Vietnam has several English–language newspapers and magazines, of which the daily Viet Nam News (vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn) has the widest distribution. It provides a brief – and very select – run–down of local, regional and international news, as well as snippets on art and culture. Though short on general news, the weekly Vietnam Investment Review (vir.com.vn) covers issues in greater depth and are worth looking at for an insight into what makes the Vietnamese economy tick. It also publishs useful supplements (Time Out and The Guide respectively) with selective but up–to–date restaurant and nightlife listings mainly covering Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, plus feature articles on culture and tourist destinations. However, they have been superceded by the excellent free magazines The Word and AsiaLife, which both carry listings of bars and restaurants as well as articles on aspects of Vietnamese culture; look out for them in establishments that advertise in these publications.
All media in Vietnam are under tight government control. There is, however, a slight glimmer of less draconian censorship, with an increasing number of stories covering corruption at even quite senior levels and more criticism of government policies and ministers, albeit very mild by Western standards.
Foreign publications, such as the International Herald Tribune, Time, Newsweek, The Financial Times and the Bangkok Post are sold by street vendors and at some of the larger bookshops and in the newsstands of more upmarket hotels in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.
The government radio station, Voice of Vietnam (english.vov.vn), began life in 1945 during the August Revolution. It became famous during the American War when “Hanoi Hannah” broadcast propaganda programmes to American GIs. Nowadays it maintains six channels, of which VOV5 broadcasts English-language programmes several times a day covering a whole range of subjects: news, weather, sport, entertainment and culture, even market prices. You can pick up the broadcasts on FM in and around Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
To keep in touch with the full spectrum of international news, however, you’ll need to go online or get a short-wave radio to pick up one of the world service channels, such as BBC World Service (bbc.co.uk/worldservice), Radio Canada International (rcinet.ca) and Voice of America (voanews.com); local frequencies are listed on the relevant website.
Vietnamese television VTV is also government-run and airs a mix of films, music shows, news programmes, soaps, sport and foreign (mostly American, Korean and Japanese) imports. VTV1, the main domestic channel, occasionally presents a news summary in English. However, most hotels provide satellite TV, offering BBC, CNN, MTV and HBO as standard.