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The results of press privatization

The number of news articles and other articles published in electronic newspapers and magazines have soared recently.

Heads of press agencies have contracted with affiliate partners to run specialized pages and columns. These are “manifestations of press privatization”.

In Vietnam, current laws don’t allow private newspapers to operate. Private newspapers are understood as newspapers owned by private investors who determine all the press and publication activities.

However, the Press Law (amended) allows the press agencies to be affiliated with competent units of other economic sectors. The problem is that the Press Law does not set specific provisions about this cooperation, which leads to distortion and circumvention of the law, resulting in "press privatization".

According to the Press Authority  under the Ministry of Information and Communications, press agencies allot specialized pages and columns to representative offices, groups of reporters or partners to operate and take responsibility for all the operations. Heads of press agencies loosened their management and partially transferred the control of content to partners in exchange for benefits. 

Affiliate activities are regulated in the Press Law, but it only mentions the spheres for affiliate content, and it doesn’t clearly stipulate the form of affiliations (there are two major affiliation forms – developing advertisements and producing content in association with advertising development).

As a result, the regulation is interpreted differently by press agencies and they carry out affiliation activities in different ways, including illegal ones that need to be corrected.

This has been recognized and corrected. In general, this private press manifestation includes:

Press privatization mostly appears in electronic publications (both newspapers and magazines). In some cases, the interface of specialized pages of newspapers and magazines is the same or has similar identification, causing confusion with the news websites of affiliate partners (similar logos; similar names of columns; partners’ news websites with vague information, with domain names similar to that of electronic newspapers, magazines and specialized pages).

In terms of content, electronic newspapers, magazines, and specialized pages act as a tool that "wash the sources" for general news website to publish sensational articles to attract readers.

The number of articles published in electronic newspapers and magazines are abnormally high, which is not commensurate with the production capacity of press agencies. The staff is small, while the number of articles is high.

Electronic magazines do not strictly follow the principles and purposes set for them because of the ‘washing of information sources’ for electronic news websites.

In terms of technology, the hosts and IP addresses of home pages and specialized pages are located in different locations, and have the same addresses with the hosts and IP addresses of affiliate partners. Press agencies use the technical system of affiliate partners, and the partners have the right to access and intervene in the production of articles.

In terms of operation, press agencies grant referrals to collaborators, i.e. the staff of affiliate partners. As a result, the staff of affiliate partners (media companies) operate as if they are reporters for press agencies.

Reporters for press agencies are  responsible for the content of news websites (the people who write articles publish in newspapers and on news websites are the same).

In terms of organization, press agencies allot specialized pages and columns to reporters, representative offices and affiliate partners.

Press agencies ask for press cards to be granted to the personnel of their partners. They develop both newspapers and news websites.

In terms of economic value, the privatization of press occurs when the benefits for press agencies are much smaller than that affiliate partners can get. 

The preliminary inspection of some press agencies found that the ‘affiliation fee’ (stipulated in cooperation agreements or contracts) that press agencies can collect is very small compared with the scale and benefits that affiliated partners can receive.

In most cases, affiliate relations between press agencies and media-advertisement companies are established based on the strength and functions of the involved parties (there are only cooperation contracts or cooperation agreements, and they don’t contribute capital and assets to establish legal entities).

Regarding other benefits (the brands of press agencies; opportunities for reporters to improve their professional qualifications, etc), no clear relation between affiliation with media partners and the branding of press agencies was found. The prestige of press agencies does not increase when implementing affiliation activities.

The press agencies cooperating with media and technology companies receive other benefits through technological support to help build websites of press agencies, run the content publishing systems, and support bandwidth and server locations.

Appropriate agencies are considering possible solutions to make affiliation activities develop in a transparent way which will bring benefits to all subjects.



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