The Government Will Give Up to $180 Million a Year to SPH Media

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You might be waiting for Finance Minister Lawrence Wong’s Budget speech this coming Friday, but here’s one area that we know (for sure) the Government is ramping up on.

Funding of $180 Million

It is none other than local news.

SPH Media Trust (SMT) will get government funding of up to $180 million annually over the next five years, and the company will be required to provide half-yearly progress updates, Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo told Parliament today.

The fund was set aside to provide SMT with more capital to invest in the future while ensuring it is able to sustain current operations during this critical transition period, she added.

The funding quantum will also be reviewed after the first five years based on the progress that SMT has made.

SPH Media Trust’s Plans

SPH Media Trust had spun off from mainboard-listed company Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) to become a not-for-profit entity last December and shared its plans with the public last month.

Its mission is to be the trusted source of news on Singapore and Asia, to represent the communities that make up Singapore, and to connect them to the world.

Mrs Teo noted that government funding of news media is common in many countries and has increased in some cases during COVID-19.

In the initial years, the ministry expects SMT to spend approximately 40 per cent of the funding on technology investments and digital talent.

The remainder will be spent on newsroom capability building and training, in particular the vernacular aka local newsrooms.

$180 million is indeed no small sum of money. As such, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) will monitor SMT’s performance closely through key performance indicators.

Preserving Local News

Being a cosmopolitan city-state, Singaporeans consume various news from all around the world. Think BBC, CNN, The New York Times et cetera.

However, Mrs Teo noted “preserving local news media remains critical”.

“Our local news media provide a vital Singaporean lens through which citizens can make sense of global events. It is an essential public good in our multiracial, multi-religious society,” she said.

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Digitalisation

Mrs Teo noted that based on a survey done by her ministry, around 65 per cent of respondents accessed SMT’s content digitally in 2020, a significant increase from 40 per cent in the year before.

On the other hand, hardcopy reach declined from about 40 per cent to 30 per cent over the same period.


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This means that SMT will be taking a more digital approach to broadcast content. This includes packaging complex information in a variety of ways including videos, podcasts and interactive infographics, as well as having sufficiently robust infrastructure at the backend.

Focus On Vernacular Media

Mrs Teo said although vernacular readership is smaller and thus more challenging to independently sustain, it is critical to provide credible news products that serve Singapore’s multi-racial society.

“If we had allowed our vernacular media to wither, Singapore would have been the poorer for it. We would have lost our souls,” she said.

To preserve and develop all the vernacular outlets in both SMT as well as Mediacorp, the government funding for SMT will go towards sustaining vernacular newsrooms, and developing new content formats like videos and podcasts, to reach younger generations, she added.

SMT will also be partnering with clan associations, community groups, and schools, to provide students with greater access to its vernacular products.

World News Through the Singaporean Voice

To boost its thought leadership capabilities, SMT will also expand its foreign bureaus, host more events and forums, and establish more partnerships to build an international audience.


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This comes as a move to have Singaporeans reporting on the world from the Singaporean perspective.

“A Singaporean reporting on China, for example, would afford us a lens very different from an American or a European doing so. Thus, the growth of SMT’s overseas bureaus is an important area of capability development we want to support.”

With such large funding to boost local news reporting, we can expect to see more coming from Singaporean news.

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DPM Lawrence Wong has just spoken about his plan for Singapore in the next ten years and more. Here’s a summary of his first speech:

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