In an archipelago of more than 700 islands encompassing more than 100,000 square miles of ocean, with a population of about 330,000 and a thriving tourism industry with an annual traffic of over four million visitors, you would think that there would be more than just two over-the-air TV stations serving the whole of Bahamas; one of which is owned by ZNS Bahamas.
ZNS Bahamas is a national TV and radio broadcasting company operated by the state-owned Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas. ZNS aptly stands for Zephyr Nassau Sunshine, as indeed the two television transmitters of ZNS are the “balmy breeze” (local meaning of the word “zephyr”) that serves fresh daily Bahamas news and entertainment in Nassau and Freeport, two of the most populated islands of the Bahamas.
Apart from the TV stations, ZNS Bahamas also has radio programming. ZNS-1 AM 1540 in Nassau and ZNS-3 AM 810 in Freeport are among the AM radio stations it operates. The ZNS Bahamas FM radios, meanwhile, are ZNS-1 FM 104.5 in both Freeport and Nassau and ZNS-2 FM 107.9 in Nassau.
Being among the top brass of the Bahamas press, ZNS Bahamas proclaims to stick to their company’s core values of “national development, identity and culture; good governance, ethics and integrity; managerial, journalistic and creative freedom; tolerance and respect for diversity; public accountability and transparency; and efficiency and effectiveness.”
The Past and Present of ZNS Bahamas
The Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas introduced ZNS Bahamas as a radio service in 1937 mainly to provide a hurricane warning service especially to far-flung islands of the Bahamas. ZNS was then launched as a division of the colonial government’s Telegraph Department, in time for the coronation of British King George V on May 12, 1937. By the end of the month, ZNS Bahamas was going on air for two hours every day with daily programming consisting of news broadcasted by the British news channel BBC and local news collected from local dailies in Nassau.
For the next 13 years, ZNS Bahamas was funded fully by the government as a non-commercial public service. After 1950, the operator of the network (Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas) began accepting private advertisers to generate revenues that supplemented the annual budget allocation from the government. With a steady stream of both public and private funding, ZNS Bahamas began operating a television service in 1977. It has since built two television transmitters which provide daily Bahamas news broadcasts across the archipelago’s 16 islands.
In 1992, the ZNS Bahamas’ monopoly of the Bahamas press was broken when the newly installed Free National Movement government allowed for the licensing of private radio stations. In 1994, the Bahamas government licensed a Canadian company to operate a cable television and establish Cable Bahamas.
With the enactment of a new law establishing a regulatory body in 2009, the Bahamian government reformed the communications sector once more. In 2010, the Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas underwent a crucial restructuring process to help pave the way for the organization’s new function as a Public Broadcasting Service. This move did not go without the involvement of controversies and public debates since the company was made to downsize their operations and some eighty employees were laid off. The commonly cited reason for the downsizing of ZNS Bahamas was the strain it was putting on the public purse by bringing in little revenue compared to government payouts for maintenance and employees’ salaries.
In 2012, the Bahamian government announced further upgrade in the operations of ZNS Bahamas: the conversion of ZNS television into a world-class digital broadcast facility. ZNS has joined the tide of the technological digitalization that is sweeping the world by storm. The conversion of ZNS from an analog to digital facility is backed by a multi-million project that will make the ZNS updated with the changes sweeping the modern media.
The liberalization of the Bahamas press in 1992 has since paved the way for the growth of several privately owned radio and television stations servicing several of the islands of the Bahamas. There are now 12 privately owned radio stations on New Providence and another five on Abaco, Eleuthera, Exuma, and Grand Bahama, collectively known as the Family Islands.
ZNS Bahamas may have set foot on digital technology, but Cable Bahamas has already begun installing an advanced fiber optic network on both New Providence and Family Islands since 1995. Nine in every 10 Bahamian households now have access to cable services provided by Cable Bahamas, which offers more than 52 programmed channels.
ZNS Bahamas may not be the only broadcast provider currently operating in the Bahamas, but the solid background of ZNS on public radio and television programming keeps it a formidable force in the Bahamas media.