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The genesis of public relations in British colonial practice.


This paper fills a gap in the documentation of the evolution of public relations in the 20th century by demonstrating how the British Colonial Office employed public relations strategies and tactics in the administration of an African colony. This policy development traced primarily through British Colonial Office and Ministry of Information written and film archives in London, Zimbabwe and Zambia demonstrates how colonial officials in an Africa colony in conjunction with civil servants at the Colonial Office in London developed and implemented public relations policies, strategies and tactics on an ad hoc basis in response to the need for colonial officials to communicate and manage relations with colonial subjects in an intercultural setting.

The case study is that of the British colony of Northern Rhodesia, the evolution of government public relations activities follows three distinct phases, before, during and after World War II and covers political public relations as well as community development activities and "education for citizenship." [c] 2001 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

This paper describes the practice of public relations in an intercultural setting from a British, not an American experience. For here I describe how the British colonial administration used radio, film and print to manage communication (or as is favored today, "manage relationships," with the African population of Northern Rhodesia. It was a time when the ''new media'' was not computer-mediated communication and satellite delivered television, but the press, broadcasting and the cinema. In 1936 one of the two themes selected for the conference of the International Colonial Institute was "the means of spreading thought and ideas in the colonies more particularly by the Press, Broadcasting and the Cinema." [1] And as the Secretary of State for Colonies, W.G.A. Ormsby-Gore told the conference: "What railways and steamships were in their far-reaching effects to the nineteenth century world, cinema, wireless and the cheapening of the daily press are to the twentieth century." [2]

The case study is that of the British colony of Northern Rhodesia and the evolution of government public relations activities follows three distinct phases, before, during and after World War II. Broadly speaking other British colonies would have had similar experiences particularly with the setting up of war propaganda machinery under Colonial Office and Ministry of Information direction, and, after the war, the conversion of this structure to peace time ends. After the war the dominant influences were both political and developmental. The Colonial Development and Welfare Act (1941) and Mass Education in African Society (1944) [3] were key steps in the mass education (a.k.a. adult education or community development) push that came after the war and resulted in government information campaigns using all media to influence African attitudes and behavior in areas such as agriculture, animal husbandry, health and urban lifestyles. Political public relations on the other hand was concerned with education for cit izenship directed at the better educated, the new opinion leaders. The key policy document for this initiative was Education for Citizenship in Africa. [4]

What distinguishes Northern Rhodesia from other African colonies is the intensity of interest shown by the Northern Rhodesian administration in communicating with the African population and its willingness to carry experiments in broadcasting and film production further than most other African colonies. Driving the administration was its desire to pacify a volatile public, African miners on the Copperbelt.

2. Before World War II

Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, was first brought under the administration of the Colonial Office in 1923; the majority of its population were Bantu--speaking Africans with the largest language groupings being the Lozi, the Bemba, the Tonga and the Nyanja. A small group of white settlers had a limited form of self-government with the Colonial Office responsible through a hierarchy of colonial civil servants ranging from governors to district officers for administering the African population. These settlers hoped to ultimately gain political control and were wary of any Colonial Office policy initiatives which hinted that political power would ultimately be ceded to the African majority.

A distinctive feature of this colony was the relatively early urbanization of a large number of Africans who were engaged in mining on the Copperbelt where there were a number of African compounds. It was a disturbance among these miners that first led the Colonial Administration to look for ways to manage communication with these publics. In 1935 African miners in Mufulira, Nkana and Luanshya went on strike as a result of an inadequately publicized change in the tax law. A subsequent inquiry found that "an important predisposing cause" was Watch Tower literature, apart from which there was very little for Africans to read. The teachings of this "dangerously subversive movement" had brought "civil and spiritual authority, especially native authority, into contempt." Watch Tower (an offshoot of the American Jehovah's Witness sect) sought to explain to the bewildered labor migrant in millenarian and apocalyptic terms, the new technological world dominated by the White man. Watch Tower predicted the collapse of white authority and the establishment of a new society in which the Black man would triumph. At the core it was anti-authority and anti-government. Before the strike the mining compounds were saturated with cheap literature abounding in such sentiments. The spread of Watch Tower, a religion of the book, was seen as proof of the influence of literature.

