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E-newspapers, ad agents urge amending of Advertisement Law

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) will review the Advertisement Law and collect opinions to propose amendments that would allow press agencies to compete with cross-border platforms.

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Controversy has occurred recently over the waiting time to close or open an advertisement on digital news publications, which must not exceed 1.5 seconds, stipulated in new Decree 38/2021.

The regulation on the 1.5 second limit on e-newspapers, however, was actually initially set in 2013 in Decree 158/2013.

MCST, which has drafted the documents, said that it has strictly followed all the required procedures stipulated in the Law on Promulgation of Legal Documents. However, not everyone covered by the policies were informed about the draft during the opinion collection.

Tran Trong Dung, chair of the HCM City Journalist Association, said that press agencies were not consulted by agencies during the legal document compilation.

Some people wondered why many press agencies did not know about the 1.5 second limit though the limitation has existed for many years.

The reason is that advertisements have not been observing the regulation since that time. In other words, the regulation was not observed. Press agencies have been violating the laws, but they have not been punished.

Research has found that if ads attract attention in the first five seconds, readers can decide whether to continue viewing them.

A study on video ads by Facebook and Nielsen found that 47 percent of the value of a video ad campaign is transmitted within the first three seconds, and 74 percent of the value of a video campaign is transmitted within the first 10 seconds.

When readers watch the first three seconds of a video on Facebook, 65 percent of them watch for at least 10 seconds, and 45 percent watch for 30 seconds.

A survey by Twitter found a close relation between watching a video for the first three seconds and a decision on continuing to watch the video.

Meanwhile, with 1.5 seconds, viewers only have time to open and close. The 1.5 second limit does not allow advertisers to convey enough for viewers to decide whether to skip the ads or continue watching.

Vo Thanh Hai, CEO of Viettel Media, also said that the limit of 1.5 seconds is not enough to convey messages.

Google and Facebook research on viewers’ psychology found that 5-6 seconds was acceptable for viewers before making a decision to turn off or keep on.

If the time is too long, viewers will feel tired of the ads or dislike them, and the effects will be low. If the time is too short, less than 5 seconds, no information will be provided.

Unfairness

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism argues that social networks and YouTube are not press agencies, and that their operation criteria as well as target audiences are also different. The regulations on the ads on social networks should be different from press agencies.

However, experts warn that if state management agencies think this way when creating the legal framework for ad activities, the newspaper business will be crippled.

Newspapers now have to fiercely compete with each other to exist and develop. As public non-business units, newspapers bear stricter regulations than other types of businesses. Press agencies have also been facing difficulties because of Covid-19.

The 1.5 second limit would move advertisements from Vietnam’s newspapers to foreign platforms, where they can run for five seconds or more.

Many newspapers have complained about the 1.5 second limit. Some of the headlines on recent articles in papers include: “Control over ads on newspapers is tightened… do Google, Facebook benefit?” and "The rules of the game eliminate competition”.

Meanwhile, VnExpress commented that the new advertising law sounds death knell for e-newspapers.

Dung of the HCM City Journalist Association warned that Vietnam’s press agencies will “shrink". Nguyen Truong Son, Deputy Chair of the Vietnam Ad Association (VAA), estimated that more than 80 percent ad revenue would fall into the hands of Facebook and Google.

Amendment required

 

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) will review the Advertisement Law and collect opinions to propose amendments that would allow press agencies to compete with cross-border platforms.

 

Son said the VAA has urged the Government to amend the advertisement law to create favorable conditions for newspapers and the ad industry.

The ad law has been in effect for 10 years, but no punishment has been imposed on newspapers. Meanwhile, Government Decree 38 has shown the sanctions clearly. However, the 1.5 second limit regulation is unreasonable.

“It would be illegal to not punish press agencies for violating the 1.5 second limitation. But the punishment will create big difficulties for press agencies,” Son said.

In the latest news, MCST on June 1 said it will review the 10-year implementation of the ad law and make proposals on amending the law in 2022.

Dung said that more seminars should be organized for state management agencies, newspapers and advertisers to discuss the problem and suggest solutions to fix it. 

Thai Khang - Ho Van - Du Lam

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