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Vietnam TV fined for airing cartoon considered to insult teachers before their day

Vietnam TV fined for airing cartoon considered to insult teachers before their day

Friday, November 21, 2014, 20:28 GMT+7

National broadcaster Vietnam Television (VTV) has been fined VND30 million (US$1,412) for airing a cartoon regarded as offending teachers who are highly respected in Vietnamese society right ahead of Teachers’ Day.

The penalty was slapped on VTV on Friday by the Ministry of Information and Communications that oversees the media in the Southeast Asian country. 

The television station was penalized for broadcasting “Nhat Xuong Cho Thay” (Clearing Away Bones for the Teacher), a cartoon that depicts a greedy, mean male teacher, on Wednesday – one day ahead of Teachers’ Day which is seen as an occasion during which students show their respect for and gratitude to their teachers.   

The cartoon was aired as part of VTV’s educational series “Qua Tang Cuoc Song” (The Gift of Life) on VTV3 – the broadcaster’s entertainment channel.

The series, on air every Saturday and Sunday, features cartoons adapted from local and foreign fables and meant to convey educative messages by nurturing good qualities and condemning or satirizing vices.

“Nhat Xuong Cho Thay” was broadcast at 10:20 pm on Wednesday, some hours before the Teachers’ Day when the entire country honored teachers and their profession.

Set in the old times, the cartoon describes a well-known teacher who is invited to provide tutoring for a couple’s son at their home.

The host couple treats the teacher with sumptuous meals and accommodation, as well-off families would do in the past.

During the first meal with the host family, the teacher, who is drawn to their wealth right from the first place, pretends to refuse the delectable food which the couple offers him to save his face.

The teacher explains he often eats simple foods only, like vegetables and rice, so he will find it uneasy to take delicious meals from them.   

However, as he is hungry at night, he blames the couple in his mind for being so mindless in not insisting that he take the food.

The teacher then comes up with a cunning ploy which will allow him to relish the food and keep his reputation intact as well.

He asks the couple to serve him and their son meals in the privacy of the boy’s own room, where the teacher then voraciously gulps down tons of meat and asks his student, who has almost no meat to eat, to clear away the heaps of bones after each meal.

After a while, as the teacher bids farewell to the couple and their son upon the completion of his tutoring, the boy extends his wishes as a goodbye to the teacher that he will hopefully reach 100 years old while the student himself will live up to 101 years old to collect the teacher’s bones.       

The boy’s sarcastic wish renders the teacher ashamed of his own greed.    

The airing has infuriated the public for intentionally or inadvertently denigrating teachers right before their day even though there is nothing wrong with the cartoon’s message, according to the communications ministry.

The broadcaster is also to make an apology as part of the penalty.

Vice Minister Truong Minh Tuan told the media on Friday that the cartoon is based on a folk story titled “Nhat Xuong” (Picking Up Bones), but the cartoon’s writer and editors added the words “Cho Thay” (for the Teacher) to its title.

Tuan noted that the country’s folklore reflects both positive and negative facets of social life, but the negative side depicted in the cartoon is not common.

The airing went against Vietnamese people’s long-standing tradition of paying reverence to teachers, he stressed.

Tuan added that the blunder can be intentional or not, but after watching it, he himself and many viewers had the feeling that the cartoon “is suggestive of something.”

He said that many of VTV’s shows are produced using funds from sources mobilized from society or through exclusive contracts with media companies.

The series “Qua Tang Cuoc Song” is the collaboration between VTV and Sunrise Media – a Vietnamese firm.

“Under any circumstances, VTV is not allowed to loosen its control over the content as it has done in recent times. The broadcaster is thus held accountable for any violations,” the vice minister asserted.

Vietnam Television’s other violations

Recently, VTV has made several blunders in its programs.

In late October this year, the Chief Inspector of the Ministry of Information and Communications issued a decision to impose a VND15 million ($706) penalty on the broadcaster for airing the performance of a boyband in an episode of the first Vietnamese season of British reality show The X Factor.

In their performance in the semifinal round broadcast on VTV3 on October 12, the four-member band donned the Pieu brocade, a traditional scarf which is a cultural symbol of the Thai ethnic group in the northwestern mountains, in the form of a loincloth.

According to the ministry, the usage of the brocade in the show “was wrong and inappropriate” and it caused a negative impact on public opinion.

After the broadcast, an outrage erupted on local social networks where many people said the performance offended the Thai ethnic minority's culture.

VTV later took responsibility for the incident, explaining that it occurred because their stylist team was quite young and had no knowledge of the community’s traditional costumes.

Also, Cat Tien Sa Co., which produced the show, issued a document saying that it was sorry and the outfits were hired from the Youth Culture House in Ho Chi Minh City.

The firm explained that it assumed the headwear is typical of the Ba Na or Ede ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands.

In late April 2014, VTV publicly apologized for another incident in the X Factor show.

Popular singer Anh Thuy was found deceiving viewers in one of the show’s episodes by dressing up as a poor, scar-riddled coffee attendant and making up a pitiable story.   Thuy, playing the girl with a mask and a woolen hat, successfully aroused mercy and sympathy among many viewers, who were soon frustrated to learn that it was a mere trick.

In late September, the broadcaster also admitted they made a mistake in not censoring footage of the beheading of a live turtle, so the disturbing image appeared clearly in the 10th episode of the second season of the “Vua Dau Bep – MasterChef Vietnam” cooking show, which was on air on September 20.

In December last year, BHD, the organizer of reality TV show “Big Brother Vietnam” – an adaption of its American original – issued a press release, admitting its PR staff accidentally leaked footage and images in which contestants were seen stripping almost naked in one of the show’s challenges broadcast on VTV6 – a channel for young people.

In episode 5 on December 12, nine remaining contestants were asked to do everything they could to lose 18kg in their total weight.

The contestants, including females, then did not hesitate to take off their clothes to shed as much weight as possible.

The images, though briefly aired and blurred by VTV6, enraged many television viewers, who considered them unsuitable for their young children to watch as the episode was broadcast at prime time.

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