2.1. Print media

In an effort to manage communication primarily with African miners, the Northern Rhodesian administration, started the production of a government newspaper for Africans in 1936 and, in association with missionaries, an African Literature Committee in 1937.

Mutende (the Bemba word for "peace") designed for an African population of 1,366,00 with 10% literacy, [5] was published in simple English and the four African languages spoken by the largest groups of people, Bemba, Nyanja, Lozi and Tonga. It was also designed to influence the less educated Africans who might otherwise be overly influenced by nontraditional leaders who were emerging from the ranks of the better educated. The editor, a District Officer, was responsible to the Secretary for Native Affairs, with some matters being referred upwards to the Chief Secretary and the Governor. Every month copies were forwarded to England to the Secretary of State for Colonies. The editor contributed articles, explanations of new laws and editorial comment. He was assisted by two African clerks, the number later being increased as the paper expanded and became fortnightly during World War II. The African clerks translated material into the selected languages, wrote articles in these languages and translated letters a nd other African contributions into English so that they could be vetted. Mutende contained world news, local news and articles, English lessons and letters from Africans, a women's page, a health page a children's page, competitions, job and commercial advertisements and sport.

By 1939 the editor was receiving between three hundred and five hundred letters a month. [6] The most popular topics were education, chiefs and their failure to write to Mutende, beer drinking, the bad behavior of women, and the "machona" or lost ones (labor migrants who did not keep in touch with their villages). [7] However, there were complaints from some that Mutende did not allow them full freedom of expression: they were not free to criticize chiefs, Europeans and the government. [8] Nonetheless Mutende was providing a platform for new opinion leaders, the educated Africans to demonstrate their language and polemical skills and was also acting as a long-term agent of change, inducting its readers into the social norms of western society.

The African Literature Committee established in 1937 was guided by the recommendations of Canadian Margaret Wrong of the International Committee on Christian Literature for Africa (ICCLA), a sub committee of the International Missionary Council. Wrong toured south and central African in 1936, partly financed by the Carnegie Corporation, reviewing the literature needs of Africans. Wrong recommended that Africans be consulted on every part of the literature production process, a point on which Northern Rhodesia's Chief Secretary strongly agreed.

Reporting on the literature tastes of Africans Wrong said, "Simple people" were more interested in fables and short stories from real life than novels, only the more "sophisticated" were interested in fiction. Wrong insisted on the need to encourage general literature in the local languages because it would be "many years before the rank and file of the population will be able to read English". [9]

The brief of the African Literature Committee was to promote the production and distribution of literature in both simple English and the four official local languages. One task the committee set itself was to recommend simple works in English to local libraries and bookshops; its recommendations included books on health and hygiene, on mother craft, animal stories, fairy tales and fables and some British adventure yarns like The Prisoner of Zenda and Martin Rattler. Books translated into local languages were Up From Slavery, Aggery the African, Lives of Eminent Africans and Kulera Mwana (Bringing Up a Child). Literary competitions advertised in Mutende were also held to encourage African authors.

2.2. Electronic media

The Copperbelt strike also served to focus the Colonial Office's attention on the potential of the electronic media in adult education. Adult education was a popular topic in the 1930s, partly because of the success of workers' education programs in Britain and partly because of the reputed success of crash mass education programs in Russia which had a large illiterate population. Both films and broadcasting were seen as a way of "spreading thought among the natives" and jumping the stage of illiteracy.

The launching of the BBC's Empire Service was a stimulant to colonial broadcasting activities. Successive Secretaries of State emphasized the great importance they placed on the reception in the colonies of the Empire Service, which was designed for white populations under the British flag and those of the native intelligentsia who had the educational background to appreciate the broadcasts which were "representative of British tradition and sentiment." [10]

