The government operates the postal, telegraph, and telephone services through the Department of Posts and Telecommunications. In 2001 there were over five million mainline telephones in use and over seven million cellular phone subscribers. The South African Broadcasting Corp. (SABC), a semigovernmental organization, offers transmissions in English, Afrikaans, and nine Bantu languages. It derives its income from listeners' licenses and from its commercial services. External broadcasting services are operated by the Voice of South Africa. The country's first television service was begun in January 1976 under government auspices. In 1981 a separate channel began broadcasting in native languages. As of 1999, there were 15 AM and 164 FM radio stations and 556 television broadcast stations, with transmissions in English, Afrikaans, and four Bantu languages. In 2000 there were 338 radios and 127 television sets for every 1,000 people. While most major broadcast media are still state-owned, media in South Africa are in the midst of a historic reorganization and change of direction toward privatization and independence.
The English and Afrikaans populations have their own newspapers, distinguished not only by language but also by the variety and slant of news. Nearly all newspapers in South Africa are published by members of the Newspaper Press Union (NPU). Its main function is to hear and decide complaints against the press in cases where the complaints do not fall under the jurisdiction of the courts. The Media Council, established by the NPU, seeks to maintain editorial standards and to deal with infringements of the NPU press code. In 1974, the press code was amended to compel newspapers to exercise "due care and responsibility" in matters relating to racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural groups in South Africa. The largest daily newspapers (with 2002 circulations) are:
|L ANGUAGE C IRCULATION|
|The Sowetan||English 225,000|
|The Star||English 162,316|
|Die Burger||Afrikaans 105,841|
|Cape Argus||English 85,000|
|The Daily News||English 71,600|
The three largest-circulation Sunday newspapers are the English-language Sunday Times (458,000) and Sunday Tribune (113,000) and the Afrikaans-language Rapport (353,000). Ilanga and Umafrika are Zulu-language weeklies. About 150 local newspapers appear weekly or biweekly. Magazines and general periodicals are divided equally between Afrikaans and English.
The constitution provides for free speech and a free press, and the government now is said to respect these rights. News coverage and editorial opinion is vigorous and unfettered.