Yesterday, Norberto Santana, Jr. of the Voice of Orange County wrote a story Controversy Surrounds a Now-Silent Little Saigon Radio ShowÂ that reported on a radio show on Vietnamese language radio that has goneÂ silent because of a mysterious requirement allegedly imposed on all program producers preventing criticism of individuals or public officials. If I didn’t know better, I would think we were somewhere in communist Vietnam., or maybe just the chambers of the Santa Ana City Council (snark). Santana reports:
For more than 20 years, Long Vo has been one of the local stalwarts in this arena. His “Vietnamese in California” show has received commendations from the Republican Party of Orange County as well as Democratic lawmakers.
But on Sept. 29, his show was yanked off the air.
The reason given by the station is that Vo was taken off AM 1190 because he refused to sign the station’s newly constituted pledge regarding what can and can’t be said on air about politicians.
Vo, who was a political prisoner for five years in Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, said he was told that the shut down was ordered by Republican state Assemblyman Van Tran, who is in a tough battle with Democrat Loretta Sanchez for her 47th District seat in the U.S. Congress.
Tran, Little Saigon’s most recognizable and powerful politician, denies having anything to do with the shutdown of Vo’s show. And Bob Hastings, who manages the station owned by Salem Communications, backs up Tran. Hastings said the station is requiring all show hosts, not just Vo, to sign the new pledge.
Regardless of whose version is closer to the truth, the controversy shows just how much of a street brawl the race between Tran and Sanchez has become.
Hastings said Tran had nothing to do with the policy change, which he says all ethnic language broadcasters will be asked to sign.
“All new lessees will sign the zero-tolerance policy,” Hastings said.
Yet Vo and other observers say that a radio show that is friendly to Tran on the same station from 9 p.m. to midnight broadcast comments disparaging Sanchez the day after he received his zero-tolerance statement.
Tran insists he did not make any efforts to get Vo’s broadcasts taken off the air.
“We’ve made no complaints,” said Tran at an event at his campaign headquarters last weekend.
This is not the first time Van Tran has attempted to silence free speech, specifically criticism of him, on local radio. Two years ago in October 2008, I wrote about a similar case an a different station (Big Trouble for the Emperor of Little Saigon). In that case we had Van Tran, through his attorney Bart KasperowiczÂ on October 10, 2008,Â sent a Cease and Desist letter demanding that â€œMr. Do Son immediately cease and desist from making any further defamatory statements related to 68th District California State Assemblyman Van Tran.â€ The letter went on to warn; â€œAs the owner/operator of 106.3 FM, we ask that you communicate our request to Mr. Son in person in order to prevent further harm from his conduct as well as to ensure that your station has â€˜â€¦exercised due care to prevent the publication or utterance of such statements or matters in such broadcastâ€™Cal Civ. Code 48.5(1). The letter also asked that the station only communicate the content of the letter personally to Mr. Son. I can only suppose that they didnâ€™t want the letter distributed publicly.
The Voice of Orange County reports that Tran denies having anything to do with the shutdown of Vo’s show. While no one has produced any written documentation proving Tran’s involvement in the current case, the circumstances are strikingly familiar to those of two years ago. Familiar enough to cast serious doubt about the involvement of Tran or his associates, in this matter. At last night’s debate, Tran claimed that he supports freedom and human rights in Vietnam. While there may be some evidence to support that claim, there is ample evidence that Tran does not hold those same views at home.