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Feature: Vietnam concerned about too many foreign TV plays on local channels

HANOI, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) — The showing of foreign television materials, especially those made by South Korean and China, has raised great concerns in Vietnam.

The issue has triggered a heated debate on social networks, online and printed media since a senior Vietnamese information official said that the showing of foreign-made TV materials should be limited.

“Radio and televisions must improve the quality and quantity of Vietnam-produced broadcast programs and limit the broadcasting of too many foreign TV plays…,” said Hoang Huu Luong, director of the Press Department under the Ministry of Information and Communication.

Explaining why more Chinese and South Korean movies are screened on his station, Nguyen Ha Nam, head of VTV’s Editorial Secretariat Board said this is they are made by Asia’s two leading film industries and they suit the taste of Vietnamese audience.

He said VTV has always tried to diversify its program sources, but admitted it is not easy to find films which are close to the life of Vietnamese audience and suit their taste.

“We will closely review this issue and try to strike a reasonable balance of broadcasted movies, but we will not stop showing South Korean and Chinese films,” he said.

Do Thanh Xuan, a local resident of Thanh Xuan district in the capital, viewed the issue differently. “Each time I turn on my TV, I always see South Korean movies, music, music stars …… on show in many programs. Is it the way that we are spending our time and money to advertise free of charge South Korean culture? If so, this is unreasonable,” he was quoted by local media as saying.

His views were shared by Le Van Tien, another Hanoi resident. ” Now there are so many South Korean and Chinese plays on the screen, which makes the audience like me bored and tired. I wonder if those TV stations have any ‘special purpose’ when they are broadcasting so many such films. By doing that they are advertising the culture, history, tourism and lifestyle of those two countries.”

Linh Nguyen, a 24-year-old IT networking student in Hanoi, said he never watched South Korean soap operas.

“Every Friday night or during the weekend, there is a foreign movie program, with Western feature films, thrillers, or films about world movie stars. I love watching such films. But I also like Chinese series ‘Journey to the West,’ as it has entertained me since I was a little boy,” he said.

There are people, including many housewives, who are not for the idea of limiting foreign TV plays on local stations. Huyen Le, a 57-year-old housewife in Hanoi told Xinhua that she has a TV in her kitchen, and would like to watch South Korean and Chinese TV series while preparing meals for her family.

The plays are often broadcast about an hour after lunch or before dinner time, the “prime time” for housewives, she said, adding she likes Asian movies, because she can share some of the common things in Asian cultures.

In 1999, the debut of South Korean TV play “The First Love” on Vietnamese VTV3, a channel devoted mostly to entertainment, marked the beginning of an inflow of South Korean TV plays into the country. The culture and lifestyle that come along with it have become the vogue for many young people and housewives to follow.

Chinese TV plays made their way into Vietnamese televisions even earlier. Different versions of the TV series “Journey to the West” have been re-broadcast repeatedly for the past 20 years, especially to entertain children during summer vacations.

In recent years, Vietnam’s television industry has markedly expanded. The country has now four national TV stations, and 63 local stations. Each station has 60-80 channels, and some have up to 100 channels, with channels exclusively for movies.

Limited budget, however, hindered Vietnamese TV play makers from meeting the growing demands.

While the audience seemed to make their judgment on the issue from their personal liking, authorities concerned said that the issue should be dealt with from a overall perspective against the backdrop of open market economy.

“When counting the ratio of the broadcast movies, we have to get a full picture of the whole system, not only at one individual TV station and its own channels. For example, on the VTV4, a channel catering to overseas Vietnamese, we screen all Vietnamese films, not a single foreign film,” said Nguyen Ha Nam during an interview with the online Women’s Today late last week.

He noted that in the national VTV network, the rate of Vietnamese films make up nearly half of the total, far above the official ratio required by the film industry’s regulations.

However, industry insiders said how to keep a proper balance in the ratio of televised movies and in an effective manner remains a big issue.

They noted that when the film industry resorts to limiting certain movies, it may unintentionally violate the national Law on the Enterprises and the Law on Cinematography, as well as international regulations, including the country’s commitment to the World Trade Organization (WTO), to which Vietnam has been a full member for five years as of July this year.

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