Saigon's 32 newspapers, which have been battling for their existence for a decade, are now fighting their own readers and newspaper vendors, who are running a "rent-a-paper" racket.
SV News vendor in street
SV People being delivered to wholesalers (3 shots)
SV Vendors collect papers from wholesalers (2 shots)
SV Vendors with papers on bicycles (4 shots)
SV Woman vendor walking with papers
SV Vendors on bikes and motor bikes (2 shots)
SV & CUs People reading papers at news stall
SV Newspaper renter exchanging paper with client and renter drives off
Initials BB/2307 IG/AW/BB/2322
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Background: Saigon's 32 newspapers, which have been battling for their existence for a decade, are now fighting their own readers and newspaper vendors, who are running a "rent-a-paper" racket.
Because morning newspapers are in fact printed the previous afternoon, street sellers rent out the paper over-night and can still get them back in time to sell them the following day. And papers that are still left, and obviously there are quite a lot, are then returned to the newspaper offices as "unsold".
Papers are rented out at half their selling price, and this represents pure profit to the news vendor. As a result sales of newspapers have fallen drastically. Newspaper owners, who include parliamentarians and large businessmen, claim to have lost millions of piasters (thousands of pounds sterling) as a result of the racket.
In order to counteract the news vendors, the papers have now ruled that they will only take back 30% of the unsold newspapers. This main that vendors will have to sell at least 70% of their stock. Otherwise they will start losing out on the papers they rent and then return.
The printing of morning papers the previous afternoon dates from the first days of confiscation, when newspapers had to submit a copy of the paper to the Ministry of Information for getting, prior to distribution. Newspapers violating the strict press code could be, and were, confiscated.
In 1971 Saigon had 54 newspapers. Often as many as three or four were confiscated every day. The opposition newspaper, Lap Truong, was confiscated 184 times and eventually folded after speaking out against the 1971 Presidential elections.
Newspapers still have to submit copies to the Information Ministry and the press code still bars damaging speculation, false news, and news which jeopardises "national security, the national economy and army morale."
The success of the rent-a-paper racket is due to the fact that the Vietnamese like to read several accounts of the news, to balance the enormous variations in political bias of the newspapers. Additionally, strip comics and romance serial are in great demand among Vietnamese women.
The racket has caused a drop in profits of both newspapers and periodicals. One of the biggest newspapers in Saigon, estimates that only half its copies are sold, while another third are rented and then returned.