Dear President Edgar C. Lungu,
RE: APPEAL FOR YOUR INTERVENTION – TOPSTAR IS FRUSTRATING ZAMBIAN INVESTORS IN THE DIGITAL MIGRATION & BROADCASTING PROJECT
Reference is made to the above subject matter.
Kenmark Broadcasting Network (“kbn”) is a Zambian owned independent broadcasting network licensed to provide various programs of an entertainment, informative, educational and Christian nature. Kbn was successfully granted a Content Service Provider Licence – Commercial Free to Air by the Independent Broadcasting Authority in January, 2017. Following this, kbn applied at that time to the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation for a TV signal of which we were informed this was not possible at the time due to digital migration that was in progress and as such the bandwidth capacity had been exhausted.
We were later advised that kbn would be allocated a bandwidth capacity on the TopStar bouquet. All indications were that this would be made available early this year 2018. On the strength of this we sourced and secured office space to commence preparations for broadcasting and have been incurring operational costs since October, 2017. Some of the milestones achieved in preparation for commencing broadcasting include; contracting a consultant to get the studio and control rooms ready, we procured a loan to fund the purchase of high quality studio and broadcasting equipment, we started filming and producing a number of shows in readiness for broadcasting, we employed a multi-skilled team of 16 young talented Zambians comprising journalists, camera operators, video editors, marketing staff, transmission controllers, graphics designers and other support staff among others.
To demonstrate the channel’s readiness, we started conducting live facebook broadcasts for news at 19:00hrs and a breakfast show every morning from Monday to Friday. We have since suspended these trial broadcasts due to cash flow constraints arising from the network having not commenced commercial broadcasting. All the operating expenses including salaries were funded from resources of the local promoters and directors of the company. We wish to bring to your attention that earlier in the year, inspectors from IBA, TopStar and ZICTA came and conducted inspection and confirmed our technical readiness to commence broadcasting.
Your Excellency, the challenge we have continued to face is that TopStar the designated national signal carrier, claims that they do not have sufficient bandwidth to accommodate our channel on their bouquet. However, we are aware and were reliably informed that ZICTA provided enough capacity to TopStar but they have instead filled the available bandwidth with their own Asian content. Our understanding Your Excellency is that TopStar’s mandate is to be a national signal distributor and not to assume the role of a content provider as well. They cannot be both. As things stand, they are playing both roles of being a signal carrier as well as a content provider. This clearly has an adverse impact on competition and is depriving young Zambian investors such as ourselves who are ready and willing to add diversity to the Zambian television programming from entering the market and competing favourably. Your Excellency we know you are an ardent supporter and advocate of young Zambian entrepreneurs who are contributing positively to the socio-economic sector of the country.
We have had sight of letters from IBA instructing TopStar to ensure that our channel which fulfilled technical requirements be given space on the digital platform. However, the directive hitherto has been disregarded with impunity by TopStar citing capacity and bandwidth limitations. Your Excellency, we are well aware that it is the policy of your Government that Digital Migration must benefit Zambians. We are therefore extremely disappointed and shocked with the conduct of the appointed signal carrier who have vehemently refused to take our channel on board.
We must hasten to mention that IBA has given licensees the necessary support, but the challenge has always been the allocation of bandwidth which is a matter of contention between TopStar and ZICTA. Our frantic efforts to have this matter resolved through normal channels have yielded no fruitful results and we are left with no choice but to seek your intervention in this matter. Your Excellency, this state of affairs on a matter of public interest is not acceptable to us and we are sure will not be to you as well as it is an affront to your Government’s efforts to empower Zambians who genuinely want to play an active role in national development.
It is our sincere hope that our appeal meets your consideration for urgent intervention as the status quo is negatively impacting our ability to meet current financial obligations in the absence of full commercial broadcast programming.
We look forward to your positive response on the matter.
THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
KENMARK BROADCASTING NETWORK
Cc: The Minister – Information and Broadcasting
Cc: The Minister – Transport and Communication
Cc: The Director General – Independent Broadcasting Authority
Cc: The Director General – ZICTA