Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) has earlier announced that it will restructure itself and will be transferring its media business, SPH Media, to a not-for-profit entity as part of its strategic review.
This restructuring exercise will entail transferring the entire media-related businesses of SPH including relevant subsidiaries, relevant employees, News Centre, and Print Centre along with their respective leaseholds, as well as all related intellectual property and information technology assets to a newly incorporated wholly-owned subsidiary, SPH Media Holdings Pte Ltd.
SPH will provide the initial resources and funding by capitalising SPH Media with a cash injection of S$80 million, S$30 million worth of SPH shares, and SPH REIT units, as well as SPH’s stakes in four of its digital media investments.
The transfer will take place at a nominal sum. The not-for-profit entity will be a newly formed public company limited by guarantee CLG.
Following the transfer, SPH will thus no longer be subject to shareholder and other relevant restrictions under the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act (NPPA).
The Ministry of Communication and Information (MCI) released a statement on Thursday (6 May) noting that the Government is supportive of SPH’s plans and is prepared to provide funding support to help it “build capabilities for the future” and accelerate its digital transformation.
“It is in the interest of Singapore and Singaporeans that our local media continues to thrive and deliver quality journalism,” the Ministry wrote.
“After SPH Media is transferred to a CLG, MCI is prepared to provide it with funding support to help it build capabilities for the future.”
It added that Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran will also be delivering a ministerial statement on the matter in Parliament next Monday (10 May).
Mr Iswaran said in the statement that having a “professional, capable and respected local news media” is critical to Singapore’s national interest.
“They report through a Singaporean lens, so that our citizens have a good understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing our country, the choices we need to make, and our place in the world. The Government therefore supports high quality, credible journalism in our local news media,” he remarked.
Over on social media, many netizens took to CNA’s, ST’s and TODAY’s Facebook posts slamming the MCI’s move to support SPH’s plans to restructure as they noted that the Government is using “taxpayers’ money” to support the company.
Some even urged SPH CEO Ng Yat Chung to step down from his position, saying that his “incompetence” and “bad management” have caused the company’s failures.
One netizen wrote: “Why are taxpayers funding the incompetence of the CEO? Just fire him and get another more competent one to turn it around lah..”
One netizen commented that the MCI being supportive of SPH’s plans to restructure seems like “a bail out by taxpayers”, adding that it may be “more cost-effective” to change management instead of transferring the media business to a not-for-profit entity.
Another netizen commented that SPH should “remove all the redundant old-timers” before expecting taxpayers to pay for “these headcounts”.
“Since newspaper getting thinner, magazines closed down many and readership all dropped tremendously, do SPH still need so many editorial staff and Group Editors? Please, time to review deeper before passing the costs to tax payers,” said the netizen.
A couple of netizens commented that the Government is using the citizens’ “hard earned money” for their “own propaganda”.