Interview with the Managing Director of Times Group (Blantyre Printing and Publishing Company)
Leonnard W.B Chikadya
Bachelor of Commerce (Accountancy), Polytechnics, UNIM
Master’s in Business Administration (ESAMI & Maastricht)
FCCA (Fellow of Charted Certifies Accountants), U.K
FCMA (Fellow of Charted Management Accountants) U.K
Trainee Accountant with Deloitte
Trainee Lecturer at Malawi College of Accountancy
Chief Accountant Import and Export Malawi Limited
Chief Accountant Lonrho Company
Group Internal Auditor at Tourism Development and Investment Company Limited (TDIC) (Later rebranded as Sunbird Tourism Limited)
Group Financial Controller at TDIC
Group Finance Manager at TDIC
Deputy Chief Executive Officer of TDIC
Acting CEO of Sunbird Tourism Limited
General Manager of Tambala Food Products
General Manager of Malawi Pharmachies Limited
Chief Executive Officer of Blantyre Printing and Publishing Company Limited
Managing Director of Blantyre Printing and Publishing Company
Interview Date: October, 2022
“We are only Media House in the country with footprints in all three media platforms of Print, Electronic and Digital Media.”
My name is Leonnard Chikadya.
I am an accountant by profession and I am currently the Managing Director of Times Group.
The Board of Blantyre Printing and Publishing Company Limited led by the Chairperson, persuaded me to join this Company when it was undergoing financial distress.
My appointment was based on the constructive contributions which I was making as Non-Executive Director of the company to turn round the financial performance of the Company.
I am aware that the board took into account my solid financial skills and prior experience at Sunbird Tourism with the positions I held within Press Corporation.
My experience motivated fellow Directors to gain more confidence and trust that I could offer better solutions to turn round the Company.
I owe the success of the Company during the past 18 years to the confidence and trust of the shareholders and the Board of Directors at that time and present.
Blantyre Printing and Publishing Company Limited which was facing a risk of bankruptcy is now the largest Media House and only Media House in the country with footprints in all three media platforms of Print, Electronic (Television and Radio) and Digital Media.
This performance has not been accidental but was achieved through hard work and strong leadership of the company.
I am a strong advocate that a media house is a vehicle of the voiceless and defenders of the weak against impunity of those in leadership at all levels of society.
I have lived by the principle that media houses must hold leadership to account at all times.
For many years before I joined the Company, the core business of Blantyre Printing and Publishing Company Limited was not media but general printing, book publishing and stationery.
As part of the restructuring of the business, I convinced the board that the Company should focus on media to accelerate the financial turn-round of the Company.
This business strategy assisted the Company to streamline and rationalize its limited resources.
In 2010, I presented to the board a new strategy to expand the Company’s media presence into electronic media.
I lobbied with Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) for a television license and the tender for the license was submitted to MACRA in 2010.
Expecting that I would get the television license, I immediately embarked on resource mobilization campaigns to raise finances for the project.
I approached the American Media Fund who committed to offer Times Television US$2 million both in loan and grant, subject to MACRA issuing the license to Times Television.
Sadly, when MACRA announced the first list of approved licenses in November 2011, Times Television was not issued with the license.
Instead, MACRA had offered licenses to religious organizations.
Times Television lost the opportunity to access funding from American Media Fund but this was only a temporary setback.
I was more determined than ever to lobby for a license for Times Television.
In 2012, the initial license of Times Television was approved by Moses Kunkuyu who was the Minister of Information at the time.
The project to launch the first national privately owned television station commenced immediately after securing the license.
Times Television was formally launched on 11 December 2013 at 14:00 hours (launch date is dubbed 11:12:13:14).
Just because we were the first private television station in the country doesn’t automatically mean we are the best.
It’s true that there are now several TV stations, however, I am not worried about the competition.
What we have managed to do is maintain our standards over the years and therefore create a brand that people can trust.
We have continuously invested in Times TV so that we remain relevant.
In TV, if you have the best content, you will automatically gain a mass following.
We are focused on having the best talent but aside from that, we also challenge the talent we have to generate the best content.
TV should be able to engage the public and inspire them to have a conversation which is what we have managed to do.
It’s unfortunate that TV requires a lot of finances because I would have liked to see more competitors in the market.
The television industry in Malawi like most emerging industries is struggling and facing serious challenges.
Some of these challenges include the rising cost of business due to high inflation rate which is now at 25.5%.
There is also a high cost of finance because broadcasting equipment is expensive.
Shortage of forex, fuel and low power supply also affect the industry.
Lastly, there is a lack of production studios and lack of limited technical skills.
While it is generally accepted that the licensed Free-to air (FTA) networks have provided good variety and diversity for educational, informative and entertainment programs to viewers, the cost of generating content for local television stations is unsustainable.