The BBC urged the "institutionalisation" of broadcasting which should be treated as an "organic interest" in the Colonial Office and in all the colonies. It should be given departmental status for "the potentialities of broadcasting are comparable with the demands of the major social services and of defence." [11] In 1936 a committee under the chairmanship of the Earl of Plymouth undertook a thorough study of colonial broadcasting. The Plymouth Report recommended the promotion of the Empire Service for cementing the ties of empire and the development of local broadcasting services as part of the machinery of civilization and administration in Africa." [12] In commending the Plymouth Report to colonial governors, the new Secretary of State, Ormsby-Gore, drew special attention to paragraph 14 which described colonial broadcasting as an "instrument of advanced administration" to be used particularly: "for the enlightenment and education of the more backward sections of the population and for their instruction i n public health, agriculture, and so forth" [13] Several proposals for broadcasting were mooted before the war but by September 1939 the colony had only got as far as a localized station in Barotseland which broadcast messages from Mongu to outstations which had been supplied with receivers with the aim of keeping them in close touch with headquarters.

Africans on the Copperbelt had been exposed to Hollywood entertainment films since 1928 while the Colonial Office had also been interested in the use of films in adult education since 1927. In 1931 the open-air native compound cinema at Luanshya had an average weekly attendance of two thousand and the open-air cinema at Nchanga, one thousand, two hundred. Films had been precensored in South Africa but were subject to additional censorship in Northern Rhodesia having to be passed by a Censorship Board. Films would be banned if they were thought likely "to rouse undesirable racial feeling... " or "to bring into disrepute the Forces of the Crown and His Majesty's uniform... " [14] Africans were not admitted to European cinemas in Northern Rhodesia.

In 1927 Hanns Vischer, Secretary to the Advisory Committee on Education in the Colonies, recommended to the Colonial Office Conference that films be used to help spread general knowledge about "health and economic development." [15] The International Missionary Council's report into the effect of industrialization on African society, conducted on the Copperbelt in 1932 had recommended the use of the cinema to help the illiterate African to adjust to the coming of western capitalist society with its alien social and economic standards. Leader of the inquiry, J. Merle Davis, recommended in the report that an experiment be conducted into the use of the cinema as an instrument for "educational and cultural adjustment". [16] The Bantu Educational Kinema Experiment (BEKE), mainly financed by the Carnegie Corporation was the result. The BEKE made 16mm adult education films on such subjects as Tax, Hides, Tea and The Post Office Savings Bank in Tanganyika and then toured the villages of east and central Africa showin g films from the back of a lorry.

3. Government propaganda in Northern Rhodesia during World War II

Both World Wars served as catalysts for the growth of government propaganda. Although the government agencies which were set up to produce what turned out to be some highly successful propaganda for the British cause during 1914-1918 War were disbanded, by World War lithe public relations department was being recognized as a new branch of administration. The Colonial Office had had a Press Officer since 1931 and on the eve of the war was giving serious consideration to "the idea of Public Relations Department." [17]

In 1939 the British Government established the Ministry of Information (MOI) to direct the nation's war propaganda effort. Colonial war propaganda came under the jurisdiction of the Empire Publicity Division of the MOI. In 1940 the Colonial Office set up its own Public Relations Branch. So from 1940 there were two government propaganda agencies concerned with assembling a propaganda machine for the colonies; the MOI provided the finance, facilities and means of production for Colonial Office publicity. The Colonial Office had ultimate control in that the Secretary of State was responsible for overall policy, and the Public Relations Branch had to vet all MOI material before it was sent out. At the Colonial Office there was some opposition to the appointment of a public relations officer from those who either thought that it was infra dig for the Colonial Office to have to be concerned with influencing public opinion or those who thought that public relations meant hoodwinking the public. [18]

The Colonial Office Public Relations Branch was edgy about the whole concept of war propaganda to the colonies. Propaganda designed to discredit the Germans might all too easily prove a two-edged sword. The Public Relations Branch worked with the Empire

Publicity Division at the Ministry to work out a basic propaganda formula which would be acceptable to Whitehall. The ultimate aim was to build up a calm, confident and loyal public opinion in the colonies, which would provide the backbone of the war effort. The core message had three interrelated elements: (1) to promote loyalty to Britain in particular and the Empire in general; (2) to encourage firm confidence in the inevitability of an Allied victory under the leadership of Great Britain; and (3) to convince the colonies that only through such a victory could they realize their moral and material aspirations. [19]

When war broke out the Secretary of State cabled Northern Rhodesian and other colonial governments requesting that an information officer be appointed immediately. Northern Rhodesia's first information officer, Kenneth Bradley understood his job was to keep Northern Rhodesia's plural society, "fully and correctly informed about the war and the activities of Government, to counteract rumors, and to stimulate the war effort..." [20]

In April 1942 after the appointment of a new information officer, Harry Franklin, Northern Rhodesia became the first colonial information office to officially add public relations to its functions.

