Well-known journalist Ta Bich Loan, Chairwoman of the Journalist Association Charter at Vietnam Television, has been very proactive in projects that involve training and capacity building for the Vietnamese media in cooperation with the British Council. With financial support from the British Embassy, these projects helped to bring Vietnamese journalism closer to international standards and also offer long-term benefits.
One of the projects that Vietnam Television (VTV) is a beneficiary of and one that Loan values highly is MediaNet – a project that develops the skills of young Vietnamese journalists. The project was rolled out by the British Council in partnership with the Vietnam News Agency between 2005 and 2007 and was designed and launched at an opportune moment, a time described by Loan as “filled with journalists lacking professional training who would just have to learn on the job.”
The training brought several leading journalists in socially influential shows to VTV. The course training manual – the MediaNet Handbook – is Loan’s favourite, and she asked for as many as possible, about 50 books, to share with the VTV Journalist Association Charter. She encouraged everyone to read the book carefully, because “even journalism schools probably do not help journalists put together such concise and standardised rules,” she commented.
For Loan, there is another project of monumental importance to VTV that also has the British Council’s footprint – the development of the Vietnam Television Standard Operating Rules.
She depicted what journalism in Vietnam at that time (2008) looked like:
“As Vietnam had just joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), new economic opportunities opened up before its untrained eyes. At the same time, Vietnam was opening its doors to the Internet and this created an information revolution with access to international knowledge now readily available. All that resulted in new demand across various sectors, including in journalism. Vietnamese journalism wanted to reach a level of quality closer to international standards, and everyone saw that it was time to change, to open their minds to new ways of doing things.”
It was then that the need for professional journalistic standards was raised in Vietnam. The British Council, in collaboration with the Vietnam Journalism Association, drafted the Journalism Code of Ethics for local journalists. Based on that intital set of standards, Loan put her own efforts into developing a dedicated code for VTV . Working with Professor Paul from London University and with the support of the British Council, VTV succeeded in establishing its own Code, a success that she and her colleagues remain rightly proud of.
In Loan’s opinion, these professional standards have helped to establish more specific and consistent professional norms than existed previously. Vietnamese members of the press now share a voice when they go out to the world through, for example, new provisions on privacy, child rights and interests, and accurate and fair reporting.
With the support of the British Council, Loan and her team started holding workshops to disseminate the Codes. It was an explosive success when VTV unveiled the Codes at the National Television Festival in November 2008. The event rallied media representatives from all 63 provinces and the Codes were enthusiastically welcomed by television stations throughout the country.
The Codes remain valid to this day. Despite being modified and updated, most core tenets remain intact.
Loan believes that if they are developed further, the Codes will have even more spillover effect.
Loan is currently heading up the Entertainment Show on national TV channel VTV3 – the network with the highest rating in Vietnam. She is also the creator of such high quality, long-running TV shows as The path to Olympia and Contemporary people. She has also had great success in developing VTV6, the first national youth TV channel and he was listed by Forbes Vietnam as among the 50 most influential women in the country in 2017.
“Once a journalistic code is available, reporters can guide one another to avoid or correct mistakes, and therefore do a better job.”
“Medianet helps raise media benchmark expectations, is easy to understand and offers an approach that is closer to international standards.”