To some it’s the nagging sound of the nanny state – to others a sinister reminder of the omnipresence of a one party regime.
The public loudspeakers, strung from telegraph poles and trees and blaring their “advice” to the masses, are an inescapable feature of life in many Vietnamese cities – and a reminder to even the most oblivious visitor that this is still a communist country.
Citizens of more democratic lands are not expected to tolerate being woken by a local bureaucrat fussing over their civic duties and delivering a bulletin of sanitised “news”.
The loudspeakers may be a dubious legacy of the revolutionary past, but one province in north central Vietnam thinks it’s hit on a more forward-looking use for them – the promotion of a consumer product.
The product in question is Saigon Beer
In one district of Ha Tinh province, residents are admonished by blaring speakers that they should drink that particular brew twice a week, according to an article in Tuoi Tre News.
An official of Ho Do Commune was quoted as saying that provincial officials had requested broadcasts to promote the state owned brewery.
“We have to let people know of the policy to drink Saigon Beer to increase Ha Tinh’s budget,” the official was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
The local subsidiary of Sabeco, which produces Saigon Beer, is a major contributor to local taxes, and the provincial administration has become a major cheerleader for the brand.
“Besides spreading the policy via the public loudspeakers, we have also organized musical shows to encourage the consumption of Saigon Beer,” the official told the paper.
The local administration hit the headlines earlier in the month when it publicly criticised a group of local officials for not drinking Saigon Beer at a party.
The authorities were apparently tipped off by an informer who was outraged at the sight of them drinking large amounts of foreign beer.
Notwithstanding any health concerns about urging the public to drink alcohol, local people can be expected to question whether the initiative is a valid use of the public loudspeaker system.
Further north, in Hanoi, there is evidence that grumbling about the ubiquitous loudspeakers is on the rise.
Even mainstream media has reported on growing complaints, with some people describing them as noise pollution.
One said they were often played at full volume just as residents were trying to rest.
Each ward in the capital has its own council and they use the speakers to give information on health, government initiatives, street cleaning activities and random items of “news”.
Many also blare unsolicited music into the teeming streets and heavily populated tenement buildings.
Loudspeakers have been removed from some neighbourhoods in Ho Chi Minh City – increasing numbers of Hanoi residents will be hoping the capital follows suit.