Franklin was left to work out the details and the practical application of his new brief after having been provided with a working definition. As he told the Colonial Office public relations officer, Noel Saline, public relations

...implies liaison between the Public and Government and the keeping of a finger on the pulse of the public both African and European, so as to be in a position to report to Government the people's criticisms, reaction to existing or contemplated measures and so on. [21]

Not only were the objectives of the Information Office extended in 1942 but also the Information Officer was officially directed "to expand services, to increase efficiency and to apply for whatever funds should be necessary to obtain staff and equipment for the purpose." [22] Franklin proceeded to transform his office into a department by setting up a film section equipped with a mobile cinema van, and a photographic section, and hiring a broadcasting officer and an assistant information officer. [23]

3.1. Press

Mutende was taken over by the Information Office in 1940 and continued to be the government's main means of putting propaganda across to the African population, but the Office also began to produce its own printed propaganda in the form of newsletters, leaflets, pamphlets and posters. Propaganda was also communicated personally. Lectures and lecture notes designed to form the basis of regular lectures to educated Africans were sent to welfare and education officers, compound managers and missions. In rural areas more emphasis was placed on personal rather than mass communication with district officials being encouraged "to discuss war news with leading Africans, both at their bomas and when on tour." Provincial Commissioners compiled monthly public opinion reports from information sent in by District Officers. These reports were sent to the MOI and, within Northern Rhodesia copies were circulated to the Chief Secretary, the Secretary for Native Affairs, the Information Officer and the Director of Intelligence and Censorship. The Colonial Office also forwarded the Northern Rhodesia Information Office's Progress Reports to the MOI to provide feedback. [24]

Early war issues of Mutende carefully explained the causes of the war and this was followed by an essay competition on the topic. District Officers were told to refer to the relevant pages of Mutende to get the official line.

Initially it was the policy of colonial propagandists in London and Lusaka to concentrate on the merits of British rule rather than the sins of the Germans. The Public Relations Branch at the Colonial Office, in particular, suspected that war propaganda might prove to be a Pandora's box out of which might come popping all sorts of potentially explosive issues. But, when, at the beginning of the war, many Africans did not appear to be sufficiently concerned at the prospect of German rule, the Northern Rhodesian Administration adopted fear tactics, focusing on the sins of the Germans. Africans were told that under German rule they would be denied education and reduced to slavery. The predicted boomerang effect did occur as emerging African leaders like Dauti Yamba and Harry Nkumbula wrote in to Mutende to complain that the position of the African under British rule was already tantamount to slavery. [25]

A number of messages of loyalty from the various tribal chiefs were printed in Mutende, they also broadcast from Lusaka and Nairobi, periodically visited the Copperbelt and were sent to Nairobi and Burma to visit the troops. The new leaders, the educated vanguard, were also invited to address the soldiers and participated in fund raising with these activities reported in Mutende.

Mutende specifically assisted the war effort by encouraging recruitment through explaining conditions of service and by giving full coverage to African troops. During the course of the war Africans became increasingly vocal in Mutende about racial discrimination, pointing out that they were contributing just as much as Europeans to the war effort, but they were still the subject of discrimination.

In 1943 the Northern Rhodesia Government introduced African regional councils later called provincial councils and Mutende provided edited reports on the proceedings a further step in the opening of a channel for dialogue between the government and the African population. The African Literature Committee continued to operate from the Copperbelt on a voluntary basis during the war with an exponential increase in output. The number of copies of publications sponsored by the Committee increased from 3,000 in 1939 to 21,000 by [1944. [26] In 1940 the Chief Secretary rejected a proposal that the Committee should come under the control of the Information Office. There was a feeling that information, propaganda and literature were not compatible bedfellows.

