Vietnam TV station drops foreign TV channels after new law is enforced

HANOI, Vietnam – A Vietnamese satellite TV provider stopped broadcasting foreign channels including BBC and CNN on Thursday, citing a law that foreign governments have warned would leave the country without access to international news and entertainment channels.

Others major providers continued to broadcast as normal and it was unclear whether they would soon follow suit or were waiting to see how rigorously the government would enforce the new law.

The regulation requires international broadcasters to provide translation into Vietnamese of their contents before airing, with the exception of live sporting events.

Pay television groups have said the law is impractical, prohibitively expensive and could lead to censorship. The United States and other governments, especially those with national broadcasters, have been urging Hanoi to abandon the law, which came into effect on Wednesday.

Pay TV K+, a joint venture between a local company and Canal Overseas, a wholly owned subsidiary of France’s Canal + group, said it had cut the signals of 21 foreign channels as a result of the regulation.

Vietnam’s one-party government is increasingly cracking down on freedom of expression in general, especially online.

All foreign news stations are currently broadcast into the country with a half-hour delay, to allow sensitive content to be blocked if needed.

The Vietnamese government was not immediately available for comment.

The law, known as “Decision 20”, requires that the translation and editing be performed by an agency licensed by the government and that content is “appropriate to the people’s healthy needs and does not violate Vietnamese press law.” It also states that commercials running on foreign channels must be made in Vietnam.

Late last year, the government said in a statement that the law was aimed at “at facilitating easier access for Vietnamese people to the foreign language TV programs.”

The statement acknowledged the concerns of foreign governments, saying it “continues to listen to and consider ideas from concerned parties.”