Reporters Without Borders is shocked by a government decree, called Decision 20/2011/QD-TTG, which has prevented local retransmission of four categories of foreign TV channels since 15 May by requiring them to pay for simultaneous translation of all their programming into Vietnamese.
Vietnam Satellite Digital Television Company (VSTV), a pay-TV operator launched by French broadcaster Canal+ and Vietnam’s national TV broadcaster, suspended retransmission of 21 TV channels including CNN, BBC and Star World as soon as the decree took effect.
“We call for the immediate withdrawal of this decree, which clearly aims to force foreign TV channels to pull out of Vietnam,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Complying with the decree would be too costly for all of the channels. But aside from the costs involved and the difficulty of implementation, this decree opens the way to all kinds of censorship.
“We are very worried by the reduction in availability of news and information in Vietnam that may result from this decree if the international channels concerned and the companies in charge of their local retransmission do not do everything in their power to continue.”
The four categories affected by the decree are movie channels, news channels, channels offering scientific and education programmes, and documentaries, and channels offering entertainment, sport and music.
VSTV, which offers a mix of local and international satellite stations called K+, was the first broadcaster to implement Decision 20. VSTV spokesman Mai Nguyen told Agence France-Presse he would resume broadcasting the channels that were ready to pay to comply with the decree.
To continue local retransmission, the international channels are required to register with Vietnam’s information and communication ministry and obtain a licence that allows that to be provided with translations by an agency approved by the government.
On 17 May, licences were granted to Cinemax, AXN HD, Star Movies HD, AXN and Fox Sports Plus allowing them to resume broadcasting legally in Vietnam.
The 16 other K+ channels affected by the decree – Eurosport, Channel V, Eurosport News, CNBC, NGC HD, Star World, MGM, CNN, Discovery World HD, Diva Universal, Luxe TV, Channel News Asia, NHK World, Arirang, BBC and TLC – have not been retransmitted since it took effect.