3.2. Electronic media

Concern about rumors disturbing African miners on the Copperbelt led ultimately to the setting up of a government broadcasting station to broadcast war news to Africans. The Western Province Provincial Commissioner asked a European radio ham in Luanshya to start a radio news service to the Mine compound and Luanshya Township location; this commenced in October 1939 and by December another station was being operated at Nkana by another European radio enthusiast. [27] Programs were broadcast twice weekly in Bemba, Nyanja and Lozi. African announcers were used, and broadcasts also continued from the post office at Mongu in Barotseland. The programs consisted of news broadcasts prepared by the Information' Officer and talks by the District Commissioner at Kitwe whose scripts were checked by the Provincial Commissioner.

The Mining Corporations fitted receiving sets and loudspeakers in the compounds at Chingola, Luanshya, Mufulira and Nkana. Elsewhere a start was made in equipping beerhalls, recreation centers, mission stations and bomas with communal sets. Europeans were asked to allow African employees to listen in on the household set.

Encouraged by the success of the experiment the Northern Rhodesian Administration started a new government broadcasting station in Lusaka on 18 September 1940 with an African drum providing the tuning in and interval signal.

Broadcasting during the war had been essentially experimental as few Africans had access to radios and numerous technical troubles interfered with transmission. Most listened in on communal sets; at the end of the war there were estimated to be 200 or 300 community receivers in welfare halls, and bomas throughout the country. At most only 20 or 30 Africans could afford the luxury of owning a personal radio. Halls were crowded and noisy, the receivers rarely properly adjusted, the program in each language did not last longer than seven to ten minutes before there was a switch and the broadcast repeated in another language. Information Officers, Bradley and Franklin, were both enthusiastic, however, about the potential of radio for mass education after the war.

World War II hastened the use of the cinema for propaganda, information, education and entertainment in rural Northern Rhodesia-as in many less remote parts of the world. In 1939 the Ministry of Information established the Colonial Film Unit "to make and distribute films mainly about the British and Colonial war effort for audiences chiefly in Africa". [28] The CFU came under the Ministry's Films Division, which had grown out of the Crown Film Unit.

It was not possible to send filmmakers to Africa till 1945 so the majority of the CFU's wartime films did not have African settings. An attempt to get round this problem was the Raw Stock Scheme introduced in 1941. Under this scheme some officials in the colonies were provided with cine cameras and 16mm raw stock so that they could send back African footage to Britain for processing editing and titling. By 1944 there were 115 films carrying the CFU logo.

In 1943, Information Officer, Harry Franklin, set up a film section and acquired two mobile cinema vans, with one being loaned by the Nyasaland Tea Marketing Board. Films included British News, propaganda and general interest films supplied by the British Council and the MOI. The number of recruits coming forward was equated with the showing of cinema van movies. Numbers increased when films were being shown and when the van broke down the numbers dropped off. The film section, under the direction of Louis Nell, produced some films of its own: several recruiting films and a "target film" to assist in the War Charities Drive

The Northern Rhodesian Information Department received commendations from the Ministry of Information for its proactive and innovative approach to its wartime role. It increased considerably in size, scope and status being elevated from an office to a department and was the first of the colonial information offices to officially add public relations to its job description. [29] The Northern Rhodesian Information Department did more than just inform it also sought to "engineer consent" to government policies. Again the Copperbelt appears to have been the key. Both European and African miners went on strike in 1940 and there was considerable agitation from the left-wing leadership of the mineworkers union until their arrest in 1942. It was in 1942 that the War Cabinet decided to add public relations to its gazetted activities, and it was fear of copper production being disturbed that led to the establishment of the Lusaka broadcasting station.

4. After World War II

After the war the Northern Rhodesian Information Department turned its attention to community development activities directed at the mass of the population and political education targeted at opinion leaders, in line with developments in Colonial Office policy.

When the Ministry of Information was phased out at the end of the war the Colonial Office assumed full responsibility for public relations in the colonies. Arthur Creech-Jones, appointed as Secretary of State for Colonies in 1946, considered that as the government information department was "an integral part of modem administration", [30] greater emphasis should be placed on "information and public relations work both at home and in the Colonies". [31] The Public Relations Branch of the Colonial Office was completely restructured and considerably enlarged with its name being changed to Information Department.

