SPH Media Finds Inconsistencies In Data Reporting Over 1.5 Years, Senior Staff Leave Company

SPH Media Internal Review Finds 10-12% Discrepancy In Reporting Of Circulation Data

SPH Media Trust has found inconsistencies in their recent data reporting, a spokesman for the company revealed on Monday (9 Jan).

This was discovered after an internal review that spanned 1.5 years.

Source: Google Maps

As a result of these findings, a number of senior staff have left the company or been “taken to task”.

SPH Media conducted review from Sep 2020 to Mar 2022

In March 2022, the company started a review of their internal processes, an SPH Media spokesman told The Straits Times (ST), one of the newspapers under their publication.

This review spanned 1.5 years, from September 2020 to March 2022.

It encompassed their financial year (FY) 20/21 — from September 2020 to August 2021 — as well as the first two quarters of FY21/22.

Notably, SPH Media was hived off from Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) to become a non-profit entity in December 2021.

SPH Changes Media Business To Nonprofit, Will Seek Funds From Those Who Support Quality Journalism

Thus, the period under review includes both their time as part of a listed company, as well as their current incarnation as a company limited by guarantee (CLG).

Inconsistencies included reporting of SPH Media circulation data

During the review, “some inconsistencies in the reporting of the data” emerged, the spokesman said.

These included circulation data.

Some examples of these inconsistencies were:

  1. Copies of newspapers were printed, counted for circulation and then destroyed
  2. Multiple instances of double-counting of subscriptions
  3. Inclusion of lapsed contracts into circulation data
  4. Pumping of additional funding into a project account over a period of time in order to purchase fictitious circulation
  5. Arbitrary derivation of certain circulation numbers

10-12% of circulation wrongly counted

The inconsistencies in circulation data reporting resulted in the inaccurate count of between 85,000 and 95,000 copies daily on average, the spokesman said.

Source: Google Maps

This applied to all SPH Media titles, i.e.:

  • The Straits Times
  • The Business Times
  • Lianhe Zaobao
  • Shin Min Daily News
  • Berita Harian
  • Tamil Murasu

The discrepancy represents 10-12% of their reported daily average circulation.

Staff involved left the company or ‘taken to task’

After these discoveries, SPH Media immediately took steps to strengthen processes, the spokesman said.

As a result, several senior employees involved in the data reporting inconsistencies have left the company or been “taken to task”.

The company didn’t elaborate on how they took the staff “to task”.

They also didn’t reveal the staff members’ names.

MCI has asked SPH Media to share full findings

A spokesman for the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said on Monday (9 Jan) that they were aware of reports on SPH Media’s findings, ST reported.

In response, the ministry has asked SPH Media to share its full findings.

They’ve recently received the company’s internal report on the case, MCI noted, adding,

MCI will undertake our own review to determine if these inconsistencies in circulation data affect the decision to fund, and the amount the Government committed to fund SPH Media. MCI expects SPH Media to fully cooperate with our review.

In Feb 2022, Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo said the Government would provide up to S$900 million to SPH Media over five years.

SPH in its publicly listed form had seen drastic losses before the decision was made to switch its media business to a non-profit business model.

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Featured image adapted from Google Maps.

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