Regulators – who is in charge?
While the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) regulates broadcast and electronic media, the Tanzania Information Services (MAELEZO) regulates print media.All media companies additionally have to register - just like any other company - at the Business Registration and Licensing Agency (BRELA).
Responsibilities are not clear-cut. The TCRA is mainly responsible for monitoring broadcast and online content. MAELEZO is responsible for print content. This division of tasks is vague: the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2018 defines content as sound, data, text or image - whether still or moving. As a result, it seems that online newspapers shall be regulated by TCRA while hard copies of the same newspaper is regulated by MAELEZO.
The two bodies do not only differ in their mandate but also regarding the institutional set-up, sanctioning powers, etc.
The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA)
The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) is a quasi-independent Government body. It was established under the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Act 2003 to regulate the electronic communications, and Postal services, and management of the national frequency spectrum. The Authority took over the functions of the now defunct Tanzania Communications Commission (TTC) and Tanzania Broadcasting Commission (TBC).
- The Authority issues, renews and cancel licenses for radio and TV stations as well as for online content providers. In some cases, for example when TCRA awards or cancels a license with an exclusivity period, the authority needs to consult with the Minister himself prior to taking action.
- The TCRA content committee monitors issues of broadcast content, complaints from operators and consumers and issues of broadcast ethics compliance. The Minister of Communication appoints the committee members.
- Setting up a broadcast outlet is expensive:
The radioapplication fee ranges from USD 1000 to 2000 and an initial license fee ranging from USD 700 to 20,000, depending on the category of the license (national, regional, and district or community coverage). The TV application fee ranges from USD 1000 for community market segment to USD 5000 national, while initial license fee is USD 500 for community TV and USD 3000 for national TV. Public broadcasters are excluded from the fees.
Tanzania Information Service (MAELEZO)
Tanzania Information Service (MAELEZO) is the Department under Ministry of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports with the role of informing citizens on policies, programs and implementation of Development projects. Since 2008 to date, the Tanzania Information Services is under the Ministry of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports currently under Dr. Hassan Abbasi as the Director.The Director is also Chief Spokesperson of the Government of Tanzania.
Under the Media Services Act 2016, the Director of Information Services licenses print media and has the powers to reject or cancel license if application does not comply with requirement or the licensee violates conditions of license.The license to own print media requires a fee of Tshs 1000,000/- and bond of Tshs 100,000,000/-. Print outlets have to reregister annually.
While local companies or individuals have no shareholding limitation to own media, a foreign company cannot hold more than 49 per cent in a Tanzanian media house.