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Old Time Radio in South Africa

Springbok Pennant

The Golden Age of Radio came to an end in most of the world in the 1950s and early 1960s due to the rise of Television. In nations that had a tradition of commercial broadcasting, the transition was driven by sponsors' desire to pitch their message over the shiny new medium. Where state-run broadcasting was the rule, governments were anxious to provide their citizens with the latest technology to make their lives seem better.

A notable exception to this trend was seen in South Africa, where television broadcasting was not adopted until 1976. The delay in TV adoption was due to political and cultural concerns specific to South Africa.  One result of this delay was that the Golden Age of Radio in South Africa lasted nearly two decades longer, which meant that South African programming could take advantage of the newest technological and production advances.

Broadcasting was first brought to South Africa in 1924 as a service by the South African Railways. A few independent broadcasters sprung up which were consolidated in 1927 by I.W. Schlesinger, a wealthy businessman with the African Broadcasting Company. The ABC was sold on August 1, 1936, to the South African Broadcasting Corporation which had been created by an act of Parliament.

The SABC held a state monopoly on Radio in South Africa until late 1979. The stations of the SABC included Radio South Africa in English and Radio Sonder Grense (RSG, "Radio Without Borders) in Afrikaans. Programming included news, plays, and British content. In 1950, SABC launched Springbok Radio as a State-owned/For-Profit service.

The development of Springbok began in 1945 but was delayed due to post-War financial constraints. However, once the station launched, commercial time was sold out with a long backlog. As a public service, Springbok was a bilingual service, dividing airtime between English and Afrikaans.

A good deal of Springbok's early programming content was imported from Australia, but as the service became more financially successful, a greater portion was produced within South Africa. Interestingly, perhaps in keeping with Springbok's target audience of suburban white households, the action of many SABC-produced dramas took place in London or New York.

Eric Eigen

Springbok provided its listeners with a generally diverse and high-quality lineup of programming. A typical broadcast day began with a breakfast segment from five to eight in the morning, followed by women's shows from eight until two in the afternoon. Two and a quarter hours of Afrikaans soap operas were followed by a half-hour of chat programming from 4:15 until quarter-of-five. Kids' shows ran until dinnertime programs from 6:15 until seven.  A quarter-hour news break led into Family programming until midnight.

SABC proposed expanding onto television as early as 1953, but the (Afrikaans-dominated) National Party, which was in power, saw television as a threat to Afrikaner culture. Prime Minister Verwoerd compared TV to atomic bombs, stating that:"they are modern things, but that does not mean they are desirable. The government has to watch for any dangers to the people, both spiritual and physical."

When the SABC was allowed to finally explore TV broadcasting in the Seventies, two channels were proposed, one for Whites with both English and Afrikaans and a second TV Bantu station. However, when the service came online in 1976, only the White station aired. Predictably, the popularity of Springbok Radio quickly fell off, and the service went off the air at the end of 1985.

Show Title Dates Program Type Show Premise
Address Unknown 1954-
Could anything be as frightening as a friend or loved one simply disappearing? "Address Unknown" explores that question by reporting interesting cases from the London Missing Persons Bureau.
The Avengers (South African Recordings)   Cold War
The epitome of 1960s British Cool, "The Avengers" TV program scripts were adapted for Radio broadcast in the South African market.
Beyond Midnight 1968-
Horror A completely terrifying offering with supernatural ovetones, "Beyond Midnight" will have you pulling the bedsheets over your head.
Carling Beer Shows & Challenge Into Space 1969-
Adventure Romance Adventure I the Stars and on the Earth below on the Carling Beer sponsored "Carling Country" and "Challenge of Space".
Drama International Anthology The high-quality anthology program "Drama International" was developed in and for South Africa and helped to establish Springbok Radio.
The Eleventh Hour Horror Tales of tombs, doom, and gloom are featured on "The Eleventh Hour."
Epic Casebook 1950-
"Epic Casebook" featuring Inspector Case was a standard whodunit, but it was a well-done whodunit.
Father Dear Father Situation
A single dad with two teenaged daughters, their nanny, and a scheming Ex are a recipe for laughs on "Father, Dear Father."
Friends and Neighbors 1971-
Hilarity ensues in the world of couple Hary and Thelma Duff on the South African sitcom "Friends and Neighbors."
General Motors On Safari 1969-
Adventure Romance Treacherous roads, lions, elephants, and right-hand drive trucks are the basis of "General Motors on Safari."
The Hidden Truth Crime/Mystery The case files of real-life criminologist Leonard Keeler form the basis of "The Hidden Truth", a series of whodunits solved with Keeler's polygraph machine.
Lux Radio (South African) 1967-
Anthology The South African version of "Lux Radio Theater" featured stories from the British stage as well as American, British, and Aussie novels.
Medical File 1968-
Drama Hospital curiosities and heroic doctors inspired the stories for South Africa's "Medical File."
Moon Over Africa 1935-
Professor Anton Edwards is convinced that he will find the lost Atlantis in Africa as we find out in the grown up serial Moon Over Africa.
My Name is Adam Kane 1973-
Cold War
The enemies of Freedom do not stand a chance against the globetrotting secret agent who tells people that "My Name is Adam Kane."
SF-68 1968 Science
The interesting future of classic Science Fiction provides the stories for "SF68."
Squad Cars 1968-
Real police stories are the basis for "Squad Cars", however, they are American cops on South African radio.
Taxi 1969-

The big-city drama and interesting stories from a New York taxi cab come to life on Springbok Radio on "Taxi."

Thirty-Three Half Moon (33 Half Moon) 1965-
"33 Half Moon" is the address of a Private Investigation firm where the Chief, Aubrey Masin, guatantees results no matter how hard-boiled the situation gets.
Vale of Darkness Drama Vale of Darkness is a story of violence and intrigue' based on the adventures of Yugoslavian resistance fighters trying to keep one step ahead of the Nazis.
Walk Softly, Peter Troy 1963-
The world of the Hard-boiled Detective can be a dark and dangerous one, so it is a good idea to "Walk Softly, Peter Troy."

South African Old Time Radio >>

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What a delightful discovery! I am South African by birth but now a US citizen, but lived in SA for sixty seven of my seventy four years. I have learned more about the history of SA radio from your site than any other source. Thank you! I am looking forward to reliving treasured moments from my past. ps I am curious as to why SA is included in otherwise an exclusively American content?

Graham Sourgen

Please can you tell me who played Carrie opposite Adrian steeds Rick in the sunburnt crop? Also any chance that someone has the music from rivierboot tangent? I now live in texas but so loved those radio shows!

Judy Smith

Hello Could you please tell me if I can get hold of an old radio comedy series on cassette or cd. I appeared on a show called Twos Company in the 1970s which was produced by a gentleman called Tom Meehan. I was visiting my brother on holiday near Durban. I was visiting from United Kingdom at the time and had been acting in England, I was only fifteen at the time. I had an audition for Mr Meehan as one of the cast, and I would love to get a copy of that show if possible.I do hope you can help.

Nick Burslem

Who was the radio presenter after midnight? He did all the late night radio

Lancelot Pearson

Can you please share with me the early history of radio 5 ( 5fm ) ,since it's inception in 1975. The original personnel that entertained us, etcetera.

Harold de Wee

I have been trying for years to trace a piece of South African radio comedy which featured a send up of South African cencorship. It featured a government censor reviewing a Shakespear play. He has an assistant called "Mr August" I cannot remember the name of the well known comedian who recorded it, all I can remember about it is the censor's concern over the phrase "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." Can you help. Please put me out of my misery. John

John Taylor

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