Thursday, March 2, 2017

Television set to become an expensive tool for use in Tanzania

Negotiations are underway between multiplex operators and content service providers for the television stations operating in Tanzania over the possibility of letting viewers to pay all local channels upon the expiry of a selected bundle.  The East African newspaper has observed. Currently television viewers in the country continue enjoying the five free to air local channels being transmitted by multiplex operators since the newly introduced terrestrial digital transmission systems was adopted in the country three years down the lane. The free recommended local channels are TBC, Channel 10, Star TV, TV 1 and Clouds Tv. Under the system, the government through its regulatory body, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) ordered the operators not to switch off the five free to air local channels for specific agreed conditions that aimed all Tanzanians view televisions without pay. Both representatives of multiplex operators and television companies met mid this week in Dar es Salaam in a four hour public hearing meeting led by the TCRA’s inquiry team led by Engineer James Kilaba who is also the Director General of the TCRA. The meeting discussed cost based DTT Transmission fees currently in controversy among the digital television transmitters in the country. Both stakeholders upheld with a proposed sum of money to be paid by television viewers starting with the minimum Shs. 6,000 per month. The negotiations which ended in a deadlock had been suspended with the proposed idea which was left for the government to agree or disagree whether television viewers should pay the proposed amount of money or not. During the negotiations, both stakeholders presented their views and claimed about the higher taxes imposed on the communication sector and more severely representatives from television stations complained that are frequently incurring huge expenses while preparing various television programs for their viewers. They also asked the government to review the huge amount of money of $ 3,800 earlier slated to be paid by the television stations/companies per site to multiplex operators as transmission fee per month. According to them, the amount is so huge compared to the services offered and in view of this, have asked the government through its regulator to sit on the table to review. Investigations have discovered that, since the switching off of the analogue transmission came into effect three years down the lane, multiplex operators have been operating in desperation after having noticed that the television companies became reluctant to pay the transmission fee due for them at the right time. In an exclusive interview with one of the multiplex operators who proffered anonymity, said that, there is a conflict within the sector for they are not paid as earlier agreed. He further noted that, in order to harmonize the situation, and have level playing ground let the television sets operate just like mobile phones which uses prepaid recharged vouchers in order to receive signals from operators like the way is happening in other parts in the world. Further investigations has discovered that, as the stakeholders are looking for a solution to the matter, some members of the public in Dar es Salaam city have their television decoders cut off and owners have sent them text messages requested them to buy the bundle in order to be connected for use. In an exclusive interview, Robi Chacha, a resident of Ukonga ward in Ilala Municipality on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam city, said that he suddenly found his television set not showing images and thought might have overcome a technical fault. But he came to discover that, his Star Times decoder which he is using had been switched off, and when he consulted the authorities concerned, was informed to pay as the system has changed that all customers have to pay. Peter Mrefu, another complainant told this writer that, he had received a text message on his mobile phone from the Star Times the previous day saying that his free bundle has expired and that he was ought to buy another in order to be connected. To his great dismay, he was surprised to have seen that even the free five local channels supposed to be left were all blocked and wondered how this has come about. Another customer Mr. Haruna Salema who is subscribed to Star Times digital decoder also met the same fate three months ago when his decoder suddenly stopped working in the daytime. When he inquired to find out reasons from the authorities concerned, was informed that the free channels are no longer available as the company has entered into a realm of new operational systems whereby all customers have to pay for the channels. When contacted for comments, the top most officials of the Star Media Company who are dealers of the Star Time decoders who preferred anonymity said that, the government had imposed a lot of taxes and have no choice other than switching over the free channels for their customers. “This is one way to solicit fund that would compel our customers into letting them pay in order to be connected”, he affirmed. Tanzania and other East African member states became the first country in mainland Sub-Saharan Africa to switch off its analogue television signal in December 31, 2013.. A survey by TCRA indicates that in 2010 about 41 percent of Tanzania's populations of 45 million watch TV although this is sharply divided between urban and rural populations. TCRA began preparations for DSO shortly after the ITU Regional Radio Conference 2004 (RRC-04), at which digital terrestrial broadcasting was planned for Europe and Africa.

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