The functions of the Colonial Office Information Department were outlined in an office handbook in 1948. Colonial information departments were expected: to assist in the development and improvement of colonial information departments; and to maintain and promote good relations between the Colonies and Britain "by giving them information about British life and achievement, by explaining relevant government policy, and by trying to prove that the Western democratic way of life has more to offer than Communism". [32] Colonial information policy was now being developed in the context of the Cold War and there is, too, a hint of approaching decolonisation; colonies would need to be wooed so that after achieving independence they would stay in the Commonwealth, within the British sphere of influence.

In 1946 the Northern Rhodesian administration decided that "Information Department" was the more suitable title because "Public Relations Department" suggested functions that were purely local. In the 1946 Annual Report, the Northern Rhodesian department outlined its objectives which followed closely those recommended for Colonial Information departments by Olivier Stanley in a dispatch to Governor Wellington in 1945, and those outlined in "The Work of Information Departments in the Colonies" (l948). [33] The Northern Rhodesian department's objectives included: keeping the Northern Rhodesia population informed of government actions and policies, assisting in an ancillary capacity with adult education and development campaigns and supplying information about Northern Rhodesia for use by the Colonial Office in domestic, foreign and Commonwealth propaganda, and aiding the Colonial Office Information Department in the projection of British colonial policy and the British way of life to the inhabitants of Norther n Rhodesia. (Northern Rhodesia added an extra function, the promotion of tourism.) [34]

After the war the Information Department was caught up in the controversy over closer union in Central Africa. Throughout the continent as African nationalist activity accelerated the British government began to place more emphasis on giving Africans training in local government in preparation for eventual self-government. This policy was reflected in the report Education for Citizenship in Africa (1948), [35] the political offspring of the Mass Education report, which had noted that ideas about citizenship in Africa would have to be reformulated in view of the British government's policy of gradual progress towards selfgovernment. Education for Citizenship in Africa explored this theme further, first surveying the enormity of the task; the implanting of democratic" habits of mind and habits of action" in the African peoples, a process that had been slow and evolutionary in the west - spread out over several centuries, would have to be accomplished in a matter of decades in Africa.

Post War public relations developments took place amid the clamor by the white settlers for closer union with Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland in a Central African Federation, which would ensure that white settlers would gain political control. Southern Rhodesian white settlers already had responsible government but in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland with fewer white settlers there was an expectation on the part of the African population that they would gain independence and the upper hand in the contest with white settlers. The struggle for control had its impact on each of the public relations channels as well as in the Information Department itself. By 1948 as a federation became imminent, the Information Officer was told by his superiors that he had to get along with the white politicians and found it increasingly difficult to continue in the job.

After World War II, Mutende became the center of a political row as the settlers felt its reporting was prejudicial to the settler cause and fought to gain greater influence over editorial policy. Meanwhile the government-controlled Mutende continued in its heavy paternalistic style. When Africans opposed government actions or plans the paper persistently took the view that it was because in their childlike simplicity they did not understand the issues involved. The paper played a crisis management role in the case of two strikes on the Copperbelt, one in 1948 and the other in 1951. In 1952, a year before the establishment of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Mutende was closed down.

In 1948 the work of the African Literature Committee was put on a professional basis with the establishment of the Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland Publications Bureau with funds from the Colonial Development and Welfare Vote. Now the "pernicious literature" to be combated included Communist publications as well as Watch Tower literature. Another objective was "indirectly providing the rising intelligentsia with a happy and useful outlet for their abilities, and bringing them in with us on Development in a positive way", [36] an objective in line with the recommendations of Education for Citizenship in Africa. This objective was only partially realized as African opinion leaders who had books published by the Bureau also played prominent roles in the African National Congress, the political party formed to win African control of Northern Rhodesia in opposition to the hegemonic ambitions of white settlers.

4.1. Electronic media

The innovative Harry Franklin was instrumental in the setting up in 1948 of a regional Central African Broadcasting Station (CABS). In his proposal to the Public Relations Committee of the Central African Council, Franklin had recommended that all African broadcasting in the three territories should be undertaken by the Northern Rhodesian Information Department in Lusaka and all European broadcasting by the Southern Rhodesian broadcasting Service in Salisbury. The African broadcasting component was financed under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act.

