Vietnam’s mass communications regulators are risking cutting off their information-obsessed citizens from TV stations CNN, BBC, Discovery, CNBC and others by requiring them to pay for translation of all their programming into Vietnamese.
That may not happen in some cases, and the decree that took effect last week could simultaneously stifle millions in the entrepreneurial Vietnamese workforce from getting information they crave and undermine their passion to learn English.
It may be understandable that the government wants to preserve Vietnamese culture, including the language, but at what cost? Vietnam government French broadcaster Canal+ and Vietnam’s national TV broadcaster suspended retransmission of 21 TV channels, and Reporters Without Borders complained the decree is too costly and facilitates censorship.
The simultaneous translation decree applies to four categories: movies, news, educational programs, and entertainment (including sports and music). Some stations — Cinemax, Fox Sports, and others — have already met the translation requirement and obtained licenses from Vietnam’s information ministry. Sixteen stations have yet to comply, and some probably never will.
Vietnam’s plunge into the 21st Century global economy can be painful for traditionalists. Even so, for Vietnam’s millions of hungry capitalists, it’s too late to put the genie back in the bottle.