Tanzania recently published new Online Content Regulations under the Electronic and Postal Communications Act. The Online Content Regulations apply to online content service providers, internet service providers, application services licensees, online content users and any other related online content.
In this article, we highlight the steps that each licensee is required to follow in order to not only obtain but maintain an online content license, as well as what constitutes 'prohibited content' to avoid being penalised.
The Online Content Regulations cover:
- licence categories
- licence application procedure
- obligations of online content service providers
- online content users and hosts
- prohibited content
- complaints and penalties
Licence categories and application
Under the Online Content Regulations, a person shall only provide content services after having obtained a licence from the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (the TCRA). There are four categories of online content licences as set out below:
- provision of predominant news and current affairs
- provision of predominant entertainment content
- provision of predominant education and religious content
- simulcasting licence⁴
The term 'predominant' referred to in the categories above means content not below 85% of the licensed category measured on a weekly basis. Therefore, the majority of online content must be related to the specific category for one to be issued with a licence.
A licence application is made to the TCRA using a prescribed form that specifies the category of licence and type of registration applied for, i.e. online radio, online television, online blog or other online services. The form is accompanied by, among others, a list of the owner and management team, curriculum vitae (CV) of the staff and editorial policy guidelines. The editorial policy guidelines are required for the news and current affairs licence only. The applicant must also pay the prescribed application fee of TZS 100,000 for news and current affairs, entertainment and education or religion and TZS 50,000 for a simulcasting licence.
Upon a successful application, the applicant will be required to pay an initial licence fee of TZS 1,000,000 for a news and current affairs licence, TZS 500,000 for an entertainment and education licence or religious content licence and TZS 200,000 for a simulcasting licence. The same fees apply for annual payment and licence renewal.
The licence issued by the TCRA shall be valid for 3 years and may be renewed.
A licence issued by the TCRA may be suspended or revoked if the licensee breaches the terms and conditions thereto. The licensee will be notified of the revocation or suspension and the reasons thereto and will have to surrender the licence to the TCRA within 7 days after service of the revocation or suspension notice.
A licensee must use moderating tools to filter prohibited content and must be able to identify the source of the content and take corrective measures.
A licensee must, upon being ordered by the TCRA, immediately remove the prohibited content.
A licensee is prohibited from accessing, storing, keeping, publishing, circulating or broadcasting any prohibited content.
The online news and current affairs licensee must, among others, adhere to the local content requirements. The licensee must also submit proof of their staffs' academic qualifications and a human resource development plan. They must also abide by ownership and corporate obligations.
The Online Content Regulations do not permit a mainstream content service provider with district or regional licence to simulcast content in online platforms⁵.
Applications service licence is limited to the provision of online content or facilitation of online content producers.
An application services licensee shall, when contracting with subscribers, incorporate terms and conditions of service which must be easily accessible to the subscribers. The licensee has a right to deny access or terminate the service upon breach of the Online Content Regulations. A licensee must, within 2 hours after being ordered by the TCRA or notified by an affected person regarding a content or prohibited content, notify subscribers to remove such content. Failure of a subscriber to remove the content within 2 hours from the time of notification will result in the suspension or termination of the subscriber's access account.
Internet café: The Online Content Regulations also affect the obligations of a person operating an internet café. The operator must ensure, among other things, that there are filter mechanisms for prohibited content and surveillance cameras to record activities in the establishment. The person is also required to have a service user register and a user must show an identity card (ID) before being registered to use the service. The surveillance camera images and users register must be kept for 12 months.
The Online Content Regulations impose general obligations on a licensee, many of which focus on prohibited content. The Third Schedule to the Online Content Regulations provides that prohibited content is content that is related to:
- sexuality and decency
- personal privacy and respect to human dignity
- criminal activities and illegal trade activities
- health and public safety
- protection of intellectual property rights
- respect to religion and personal beliefs
- public information that may cause public havoc and disorder
- use of bad language and disparaging words
- false, untrue, misleading content
Online content users and hosts
Users of online content are responsible for the information they post in an online forum, social media⁶, blog and any other related media. Hosts of online content must adhere to the Online Content Regulations by adopting a code of conduct and remove any prohibited content upon notification from the TCRA or an affected party.
A person, who provides, has access to, hosts, uses online content or operates an internet café must make sure that children do not register, access or contribute to prohibited content. Options for content filtering mechanisms and parental control must be availed to users for effective child protection.
Complaints and penalties
A person may file a complaint against prohibited content and the licensee will have 12 hours to resolve it. If the licensee fails to resolve the complaint within the prescribed time, the complainant may refer the complaint to the TCRA within 30 days from the date of filing the complaint. The person may also appeal to the Fair Competition Tribunal (the FCT) if dissatisfied with the TCRA's decision.
A person who provides online content services without a licence commits an offence and shall upon conviction be subject to a fine of not less than TZS 5,000,000 and/or imprisonment for a term of 12 months. For general offences under the Online Content Regulations, the monetary fine is the same as that imposed when operating without a licence, however, the term of imprisonment is not less than 12 months.
The TCRA may also subject a licensee in breach of the Online Content Regulations to the Content Committee (the CC). After determination, the CC may require the licensee to issue an apology to the public and the victim/complainant.
1 Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations, G.N. No. 538 of 2020.
2 Electronic and Postal Communications Act No. 3 of 2010.
3 “User” means a person or legal entity accessing online content whether by subscription or otherwise.
4 “Simulcasting” means broadcasting content of a mainstream media on an online platform and the licence is issued to a mainstream broadcasting licensee with national coverage rights.
5 “Online platform” means any internet outlet where people can get news, entertainment, education, religious or other related information such as online television, radio, social media and blog.
6 “Social media” means online-based applications and platforms that build on the ideological and technological foundations of web and that allow the creation and exchange of highly interactive user generated content and platforms through which individuals, organisations and communities share, co-create, discuss and modify user-generated content.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.