The Central African Broadcasting Station was launched in Lusaka in 1948. To promote reception of the station in the days before the transistor, Franklin prepared a brief for a cheap dry battery, short-wave receiver that the Ever Ready Company agreed to produce. The Saucepan Special introduced in 1949 got its name from its 9-inch round aluminum casing, which made it resemble a saucepan and made individual African radio ownership possible. In the next few years more than 50,000 sets were imported. The Station carried mass education and mass entertainment programs and, was not, as some had wanted, preset to prevent Africans from picking up other stations. By 1950, broadcasting hours had reached 24.5 hr a week with programs being transmitted in six of the main languages.

The settlers were antagonistic towards the African broadcasting station, seeing in it a specter of the Colonial Office policy of Northern Rhodesia for the Africans. As Federation approached, Franklin became unhappy about increasing pressure from the Administration and the settlers to "plug" Federation [37] and resigned in 1951 rather than have to oversee the CABS being used as a propaganda weapon in the cause of the white settlers. The station then proceeded to pour out federation propaganda which aroused considerable African hostility.

The Mass Education report had strongly recommended the production of news films and documentaries as an aid to mass education. Both could help to extend people's horizons and help them to adjust to changing political, economic and social conditions. News film, for example, could assist the press and broadcasting in promoting a ": national" outlook among colonial peoples. [38] Each year the Northern Rhodesian Information Department produced a number of one reel, black and white 16mm silent newsreels, the Northern Rhodesia News and, similar but in color, the Northern Rhodesia Gazette. Both had been started during the war and had been designed for African audiences. They were part propaganda and part informative concentrating on local ceremonial occasions, the visits of important people and local news. From 1949 the newsreels changed their focus with more emphasis being placed on items that could be placed overseas and so publicize Northern Rhodesia. In 1952 a 35mm sound newsreel in color with a pro federation bias, replaced the News and the Gazette.

Films for Africans came from two sources during this period- a reinvented Colonial Film Unit and the Central African Film Unit. The Colonial Film Unit transferred from the Ministry of Information to the Colonial Office and made adult education films financed under the Colonial Development and Welfare act. Between 1945 and 1950 the CFU had twelve production units in eight countries in east and west Africa, with a brief to make films on subjects suggested by local governments, to train local people and to stimulate local film production. The CFU ceased production in 1955 and provided support services for the local colonial film units which came to be established in some colonies. These films were shown in Northern Rhodesia which, however, had also the benefit of the Central African Film Unit (CAFU), another Franklin initiative, established in 1948 with the agreement of the Central African Council's Public Relations Committee to make instructional films for Africans in the three territories, again with finance coming from the Colonial Development and Welfare vote. [39]

5. Conclusion

This paper has documented the evolution of public relation practice in the first half of the twentieth century in an intercultural and colonial setting. By mid century public relations had become an integral part of colonial administration. And, it is suggested that although the British did not succeed in many of their short-term goals, they did notch up some achievements in public relations practice. Certainly, they achieved the most macro of their post war goals, ensuring that when Northern Rhodesia (as with most of its other colonies), did gain Independence in 1964, the population remained, on the whole, favorably disposed towards the former colonial power. Zambia remains a staunch member of the Commonwealth.

Rosaleen Smyth is a senior lecturer in the School of Professional Communication at the University of Canberra, Australia.


(1.) The International Colonial Institute, Record of the XXIIIrd Meeting held in London on the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th October 1936, Brussels, 1937.

(2.) Colonial (C) Office (O)/323/1400/7004, W.G.A. Ormsby-Gore's speech at International Colonial Institute Dinner, Lancaster House, 8 October 1936.

(3.) Colonial Office, Mass Education in African Society (Colonial No. 186, 1944).

(4.) Colonial Office, Education for Citizenship in Africa (Colonial No. 216, 1948).

(5.) I. Graham, Newspapers in Northern Rhodesia Journal, Northern Rhodesia Journal, 5 (1962-64), P. 427.

