It comes as a surprise to many Singaporeans that SPH has announced that it is going to restructure its media business into a not-for-profit entity amid falling advertising revenue.
Many would assume that SPH’s media business ‘demise’ is the doing of the PAP elites for parachuting Ng Yat Chung, a paper general, as the CEO for SPH.
Based on the report on SPH’s current revenue. SPH had posted a net profit of $97.9mil for the first half of the 2021 financial year where profits come from SPH’s non-media segments. However, revenue from the media segment fell 23.9% with advertising revenue continue to decline.
Straits Times circulation revenue too decreased 4.7% as daily average print newspaper sales fell. However, it is partially cushioned by strong digital circulation growth with 20.2% increase in daily average digital newspaper sales.
The decline in revenue on print advertising and print papers sales is largely due to the fact more people are ditching traditional print papers while opting for digital versions. This is a clear sign the Straits Times isn’t being run to the ground by the PAP as accused by a Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh as the revenue and readership from the digital papers are actually increasing.
Is Singapore the only country that the government is aiding their media?
The short answer is no. All media companies around the world are being plummeted by the structural decline in the advertising sector and the trend of people going digital. With advertising revenue as their main source of income dwindling, many companies have downsized, going into full digitalisation ditching print papers totally. Some even shut down their operations completely while some seek aid from their governments.
State support for the media is not a new concept. There are plenty of examples around the world where governments are financially supporting media in the public interest. Particularly in democratic countries, government intervention to preserve and promote public value dimensions of news and quality journalism is structurally formative. Many Scandinavian countries, France and even Australia are aiding their media.
So you see, what SPH is doing is not uncommon. It is pretty common in democratic countries governments to aid their media to improve journalistic quality for the general public benefit.
With improved journalistic quality, the media will maintain the trust of the people. As Law Minister Shanmugam puts it, “if you look at it, specific to the media, if the media is not trusted, it would inevitably lead to a government and political leadership that is not trusted. Then, we are all finished if that happens”.