 1979 (as the SWABC, adopted current name March 1990)
OwnerGovernment of Namibia
Former names
South West African Broadcasting Corporation
  • National Service (English)

Language Services:

  • Afrikaans
  • Damara/Nama
  • German
  • Oshiwambo
  • Otjiherero
  • RuKwangali
  • Setswana
  • siLozi
  • !Ha
Official website
Namibian Broadcasting Corporation

The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation is the public broadcaster of Namibia. It was established in 1979, under the name South West African Broadcasting Corporation.


Radio was originally broadcast in English and Afrikaans via shortwave from the South African Broadcasting Corporation's facilities in South Africa. The SABC introduced FM services in November 1969, relaying Radio South Africa, Radio Suid-Afrika and Springbok Radio, and establishing a number of services in native languages, including Radio Ovambo, broadcasting in the Kwanyama and Ndonga languages, Radio Herero and Radio Damara Nama.[1] The introduction of Radio Kavango along the northeastern border with Angola followed in February 1976 in the Kwangali, Mbukushu and Gciriku languages.[2]

In 1965, the pro-independence movement, the South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO), began broadcasting a one-hour radio programme from Tanzania on short wave known as The Namibian Hour.[3] It later started broadcasting from Zambia.[4] In 1974, it was renamed Voice of Namibia.[5] By 1986, it was broadcasting from Angola, Congo, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Zimbabwe, as well as from Tanzania and Zambia.[6]

From SABC to SWABC[edit]

SWABC logo 1979-1990

In May 1979 the SABC relinquished control of broadcasting services in the territory, and a new broadcaster was established in its place.[7] This was known as the South West African Broadcasting Corporation (SWABC), in Afrikaans as Suidwes-Afrikaanse Uitsaaikorporasie (SWAUK), came into being.[8] However, 70 per cent of the SWABC's technical personnel were on secondment from the SABC.[9] In addition, a number of its programmes were prepared at the SABC's studios in Johannesburg before being dispatched to Windhoek for transmission.[10]

Under the authority of the South African-appointed Administrator General, the SWABC operated nine "ethnic" radio stations in English, Afrikaans, German, Owambo, Herero, Lozi, Tswana and Damara/Nama, with the national service broadcast only in English and Afrikaans.[11] By March 1985, 85 per cent of the population had FM radio service over 31 transmitting stations.[12]

The SWABC's television service was introduced in October 1981, serving 50 per cent of the population,[13] via 11 transmitters.[12] This comprised a mix of programming in English, Afrikaans and German, 90 per cent of which came from or via the SABC.[14] Programmes were shown locally a week after South Africa.[15] The SWABC received SABC TV programming (which it recorded, edited and rebroadcast) first by using a microwave link, and later via an Intelsat satellite link.[16]

However, Walvis Bay, an enclave of South Africa in Namibia until 1994, received the SABC's TV1 on a low-power transmitter, which was broadcast live via Intelsat from 1986.[15]

Transition to independence[edit]

During the transition to independence in 1989, the SWABC was accused by the United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) of bias in its news coverage, portraying the pro-independence SWAPO party as well as UNTAG in a negative light, while being uncritical of press releases from the Administrator General's office, the police force, and anti-SWAPO parties.[17] It was accused of particular bias towards the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance, with disproportionate coverage given to its press conferences and rallies.[18]

In addition, in July 1989, the Administrator General was given three times as much airtime on SWABC TV as UNTAG.[19] However, while the SWABC had offered UNTAG five minutes of radio airtime daily and ten-minute television slot in May 1989, UNTAG was unable to produce adequate broadcasts and failed to benefit from its allotted airtime until late June.[20]


Following independence in 1990, the new government made the decision to make English the sole language on NBC television, while the existing English-language national radio service was made the main channel for news, sport, public affairs and other programmes.[21] Three months after independence, NBC television began broadcasting entirely in English, while broadcasting hours for radio services in other languages were reduced.[22]

Under the pre-independence agreements, most SWABC staff were able to keep their jobs at the new broadcaster, but they were joined by SWAPO journalists who had previously worked for the Voice of Namibia, leading to accusations of bias and favouritism from both sides.[23]

The NBC was also accused by opposition politicians of favouring SWAPO, with Nora Schimming-Chase, vice-president of the Congress of Democrats, calling it the "Nujoma Broadcasting Corporation", a reference to Namibia's then President, Sam Nujoma.[24] The DTA of Namibia, formerly the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance, has also accused the NBC of giving coverage of political rallies that favour SWAPO at the expense of its rivals.[25]



The NBC operates one 24-hour radio station in English (NBC National Radio, renamed National FM in 2017) and nine so-called Language Services that broadcast between 10 and 15 hours per day in Oshiwambo (Ovambo and Kwanyama; established 1969), Damara/Nama (1969), Otjiherero (1969), Rukavango (1975), Afrikaans (1979 Afrikaanse Radio Diens, renamed Hartklop FM in 2017), German (1979 Deutsches Hörfunkprogramm, renamed Funkhaus Namibia in 2017), Setswana (1981/98), Silozi (1986) and San (ǃHa Radio, 2003).[26]