(6.) NAZ/SEC/21129. G. Phillips, Memorandum on the publication of the African newspaper of Northern Rhodesia: 'Mutende', 8 July 1939.

(7.) Rhodes House, Oxford, MSS.Afr.s.791 (4) S.R. Denny, Editing a Native Newspaper, broadcast script, 1938.

(8.) G. Phillips, op.cit.

(9.) NAZ/SEC 2/1138, M. Wrong, Memorandum on general literature needs, Northern Rhodesia, 28 October 1936.

(10.) CO 323/1338/5301/23, The British Broadcasting Corporation introductory memorandum on broadcasting and the Colonial Empire, Broadcasting House, 25 October 1935.

(11.) Ibid.

(12.) H. Matheson, Broadcasting in Africa, Journal of the Royal African Society, 34, (137) (1935), 387.

(13.) Interim report of a Committee on Broadcasting Services in the Colonies (Plymouth Report) (Colonial No. 139, 1937), p.5.

(14.) L.S. Amery, confidential circular, 8 January 1927.

(15.) H. Vischer, The educational use of cinematograph films, Annex 1, Colonial Office Conference, May 1927, Summary of Proceedings and Appendixes, (Cm. 2883-4, 1927), p.28.

(16.) CO 323/12/12253/30141, J.E.W. Flood, minute, 8 November 1934.

(17.) CO/323/1660/6281, Sir Cosmo Parkinson, Permanent Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, to A.P. Waterfield, Civil Service Commission, 10 June 1939.

(18.) CO 875/20/96599, note by public relations officer, Noel Sabine, on the future of colonial publicity, 4 October 1944.

(19.) Ministry of Information (INF) 1/555, Plan of propaganda for the Colonies, by H.V. Usill and sent to Sabine, 13 May 1942.

(20.) Northern Rhodesia Newsletter, No. 163, 18 March 1941.

(21.) CO 875/7/5281/22D, Franklin to Sabine, 4 September 1942.

(22.) Northern Rhodesia Information Department, Annual Report, 1946, p.3.

(23.) H. Franklin, The Flag-Wagger (London: 1974), p.165. From July 1942 the Office was described as the Information and Public Relations Department. And see pp. 260-261.

(24.) Zimbabwe (Z) Archives (A)/s935/37/l, Northern Rhodesia Information Office, Progress Report No. 2, 28 October 1939.

(25.) Mutende No. 150, 7 October 1943, p.2; Mutende No. 164, 20 April 1944, p.8.

(26.) Northern Rhodesia Legislative Council, Debates, 29 November 1945, cc. 142-143

(27.) NAZ/SEC 3/98, Charles Miller to P.C. Ndola, 16 October 1939.

(28.) W. Sellers, The production and use of films for public educational purposes in British African territories, in Rencontres Internationales; Le cinema et l'Afrique au Sud du Sahara, (Brussels Exhibition, 1958), p.3.

(29.) NAZ/SEC 2/1122, Franklin, Confidential memorandum for Information Officers' Conference; Post-War Future of Information Departments of Colonies, 6 September 1943.

(30.) NAZ/SEC 3/134, Creech-Jones to Officer Administering Northern Rhodesia, 15 July 1948.

(31.) NAZ/SEC/3/134, Ivor Thomas for S/S to Officer Administering Northern Rhodesia, 17 September 1947.

(32.) Colonial Office, Handbook on public relations work in the colonies, mimeograph, 1948.

(33.) NAZ/SEC 3/134, Dispatch No. 55, Stanley to Waddington, 28 April 1945.

(34.) Northern Rhodesia Information Department, Annual Report, 1946, p.5.

(35.) Education for Citizenship in Africa, op.cit.

(36.) Publications Bureau of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Annual Report, 1949, p.3.

(37.) P. Fraenkel, Wayaleshi (London: 1959), p. 170.

(38.) Mass Education in African Society, op. cit. p.41.

(39.) Smyth, Movies and Mandarins: British colonial film policy in Africa, in V. Porter and J. Curran, Eds. British Cinema History, London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1983, pp. 129-143.
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Author:Smyth, Rosaleen
Publication:Public Relations Review
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 22, 2001
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