Little Saigon TV
NCM, Julian Do Posted: Feb 13, 2004
As a teenager, John Thai Dinh did not like the way the Vietnam War and Vietnamese people were portrayed on television. In the late 1970s, while his Vietnamese friends were studying engineering and medicine, Dinh decided to pursue a career in television broadcasting to re-tell stories about his country from a Vietnamese perspective.
"When we first launched our program as a news format in 1986, many people warned us that entertainment was a better way to go," says Dinh, founder of Little Saigon Television Network (LSTN). "Today about 250,000 people watch our one-hour news program daily."
Little Saigon TV filled a need in the U.S. Vietnamese community to stay informed about the current events in their homeland. Headquartered in a part of Orange County known as "Little Saigon," the TV network is in the heart of the largest overseas Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam, with an estimated 300,000 Vietnamese Americans.
The news program gained national attention in the 1980s when it produced a documentary series of the experience of Vietnamese Boat People. An edited version was aired on PBS in 1986. "It got the world's attention of this human tragedy," says Dinh. That year it was nominated for an Emmy. "Ironically we later produced another documentary with the Accuracy Media organization in Washington DC to protest the inaccuracies in PBS's Vietnam TV series."
Little Saigon TV has stayed true to the mission of its founder by continuing to challenge the media's image of Vietnam and Vietnamese Americans. "Our community is often perceived to be obsessed with anti-communism," says Dinh. "I think having someone like Dat Phan (the first Vietnamese American comedian) helps break the stereotype."
But the TV show also plays an important role in keeping the Vietnamese community politically informed and active. "This is what our program has been doing: breaking down the issues for people to help them decide. Little Saigon has been known as a Republican country but like everyone else we have matured politically. We don't just vote partisan. I think 2004 election will prove to be different."
Little Saigon TV plans to go bilingual in the future to appeal to younger viewers and reflect the cultural mix of Vietnamese Americans. "We want our show to have Vietnamese 'Pho' (a popular Vietnamese beef soup noodles) with some American Ketchup," says Dinh. "This is the future of Little Saigon."
Little Saigon TV can be seen on KXLA Channel 44 from 4-5PM, Monday-Friday.
Little Saigon TV Network, Inc.,
3505 Cadillac Ave, Bld O, Suite 108B
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
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