Letter: SPH Should Remove Their Paywall Since They Are Getting S$900M Of Taxpayers’ Money

SPH Is Still Gatekeeping Media Content With Paywall Even Though It’s An “Essential Public Good”

Since 2015, The Straits Times (ST) has had a paywall for many of its articles, and in 2018 introduced ST Premium in light of falling profits.

On 15 Oct 2018, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) reported a 19.7 per cent fall in net profit for the year.

However, that was not enough to stop SPH from becoming a non-profit organisation (NGO), named SPH Media Trust (SMT) in 2021.

Even though the Government promised S$900 million to SMT over the next five years, ST Premium remains.

Currently, a subscription costs S$9.90 a month, or S$24.90/month to read it on a tablet.

If the Government is already funding SPH with taxpayers’ money, why do citizens still have to pay for articles under their paywall?

When announcing SMT’s funding in February 2022, Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo said in Parliament that “preserving local news media remains critical”.

She also referred to the local news media as an “essential public good in our multiracial, multi-religious society”.

If the Government believes that SMT is an “essential public good”, shouldn’t the content on ST and SPH’s other publications be free?

What is a public good if it’s not available to all?

Since SMT is now legally an NGO, there’s no longer a need to seek profit. It also received funding to restructure its operations last year.

Considering the substantial financial support SMT is receiving, there’s no reason why they should charge readers for access to their content.

If anything, their publications should be free, especially for Singaporeans.

Ms Teo mentioned in Parliament that, “SPH had invested almost S$50 million annually in technology investments and digital talent”.

More money than that is flowing into SMT now. How much does ST Premium make for SMT?

And is it still necessary to gatekeep this “essential public good” from readers?

Marcus

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Featured image adapted from Google Workspace and NTU Library.

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