Bruce Sherman, Director, Office of Strategy and Development, BBG
Bruce Sherman, Director, Office of Strategy and Development, BBG

In Zimbabwe, Satellite Dishes are Widespread and New Media are Growing Rapidly

Bruce Sherman, Director, Office of Strategy and Development, BBG
Bruce Sherman, Director, Office of Strategy and Development, BBG

Word of mouth and radio remain the primary sources of receiving news and information in Zimbabwe, but satellite ownership and the use of mobile devices to access the Internet are growing rapidly, according to new data issued by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and Gallup.

“Even youth are still turning to radio to get the news on a regular basis,” said Jenna Levy, Consulting Specialist, Gallup, “though they are more likely also to use new media.”

About 6 in 10 Zimbabweans say they have a working radio in their home (59.8%), and half have a working television (47.2%). Mobile phones, by far the most popular platform for accessing the Internet in Zimbabwe, are even more prevalent, with 75.6% reporting that they have a mobile phone in their household. In urban areas, mobile penetration approaches 100%.

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“The notion that Zimbabwe is a radio-only market is outdated,” said Sonja Gloeckle, Africa Research Analyst, International Broadcasting Bureau, adding that “new media helps us reach out directly to people in Zimbabwe”

For the past several years, Zimbabwe has been a leader in Sub-Saharan Africa for satellite dish ownership, and this trend has further intensified. About two-thirds of Zimbabwean television owners say their TVs receive its signal via an individual satellite dish (65.8%) or shared satellite dish (2.0%), while a similar percentage (68.2%) use an antenna. TV has become a key means of reaching urban Zimbabweans, with nearly half watching television at 8 p.m. and just 7 percent listen to the radio at that time.

Past-week Internet use has more than doubled in the past year, standing now at 22 percent, and 9 in 10 regular Internet users go online through a mobile phone. Three quarters of regular Internet users name Facebook among their top three websites for news and information.

More than 8 in 10 of Zimbabweans who have their own mobile phones or have access to one (85.1%) say they used their phone to send an SMS/text message in the last week. Approximately one in four users accessed the Internet (25.6%), accessed Facebook or other social media (24.3%) or listened to the radio (24.1%) on their phones.

The BBG’s global audience research program is conducted in partnership with Gallup. The data on Zimbabwe, like that on Iran, Tibet, Burma, Nigeria and Indonesia released earlier this year, shows how communications technologies are evolving even as traditional broadcasts in TV and radio continue to play a significant role in news distribution. This research informs the current and future operations of the agency’s broadcasts in 59 languages to more than 100 countries.