Dr Cuong Trong Bui OAM MD, former Federal President of the Vietnamese Community in Australia from 1982-1992, examines the extraordinary decision of Australia’s SBS TV to telecast a regular news program from Communist Vietnam.
I read with interest the article “SBS programming questioned by Vietnamese community” written by Mr Quan Dinh General Secretary Australia Vietnam Human Rights Committee, published in NewsWeekly on November 1, 2003.
SBS should stop telecasting the VTV4 Thoi Su, in the Worldwatch program, for the following reasons:
1. Section 10(1)(c) of the SBS Act makes it a duty of the SBS Board to “… ensure by means of the SBS’s programming policies, that the gathering and presentation by the SBS of news and information is accurate and is balanced over time and across the schedule of programs broadcast.”
SBS TV has not fulfilled the above commitment because it has not ensured a balance of news over time, at least since the beginning of the broadcast of VTV4.
The news presented in VTV4 is mainly for the glorification of the Communist Party of Vietnam and its Government.
There is no opportunity for any SBS TV news program to balance the above program with views of people who have different opinions of the Communist Party of Vietnam.
2. If SBS’s vision is “Uniting and enriching our society by creatively communicating the values, the voices and the vision of multicultural Australia and the contemporary world” (from SBS Codes of Practice, Chapter 1), then SBS cannot dissociate itself from the message and values conveyed in the VTV4 that SBS broadcasts.
There is a symbiotic link between SBS and the foreign news channel broadcast on SBS TV.
VTV4 is an organ of the Vietnamese Communist Party of Vietnam, the only party that appropriated the role of the supreme ruler of North Vietnam since 1954 and South Vietnam since 1975.
The Vietnamese Communist Party does not allow any other party, group or person to challenge its position.
There are no multicultural values in Vietnam. There is only a culture of subservience to the Communist Party. VTV4 broadcasts news elevating the role of the Communist Party of Vietnam.
This glorification of one totalitarian party is alien to the multiparty culture of Australian politics and society.
VTV4 promotes the cult of personality of Ho Chi Minh. In almost any broadcast of VTV4 since the first broadcast on 6 October 2003, there are pictures of portraits or busts of Ho Chi Minh in the most honoured places and reverential quotations from him. This is propaganda.
In terms of statues, busts and quotations, Ho Chi Minh keeps good company with bad men such as Saddam Hussein, Hitler and Stalin.
3. If the main objective of the Special Broadcasting Service Corporation (SBS) is to contribute to a more cohesive, equitable and harmonious Australian society through the provision of multilingual and multicultural radio and television services (from SBS Portfolio Budget Statement 2002-03), then the decision to broadcast SBS TV has contributed to a disharmonious Australian society. It has created a lot of public discord about SBS TV.
4. The SBS Charter Act 1991 sets the objective to “promote understanding and acceptance of the cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity of the Australian people”.
By broadcasting VTV4, SBS does not promote understanding the culture of Vietnamese Australians who are strongly anti-Communist. By showing VTV4 with its obsequious culture of praise for Communist leaders such as Ho Chi Minh, Stalin and Lenin, SBS TV promotes the misunderstanding that Vietnamese Australians are pro-Communist and receptive to SBS VTV4.
In addition, the SBS VTV4 news on Friday 17 October 2003 reported that Communist officials told the people in Vietnam (and those who watch the VTV4 news) to be vigilant against the enemies of peace and unity (that is, any Vietnamese people who advocate freedom and democracy for Vietnam).
Thus SBS VTV4 has helped promote suspicion, division and hatred by sympathisers of the Hanoi regime towards the Vietnamese refugee community in Australia.
If SBS aims, as far as possible and over time, to provide programs across all languages spoken in the community and to present programming from a wide variety of cultural perspectives.
If program selection is supposed to account for variations in the availability and quality of programming from different television industries around the world, as well as the need to meet the range of SBS’s programming objectives, then there is evidence that the news from entities controlled by the Vietnamese Communist Government is below the quality acceptable in Australia.
Almost every broadcaster from VTV4 identifies himself or herself with the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam, for example, by saying words such as “Dang Ta, Chinh Phu Ta (Our Party, Our Government)” when presenting “news”. This is below the quality of independence acceptable in the Australian media.
If SBS draws on many sources for its television and radio news and current affairs programming including domestic and overseas stringers, international news agencies, national news services, services available on the Internet, newspapers and journals then all journalists and contributors gathering, processing or presenting news for SBS are required to observe the SBS Codes of Practice.
There has been no suggestion that VTV4 journalists are observing SBS Codes of Practice.
They do not present news that is balanced over time. In matters of politics, they report only on the Communist Party of Vietnam and not on any people who have opinions different from those of the Communist Party of Vietnam.
VTV4 is a propaganda tool of the Vietnamese Communist Party and does not bring about a cohesive multicultural society, as envisaged in SBS Vision.
The VTV4 broadcast is also insensitive towards the wounds that Vietnamese Communism has inflicted on many refugees. Some of them have developed severe stress when the Vietnamese Communist Red flag or Ho Chi Minh’s picture is shown.
This SBS VTV4 decision is insensitive and disrespectful towards the Vietnamese Australian refugee community, and it lacks transparency and honesty.
It does not show integrity, as it does not respect the SBS Codes of Conduct. Therefore it should be stopped immediately.