It is not surprising that most of the local television stations are under threat of closure.
Currently, the more viable business model for television is the Direct Transmission to Home (DTH).
The licensed television stations under DTH include the pay television stations such as Multichoice (Dtsv), Azam. StatTimes, and Zuku TV.
The low financial capacity of local television stations is more pronounced when you consider that leading television stations including Times television cannot afford to buy rights of the latest films from foreign film production houses.
The few local stations that show films do so using pirated copies which is a risk that Times television cannot undertake as a reputable television station.
Winning this award has been humbling for me as the Managing Director of this successful Media House.
Given the history of Times Group which was first established in 1895 as the first print media in Malawi, it is not surprising that Times has won several awards over the years.
Times television just like BNL Times that publishes the newspapers, is an award winning station.
Times television has won MISA awards as the best local television station since MISA launched the Award seven years ago.
Times Television is the only television station that has won this Award as the Best Electronic Media House-Television back to back for seven years since the award was launched by MISA in 2015. In 2020, I was also personally honored by MISA when they awarded me a Lifetime Achiever Award.
I was therefore more thrilled in 2021 when Times television won the Award as the best Electronic Media House-Television and Times Group won the award as the best Print Media House and the individual journalists won more awards than any other media house in the country.
These awards demonstrate one important fact that Times Group places more emphasis on professionalism and continuous creativity and innovation.
Recently, MACRA has intensified its drive to enforce compliance of licensed operators including radio and television to ensure full settlements of license fees and related broadcasting fees.
Since its inception, Times television has strived to ensure that recruitment of its presenters and hosts is based on merit.
This is a talent based industry.
To identify the best talent, the station organizes auditions for some of the potential employees to showcase their talents before being employed.
It is a fact that Times television has the highest concentration of the best talents of personalities than any other media house.
This group of talented journalists are responsible for promoting good content and programs of Times television station.
As expected, management of all these diverse business interests demands more attention to detail.
Each of the business portfolios has a responsible Business Manager who reports to me for strategic guidance and direction.
The public are more familiar with the media houses for obvious reasons.
The media houses interface with the public more often and are vehicles for various stakeholder’s interests.
The management of the media houses is simplified using multi-skilled journalists.
I encourage all journalists to contribute to all media platforms.
We have core dedicated members of staff for Times television, Times radio and newspapers but all are expected to offer their services to all media platforms including Digital media.
Indeed, the internet revolution has changed the trajectory of the media industry like many industries.
However, the role of traditional media is here to stay for many years ahead.
Times Group has won public trust and confidence because of reliability and credibility of sources of news carried across all its platforms.
I agree that social media is now the best online source of news, entertainment and information.
Nevertheless, the role of traditional media like Times Group will continue to serve as a referee to validate the truthfulness and accuracy of news stories.
In fact, the internet has offered a new opportunity to traditional media houses to adapt to social media.
As a result, Times Group has developed a comprehensive Digital Media platform to ensure that some of its services are warehoused through internet based services including platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.
Times Group is continuously monitoring the developments to stay ahead.
Times Television is currently working on a proposal to launch the second channel of Times television that will focus on entertainment and sports.
Consultations are underway involving key stakeholders including a team of experts to assist in building the broadcasting infrastructure, signal carriers and producers of content.
It is expected that the second television channel will be called “Times-E” and it will be ready for launch before the end of 2023.
Politics affects the work of every media house and Times Group is not an exception.
The ownership of the company has been associated with some political leaning.
Hence, the company has been unfairly treated by those in authority.
Times Group was denied government advertising business for a period of five years which adversely affected the financial status of the company.
Times Group is the only media house where MRA confiscated its motor vehicles twice and was closed down using armed police.
Any business has its own risks and leading a media house has not been easy but we have managed to persevere despite these challenges.
During my free time, I like watching the international television channels including BBC, CNN and Sky News.
As a business leader, my preference is business news.
There is a program called ‘Quest Means Business’ on CNN which is my favorite business program.
Within Africa, I spend more time watching the South African channel eNCA on Dstv and the Ugandan NBS channel that appears on Zuku bouquet.
Close to home, I enjoy watching the local drama series on Times Television called “Mdyangu” which is also the program I wo-uld recommend for people to watch on Times TV.
I challenged the producer Ms. Flora Suya to create this drama series to reflect the normal ghetto life of most Malawians living in suburbs of our cities in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu.
I am very pleased with the overhwleming public support of this drama series.
- Discipline – Everything must make business sense
- Punctuality – People must value their time in the work place.
- Servant Leadership – Staff willingness to serve others.
- Innovation and Creativity – This is how we can sustain the future of the business
- Professional integrity – Ethical behaviour is a must in the work place