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Little Saigon Radio Marks Five Years of Broadcasting

July 02, 1998|TINI TRAN

Ninh Vu's eyes light up as he shows off the labyrinth of small rooms that make up the station headquarters for Little Saigon Radio in Santa Ana.

Vu, the station's chief executive officer, has reason to look pleased. Little Saigon Radio, the father of local Vietnamese-language radio, celebrated its fifth anniversary Wednesday.

"We couldn't believe how fast it grew," he said. "Only in Orange County could it have succeeded like this."

The radio station was the first to broadcast extended programming for the Vietnamese American community here, the largest concentration of Vietnamese emigres in the world.

From its first day, the station's popularity exploded, revolutionizing the way many in the Vietnamese American community receive news and information. Before, many could only get news through Vietnamese newspapers.

"With radio, they can get it all day, every day," said Vu. "In some homes, they have three radios, one in the kitchen, bedroom and living room. For the elderly, in particular, it's been wonderful because it keeps them from being lonely or depressed."

Walk through any business in Little Saigon and chances are, it's tuned to 1480 AM. Running from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., the station broadcasts international and local news, commentary, talk shows and music.

The highlight Wednesday was a congratulatory letter from the White House read on the air by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove). The station also announced it would offer college scholarships of $8,000 each to three local high school seniors who plan to major in journalism.

"I'm 70 already. I'd like the younger ones to replace me," Vu said.

Despite his age, he is still actively involved with the station's operation. In 1993 Vu and three partners gathered $150,000 to launch the business.

Vu has had a lifelong love affair with broadcasting. In Vietnam, he worked with Armed Forces Radio from 1950 to 1960. Then he served as the director for the Voice of Freedom radio station from 1964 until he fled in 1975.

Until last year, he logged 16 hours a day, working full time as a social worker for Los Angeles County.

"I was getting up at 4 a.m. to write the news, reading it at 7 a.m. and then going off to work. Then I'd come back after work and do it again. The long hours didn't matter. I love this," he said.

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