SINGAPORE — SPH Media Group had earlier acknowledged on 9 January via a report by the Straits Times 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.
The inconsistencies in the reporting of circulation data were discovered in an internal review in March 2022 for the period of September 2020 to March 2022.
The internal review is said to have taken place after the media publications under formerly listed Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) were carved out into a non-profit entity, SPH Media Trust (SMT).
The review uncovered various issues, such as having lapsed contracts being counted into circulation data; copies that were printed, counted for circulation and then destroyed; as well as double-counting of subscriptions across multiple instances.
More disturbingly, a project account was also said to have been injected with additional funding over a period of time to purchase fictitious circulation.
Since SMT is the largest owner of media publications in Singapore, it could control its publication on whether to publish stories or not.
However, according to a source of TOC, it is said that Mediacorp was allegedly told/instructed to cease its reportage on the SMT circulation scandal as of 14 January.
If we look at the reporting done by Channel News Asia and TODAY, the publications under Mediacorp — the next largest media outlet in Singapore wholly owned by Temasek Holdings, we can note that investigative reporting on the matter stopped as of 13 January.
- Daily circulation numbers of SPH Media titles found to have been inflated by 10% to 12% in internal review (CNA 9 Jan)
- SPH Media circulation numbers found to be inflated by 10-12%; senior staff taken to task, Govt probe underway (TODAY 9 Jan)
- Advertisers may sue platforms that falsify circulation figures, say lawyers in wake of SPH case (CNA 10 Jan)
- ‘Painful but necessary’ to make public inflation of circulation figures, ‘more things may come out’: SPH Media editor-in-chief (CNA/TODAY 10 Jan)
- SGX reviewing SPH Media circulation information; investor watchdog urges ‘no let up’ if market deliberately misled (TODAY 10 Jan)
- Absolute transparency is needed’: Advertising and marketing industry body expresses disappointment in SPH Media case (CNA/TODAY 11 Jan)
- SPH Media’s inflated circulation numbers could erode trust of readers and business partners: Marketing experts (CNA 11 Jan)
- Explainer: What are circulation and readership figures and why does the SPH Media saga matter? (TODAY 12 Jan)
- Commentary: Many unanswered questions in SPH Media’s inflated circulation figures case (CNA 13 Jan)
- SPH Media saga: Audit committee, legal advisers brought in to further investigate inflated circulation data (CNA 20 Jan) — A report on the press statement issued by SPH Media Trust
TOC has sent multiple queries to Mediacorp over the allegation and has not gotten a response to date.
Silence from Minister over allegation of a “blackout”
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.
In an email to the Minister on 19 Jan, TOC asked if the ministry or Mrs Josephine Teo is aware of any order/instruction, whether direct or indirect, for Mediacorp to cease its reporting on the misrepresentation of circulation figures by SMT.
No response has been received so far.
The Minister is set to answer questions filed by Members of Parliament over the SMT scandal today in Parliament.