Chief Executive Officer of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), Ng Yat Chung has issued an apology for his apparent outburst at the SPH press conference held on Thursday (6 May) to announce the transfer of SPH’s media business to a non-profit-entity.
Mr Ng told The Straits Times on Saturday (8 May): “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.”
When asked by Channel News Asia’s digital journalist if SPH’s plans would mean the media business would pivot to emphasize editorial integrity ahead of advertiser interests, Mr Ng replied, “If I may just interject, I honestly I take umbrage at your first question. There are reporters from here who received substantial funding from various sources, and I don’t believe that you will describe yourself as bowing to the needs of advertisers in doing your job.”
He stressed that SPH publications have always had advertisers and that the company has “never, never conceded” to their needs.
“We will always continue to provide fair, reliable, credible reporting.” Ng added. “The fact that you dare to question SPH titles for, in your words, conceding to advertisers – I take umbrage at your comment.”
“I must call this out. (SPH) Chairman (Lee Boon Yang) is a gentleman. I am not,” a visibly agitated Ng retorted.
Raising his voice in concluding his answer, Ng stated, “The purpose of doing this is to make sure that SPH media will continue to do the job we have done so well for so long.”
“Very unfortunate” said Minister K Shanmugam on SPH CEO’s reaction
Speaking to reporters at a community event in his constituency on Saturday, Minister for Law and Home Affairs, Mr K Shanmugam remarked Mr Ng’s response as being “unfortunate”.
Mr Shanmugam said the reporter asked “a right question, fair question”, noting that journalists would be concerned about editorial independence.
“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 Shanmugam said a media company taking money from an advertiser “doesn’t automatically mean that independence is compromised”.
“The reporter who asked the question and her editor, Walter know that taking money from an advertiser doesn’t automatically mean that independence is compromised,” he said.
“If that was so, most newspapers in the world would not be considered independent, because most newspapers do, in fact, completely rely on advertisements. The journalist however, asked a right question, fair question. And, of course journalists would be concerned about their independence.”
MCI declares support to SPH’s proposal for restructuring, prepared to provide funding
The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) has stepped in to declare the Government’s support in SPH’s plan to restructure media business, adding that it is prepared to provide funding support to help it “build capabilities for the future”.
“It is in the interest of Singapore and Singaporeans that our local media continues to thrive and deliver quality journalism,” MCI said in a statement on Thursday.
“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.”
Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said 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.
“We are supportive of SPH’s proposal to restructure and transfer SPH Media to the CLG. Our goal is to help the local news media and our journalists adapt and thrive in the digital era while maintaining the high professional standards we expect and value.”
Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information, will deliver a ministerial statement on this matter at the Parliament sitting on this coming Monday (10 May).