SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) has said that the S$900 million in funding support for SPH Media Trust (SMT) over the next five years, has yet to be disbursed.
This was said in response to the first-ever public statement SMT has issued over its circulation figures scandal that erupted in January this year.
SPH Media acknowledged on 9 January via a report by its own publication that executives of the company were either sacked or disciplined due to misrepresented circulation figures discovered during an internal review, following an expose by Wake Up Singapore (WUSG) a day before.
According to SMT’s statement, it had conducted the internal review to assess the data — which included circulation data — that it took over after the transfer of the media business from Singapore Press Holdings Limited (SPHL).
The internal review covered the period between September 2020 and March 2022 – which included a full financial year of SPHL from September 2020 to August 2021 – where the circulation numbers in some months were found to be overstated by up to 90,000 average daily copies.
SMT said it had earlier taken action against the staff involved in end-Dec 2022. As a result, four of these staff have since left the company, and three were served warning letters.
An MCI spokesperson shared that MCI is also conducting its own review to see if the inconsistencies in circulation data would have affected the decision to fund SMT and the amount the Government committed to fund.
Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo announced in Parliament last February that the Government will fund SMT to the tune of up to S$180 million annually over the next five years, or S$900 million in total.
The MCI spokesman noted the media company’s statement on its internal review of the data, as well as the steps it has taken to deal with the matter.
The spokesman also noted that the SPH Media Holdings Board has tasked its audit and risk committee to further investigate the issue of media titles recorded in circulation without distribution.
“MCI has requested for SPH Media Holdings Board to share these findings when ready and expects full cooperation on this,” the spokesman said.
“MCI is undergoing its own review of whether the inconsistencies would have affected the decision to fund SMT, and the amount the Government committed to fund. We have not disbursed any of these funds to SMT to date. We will share our findings in due course,” the spokesman added.