San Jose Councilman Manh Nguyen is known as the Godfather of Vietnamese politics. The petite councilman earned that title because of his media company — a newspaper and radio station — that provides valuable exposure to Vietnamese voters.
Some say it even helped Mayor Sam Liccardoclinch the Vietnamese vote in 2014.
But now Nguyen is without a radio station. Well, the 1500 AM station is still on the air — but Nguyen’s programming has been off since April 6. City Hall sources say it’s because he didn’t pay nearly $50,000 in rent, though others say Nguyen has since caught up.
Nguyen didn’t return calls for comment. Station manager Andrea Yamazaki declined comment.
Nguyen’s program “Viet Liberty” ran from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Now the station fills the time slots with commercials and other talk shows.
The station yanked Nguyen’s programming just as several candidates demanded equal air time from the councilman. Nguyen used his radio program to promote himself and other Vietnamese candidates he supports, including Jimmy Nguyen in the District 8 council race and Cong Do in the state Assembly District 27 contest.
Lan Diep, who’s challenging Nguyen’s re-election bid, was owed eight hours. Van Le, who’s running for Assembly against Do, demanded 62 minutes of equal air time, as did Pat Waite in the District 8 race.
“I think everyone, especially voters, simply want fairness — for all the candidates to play by the same rules,” Le said in an email.
According to FCC rules, an individual can own a station, but the airwaves are public. Equal access rules are designed to prevent a politician or special interest from using the public airwaves to promote a personal or political agenda.