The majority of radio stations are broadcast from radio studios in Pettenkofer Street, Windhoek, but many Oshiwambo programmes emanate from the studios in Oshakati,[27] the Rukavango service is broadcast from the studios in Rundu, the SiLozi service from Katima Mulilo and ǃHa Radio from Tsumkwe, although these are now available nationwide via digital terrestrial television.[28]


NBC continued the television service of the SWABC introduced in 1981. Since the launch of digital terrestrial television in 2013 there are three television channels (NBC 1, 2 and 3, respectively), primarily in English, but with some programming in Afrikaans, German and indigenous languages (Monday–Thursday, 17:00–17:30 on NBC 1). A number of Deutsche Welle programmes also are relayed by NBC on radio and television.[29]

NBC 1 is also available on the DStv satellite television platform. NBC 2 and 3, however, can only be accessed by the aerial television network through proprietary decoders currently being sold throughout Namibia.[30] There was some discussion regarding the cost of these digital decoders.[31]

It had a monopoly on free-to-air television in Namibia until 2008, when the competitor One Africa Television, a new privately owned television station was launched.


  1. ^ Developmental radio broadcasting in Namibia and Tanzania: a comparative study, Johannes Ndeshihala Amupala University of Tampere, Dept. of Journalism and Mass Communication, 1989, page 18
  2. ^ Annual Report, Department of National Education, 1976, page 77
  3. ^ It is No More a Cry: Namibian Poetry in Exile and Essays on Literature in Resistance and Nation Building, Henning Melber, Basler Afrika Bibliographien, 2004, page 86
  4. ^ Namibia's Long Walk to Freedom: The Role of Constitution Making in the Creation of an Independent Namibia, Marinus Weichers, Framing the State in Times of Transition: Case Studies in Constitution Making, Laurel E. Miller, Louis Aucoin US Institute of Peace Press, 2010, page 98
  5. ^ Encyclopedia of international media and communications, Volume 3, Donald H. Johnston Academic Press, 2003, page 158
  6. ^ Summary of World Broadcasts: Non-Arab Africa, Issues 7322-7373, BBC Monitoring Service, 1986
  7. ^ SWA/Namibia Today, The Service, 1980, page 105
  8. ^ The Laws of South West Africa, J. Meibert, 1979
  9. ^ Southern Africa Political & Economic Monthly, Volume 2, SAPES Publications Project, 1988, page 16
  10. ^ Sub-Saharan Africa Report, Issues 80-86, Foreign Broadcast Information Service., 1985, page 40
  11. ^ Public Broadcasting for the 21st Century, Marc Raboy University of Luton Press, 1995, page 230
  12. ^ a b On Record, Issues 12-20, SWA/Namibia Information Service, 1985, page 6
  13. ^ SWA/Namibia Today, Section Liaison Services, Department of Governmental Affairs, 1988, page 98
  14. ^ Economic development strategies for independent Namibia, Harbans Singh, Wilfred W. Asombang, United Nations Institute for Namibia, 1989, page 26
  15. ^ a b International TV & Video Guide, Richard Paterson, Tantivy Press, 1986, pages 181-183
  16. ^ Namibia Review, Volume 11, Directorate of Production and Publicity, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, 2002, page 16
  17. ^ UN Peacekeeping in Action: The Namibian Experience, Roger Hearn, Nova Publishers, 1999, page 85
  18. ^ An investigation into the extent of impartiality of the South West African Broadcasting Corporation (radio and television news), Namibia Peace Plan 435 (Group), 1989, page 7
  19. ^ Peacekeeping and Public Information: Caught in the Crossfire, Ingrid A. Lehmann, Psychology Press, 1999, page 49
  20. ^ Initiating the "second Generation" of United Nations Operations: UNTAG in Namibia, Randall Harbour, Graduate Institute of International Studies, 1998, page 61
  21. ^ Namibia's information policy, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, 1991, page 22
  22. ^ The role of English in Namibia: A sociocultural and linguistic account, Brian Harlech-Jones in Discrimination Through Language in Africa?: Perspectives on the Namibian Experience, Martin Pütz, Walter de Gruyter, 1995, page 199
  23. ^ From Revolutionary to Regime Radio: Three Decades of Nationalist Broadcasting in Southern Africa, Lebona Mosia, Charles Riddle, Jim Zaffiro in Africa Media Review, Volume 8, Issue 1, African Council for Communication Education, 1994
  24. ^ NBC no show delays CoD Congress start, The Namibian, 2 August 2004
  25. ^ DTA complains about 'biased coverage', New Era, 15 October 2014
  26. ^ Media System and News Selection in Namibia, Andreas Rothe, 2010, p.41-53
  27. ^ "As Long as They Don't Bury Me Here": Social Relations of Poverty in a Namibian Shantytown, Inge Tvedten, Basler Afrika Bibliographien, 2011, page 59
  28. ^ New radio habits in Namibia, SIGNIS, December 15th, 2015
  29. ^ Southern Africa, Deutsche Welle, 18 June 2015
  30. ^ Namibia: NBC goes digital nationwide, GOtv on the field, Balancing Act Africa, 24 October 2013
  31. ^ Funding The NBC: Digital Possibilities, Robin Tyson, The Namibian, 20 January 2013

External links[edit]