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K Shanmugam: Ng Yat Chung’s reaction, and the way he answered the question was very unfortunate

The Independent logo The Independent 9/5/2021 Hana O
K. Shanmugam looking at the camera © The Independent Singapore

Singapore – Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam took to social media to point out his views on the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) restructuring, including adding that SPH Ceo Ng Yat Chung’s reaction to a reporter was “very unfortunate”.

Speaking at Chong Pang Community Club on the sidelines of an Edusave awards ceremony on Saturday (May 8), Mr Shanmugam said that business models have changed, and media businesses in most countries are under pressure.

When asked about his views regarding the reaction of SPH Ceo Ng Yat Chung, Mr Shanmugam said, “Mr Ng’s reaction, and the way he answered the question, I think, was very unfortunate.”

“His outburst can be described in stronger terms, but I want to be careful and understated because SPH is a listed company, with shareholders, management, and I need to be careful.”

Mr Ng issued an apology on the subject on Saturday (May 8). He told The Straits Times: “I had stood up for SPH Media’s long-cherished editorial integrity and will continue to do so. Being a direct and blunt-speaking person, I apologise for any offence I might have caused and regret any distraction from the merits of the proposed restructuring.”

A reporter from Mediacorp’s CNA Digital, had asked Mr Ng if the company “will now pivot to emphasise editorial integrity, for example, ahead of advertiser interests”. Mr Ng had told the reporter he took umbrage at her question, and a video of his remarks went viral.

Mr Shanmugam noted the company is facing the same pressure as other media elsewhere and requires new sources of funding such as government support.

He also commented on how many newspapers in Europe and the United States have closed while many others have restructured. This includes some of the best-known international newspapers, such as the second-largest newspaper group in the US filing for bankruptcy in Feb 2020.

Big names all had to be saved from bankruptcy, said Mr Shanmugam. Some have been taken over by billionaires like the Washington Post by Jeff Bezos and SCMP (South China Morning Post) by Jack Ma.

“Newspaper revenues are down very sharply because ad revenues have collapsed,” he noted.

Mr Shanmugam pointed out that ad revenues from advertisers have moved platforms and gone on to Google, Facebook, among others.

However, if you look at SPH in contrast, the problem is not readership, added the minister.

“Readership hasn’t declined. In fact, the readership of SPH has grown in the last five years.”

“SPH media has done extremely well. Readership has gone up, but at the same time, bottom lines have come down, suffered,” he explained.

Mr Shanmugam also noted that governments of many countries are aiding their media. He used France as an example where the government funds hundreds of millions of euros in support, both direct and indirect, to the press every year.

“SPH’s restructuring has to be seen in this context,” he said in a following Facebook post.

“You have no choice if you want high-quality journalism.”

Our media is highly trusted

Mr Shanmugam was also asked about the trust in Singapore’s media.

“Trust in our government, institutions and media is extremely important,” he said. “If media is not trusted, it will lead to government and political leadership that is not trusted.

“Our media is highly trusted, compared to elsewhere,” said Mr Shanmugam.

“The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that 62 per cent of respondents trust the media to do what is right, compared to the global average of 51 per cent,” he noted.

“Singapore ranks higher than other developed countries including US, France, Canada, UK, Australia and Japan.”/TISG

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