Scandal hits TV reality show

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An eight-minute clip shows the music director of "The Voice Vietnam" apparently dictating who will qualify and who won't
  A teary Phuong Uyen (2nd, R), music director of The Voice Vietnam, apologized merely for "˜speaking crudely' in a tape in which she is heard apparently fixing the reality show's results. Sitting beside her at a press conference are Nguyen Quang Minh (2nd, L), director of show producer Cat Tien Sa media company and singers Thu Minh (1st, L) and Ho Ngoc Ha, two of the event's four coaches. Photo: Ly Vo Phu Hung

It was a teary press conference by Phuong Uyen, the famous singer and songwriter who is music director for the first season of reality show Giong Hat Viet (The Voice Vietnam).

It got blanket coverage in the media, with some online newspapers even covering it live. Uyen, tomboyish and with a pixie haircut, was being grilled over an audiotape that apparently showed her fixing the show's results.

"I apologize for speaking crudely," was all she would admit, referring to some of the language she uses in the tape.

"The words are mine, but they are cut and put together to sully my name. I want to say sorry to the audiences, but what you have seen is not the truth."

"I do not have the power to choose or eliminate any contestant."

Nevertheless, she said tearfully she was pulling out of the reality show.

The press conference in Ho Chi Minh City on September 11 came two days after the clip, titled Scandal Giong Hat Viet, was posted online.

Though it was taken down shortly afterwards, it had gone viral by then.

The clip, made carefully with subtitles, starts with a text message from Tran Lap, a coach of one of the four teams, to Uyen. He asks Uyen to change his first duo's song from English to Vietnamese. But she rejects his request, saying the Vietnamese song is not good enough considering the show's status.

The clip claims that the performances of some contestants in the blind auditions were edited by Uyen to improve them, and posts some emails sent to her for the purpose.

In another place, Uyen can be heard in her distinctive voice telling Nguyen Khanh Phuong Linh, a contestant, how to beat rival H'zina Bya, a semifinalist in a TV singing contest last year.

"She [H'zina Bya] cannot sing English, don't you understand? She will die if you choose R&B. I will take you in the next round. If you sing her strength, you will die first. Don't worry, I am the boss."

Bya's performance was not featured in the show's first episode aired on July 8. In fact, until her name was mentioned in the tape, no one even knew she had qualified for the show.

It claims she was forced to quit the show, but Bya told VnExpress that it is not true and she dropped out due to health problems.

"I don't know whether the voice in the clip is Uyen's or somebody doctored it to denigrate the show. If this is the truth, I feel sad since Uyen does not know much about my ability. I can sing in English, not very well, but not as badly as Uyen thought.

"[But] no matter what happens, Uyen is still my idol. I have all her songs."

Last straw

A recording of Uyen's conversation with a woman, supposedly Tuong Vy, production manager of the Cat Tien Sa (CATS) media company in HCMC, The Voice Vietnam organizer, is the final nail in her coffin.

In it she says: "She is very talkative, so she will tell others that we prevented her from singing what she wanted.

"Let her sing a Vietnamese song, then kick her out. Minh [singer Thu Minh, one of the four coaches] has no voice here, I am the boss."

The clip has photos and messages claiming there is a lesbian relationship between Uyen and Thieu Bao Trang, a member of Ho Ngoc Ha's team.

It also claims that Trang will be in the top four along with Bao Anh, Dong Lan, and Dang Thi Thu Thuy, and go on to win The Voice Vietnam thanks to their "love."

Uyen denied any relationship between her and Trang.

She blamed a close friend who has her email password for the leaks.

Nguyen Quang Minh, director of CATS, said at the press conference that the organizers have asked the police to investigate and find out who posted the clip "to discover the truth, not to impute criminal liability."

He had received Uyen's resignation before the press conference, but said he wanted her to remain in charge "to prove that she is not the bad person that the clip seeks to depict her as."

After the coaches and many contestants expressed support for her, Uyen agreed to stay on.

She told Thanh Nien that she has canceled plans to fly back to the US.

There has been controversy in the media about the preponderance of English songs in the contest. Uyen said: "80 percent of the songs in the coming round will be Vietnamese."

Netizens indignant

The Voice Vietnam became a hit after the first episode due to the charisma of the coaches, all pop and rock stars, and talent of the contestants.

The first hint of controversy appeared with the debate over the choice of English songs. Then local diva Thanh Lam chose to go public with her doubts over the ability of Ho Ngoc Ha and Dam Vinh Hung, two of the coaches, to teach music.

Hung said he no longer considered Lam a friend. Ha did not respond directly but had this to say on her Facebook status: "Don't ever hurt people even slightly"¦ Just slap slightly on [my son's] butt to make them understand. The harder you hit on the head, the more it hurts."

Their tiff barely died down before the Uyen tape set off a media frenzy.

There has also been outrage among the public. One reader, Hoang Dung, wrote to "I am totally disappointed with Uyen after hearing her voice in the clip. It means that the tears and the sympathy of the coaches watching their teams in the show were deceitful."

Another, huylawer73, wrote: "It is an outrage perpetrated on the audiences. The organizers, coaches, and even some contestants pretend to be goody-goody. Just get rid of Phuong Uyen, change all the coaches, and give the contestants who were discriminated against a chance to show their talent."

Some netizens are suspicious that the organizers manufactured the scandal with an eye on grabbing headlines.

"In Uyen's phone conversations, her voice is clearer than the other side. Maybe a bug was planted in her cell phone or she recorded [it] herself," wrote Ho Nam to

A small number of netizens said it is normal for organizers to script reality shows.

But many people have already said they will not watch the final episode of Battle Round to be aired on Vietnam Television's VTV3 on September 16.

The first of nine Liveshow rounds will be broadcast on September 23.

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