$320m disbursed to SPH Media over 2 years amid severe media industry disruption: Josephine Teo

SINGAPORE – About $320 million has been disbursed to SPH Media Trust (SMT) across the 2022 and 2023 financial years, after it met some of its performance targets, said Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo.

In anticipation of a more challenging media environment, the Government has budgeted to provide SMT with about $260 million in funding for the 2024 financial year, she added during the debate on her ministry’s budget on March 1.

While SMT had maintained its overall reach and achieved a modest increase in its digital subscriptions, it did not meet key performance indicators for digital reach, youth reach, vernacular reach and average time spent on its websites and apps, said Mrs Teo.

“Accordingly, it did not receive the full funding that was committed,” she said. 

In February 2022, the Government had said it would provide up to $900 million in funding support to SMT over the next five years. Mrs Teo said then that up to $180 million would be disbursed annually.

Responding to MPs’ questions on government funding of SMT, which comes under the Ministry of Communications and Information’s (MCI) budget, Mrs Teo reiterated on March 1 that the funding is targeted at three main areas: talent, technology and vernacular capabilities.

They reflect the importance the Government has placed on quality journalism, digital transformation and upholding multiculturalism, she said.

The ministry requires SPH Media to report regularly on its performance in these areas, and to comply with relevant audits to ensure oversight of how the funds are spent. This also ensures ownership and public accountability on public service media outcomes, she added.

“So far, the funding disbursed has been put to good use,” she said. “SPH Media has been strengthening its digital systems to improve its outreach, in line with what other global publications have done.”

SPH Media had adopted a new digital content management system to support online news coverage, and launched mobile apps across its English and vernacular news titles, she noted. It had also made extensive efforts to improve talent retention and newsroom quality, such as through training, scholarships and fellowships, she added.

“More importantly, these results show that the efforts made thus far are just the beginning,” said Mrs Teo.

“SPH Media will need to do more to maintain its relevance in this challenging media environment, and will need continued support as it strives to get onto firmer footing.”

While SMT did not meet all of its targets, Mrs Teo stressed the importance of sustaining investment in public service journalism amid an information landscape where truths compete with falsehoods.

On issues that deserve public attention, such as critical global events, community news in vernacular languages or parliamentary proceedings, profit-driven platforms may have no interest except to sensationalise or add their own spin to reports, she said.

Source link