THE Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has maintained that the deadline for the migration from analogue to digital broadcasting that was set for December 31, this year, will not be extended.
Head of Corporate Communications at the TCRA, Mr Innocent Mungy, said in Dar es Salaam that the deadline, which has also been agreed by other member states of the East African Community (EAC), would stand the same.
"There is no backing up on the migration, as the task ahead of us is to conduct public awareness to enable the people understand the concept of digital broadcasting," Mr Mungy told journalists on the sidelines of an awareness campaign conducted in Temeke Municipality yesterday.
He added: "Europe and other developed countries embraced the technology long time ago; if we extend the deadline, we would subject our country to dumping of TV sets that are not compatible with digital broadcasting".
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) had set June 2015 as the deadline for the switchover. However, EAC member states have agreed to have their deadline three years by the ITU's to enable them deal with challenges that might arise from the new technology.
According to Mr Mungy, Tanzania is estimated to have a total of 6.4 million television sets, out of which 2.6 million will have to migrate to the new technology through purchase of decoders.
"The estimates also show that only 24 per cent of the population has access to television. Some 800,000 people have purchased decoders while others, especially in upcountry regions are connected through cable television networks," Mr Mungy said.
At present, there are two digital television providers in the country, namely StarMedia and Agape Television Network. A consortium of Independent Television Limited and Star Television, through Basics Communication, is also set to introduce digital broadcasting before the end of the year.
The TCRA publicist elaborated further that the Electronic and Postal Communication Act (EPOCA) of 2010 requires all digital providers to ensure that they broadcast free of charge a selected local free-to-air channels.
He thus allayed fears on the new technology, noting that people will be able to watch the free channels through decoders without having to pay the monthly fees. The free channels include the TBC1, ITV, Star TV, Channel Ten, EATV and DTV.
"The only cost that one will incur is on the purchase of the decoder. One wouldn't be obliged to pay the monthly fees unless otherwise that person would want to watch additional channels provided by the respective provider," he explained.
Apart from the digital providers, there are also customers getting services from satellite providers such as DSTV and ZUKU, which however require customers to make monthly payments.
On the other hand, some of the participants at the occasion expressed concerns that the majority of Tanzanians were not well informed on the new technology and how it would operate.
"There is a need for massive public awareness since most of the people are not aware of digital broadcasting. Moreover, I don't think whether the remaining time would be enough to inform the public adequately," special seats local councillol in Temeke, Ms Mariam Mtemvu (CCM), said.
Even with the limited time towards the deadline, another participant, Brig. Gen. (Rtd) Francis Mbena, said the country needs to move forward with the new technology. "We should not lag behind with digital broadcasting; it is high time we responded to developments in the technology," the retired service man, observed.
The seminar was attended by among others local councillors and executives from Temeke Municipality as well as representatives from the disabled, women and elders.