Categories: Latest NewsSingapore

Govt Will Continue SPH Media Funding As Falsified Data Does Not Affect Decision: Josephine Teo

Government Will Not Change Decision To Fund SPH Media

News broke earlier this month that SPH Media Trust (SMT) found inconsistencies in their reports of circulation data, creating a massive uproar.

On Monday (6 Feb), Communications and Information Minister Josephine Teo addressed the ongoing saga in Parliament.

She said the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) will continue funding SPH Media, as circulation numbers, falsified or not, do not affect their decision.

SPH Media funding still remains vital

Mrs Teo said the falsified numbers were first discovered during an internal review of processes that began in March 2022.

After MCI was made aware of this, it conducted its own review to determine if the falsified data affected the decision to fund.

The amount committed by the government to fund SPH Media, up to S$900 million over five years, was reviewed as well.

Source: ST on YouTube

The review included a re-examination of their analysis of the media landscape in early 2021.

Mrs Teo went on to emphasise that the reasons for the government’s support of SMT still remain valid today.

These reasons include assisting the newsroom with going digital, giving a voice to the Singapore identity, and providing accurate information.

“In particular, demand for print and digital subscriptions had weakened because news had become freely available. This is why circulation had come under pressure,” she said.

 

I emphasise — this does not make it right for anyone to overstate circulation numbers. But it reaffirms the need for restructuring.

Level of funding for SPH Media is valid

Mrs Teo also said that the level of funding SPH Media receives continues to be valid.

Source: Google Maps

The government had previously determined the funding amount based on the purposes of investing in technology and capability development.

Furthermore, circulation numbers — the sale and distribution of print and digital copies — were not a key consideration for the government when assessing the amount.

Instead, the focus was on reach and readership, measured by surveys with third parties.

Falsified data has no bearing on public funds

SMT’s review of their circulation data spanned 1.5 years, from September 2020 to March 2022.

Since the government only pledged to start funding SMT in the financial year of 2022, and has not disbursed any funds yet, the findings had no bearing on public finances.

As for ensuring accountability on public funding use, Mrs Teo stated that conditions and safeguards were in place.

For instance, the government applies Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to determine how much funding SMT should receive.

The KPIs include the total reach and engagement of SMT’s products, as well as specific reach indicators for vernacular groups and youths.

Independent external auditors must also audit SMT’s KPI performance and financial statements before they are submitted to the government.

In addition, SMT will have to provide progress updates to MCI on a half-yearly basis. Funding will only be disbursed if the government finds updates pertaining to the usage of funding and future business plans satisfactory.

“The government will also review the funding quantum during the midterm and adjust KPIs and funding where necessary,” Mrs Teo said.

Other queries to be addressed to SMT

Mrs Teo additionally noted the validity of other concerns, but said MPs should address them directly to SMT.

“SMT has its own corporate governance and executive team. Their CEO is accountable to their Board, which is, in turn, accountable to the Members of the CLG,” she said.

The Government cannot speak on behalf of SMT, and it is premature for us to say more at this juncture.

“This is especially as the board has tasked its audit and risk committee to conduct further investigations into the circulation discrepancy,” Mrs Teo added.

She mentioned SMT’s resolve to investigate the findings of the review. MCI will also expect SMT to share the audit’s and risk committee’s findings.

“SMT’s Board and management must also be mindful of their public duties, their responsibility to maintain the public’s trust,” she said.

Have news you must share? Get in touch with us via email at news@mustsharenews.com.

Featured image adapted from Google Maps.

Sudeshna Dhar

Sudeshna is a lover of all romcoms, especially Gone Girl (2014).

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