Trust is of vital importance not just for the media but for governments and institutions, Mr Shanmugam said.
“In Singapore, we take great pains — if you look at the Government — to retain, maintain the trust of the people because, if there is no trust, we can’t govern well, we won’t be able to take long-term measures.
“𝐈𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐧𝐨 𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐬𝐭, 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐞𝐱𝐚𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐞, 𝐰𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐂𝐨𝐯𝐢𝐝-𝟏𝟗 𝐜𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐲 𝐰𝐞 𝐝𝐢𝐝… (𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐢𝐟) 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐦𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐚 𝐢𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐝, it would inevitably lead to a government and political leadership that is not trusted, and we are all finished if that happens.”
The old business model doesn’t work!
Mr Shanmugam said, “Media businesses in most countries are under pressure. Many newspapers in Europe, the US have closed. Many others have been restructured, including some of the best-known international newspapers.”
Both the Chicago Tribune and Denver Post, for example, had to be saved from bankruptcy. Others like the Washington Post and the South China Morning Post are bought over by billionaires, Jeff Bozos and Jack Ma respectively.
𝐆𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐧𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬, Mr Shanmugam said, 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐧𝐨 𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐢𝐜𝐞 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐩 𝐢𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐮𝐩𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭 𝐧𝐞𝐰𝐬 𝐨𝐫𝐠𝐚𝐧𝐢𝐬𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐡𝐢𝐠𝐡-𝐪𝐮𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐣𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐧𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐦.
Mr Shanmugam noted that the French government has provided hundreds of millions of euros in support, both direct and indirect, to the press every year. It also commissioned a report in 2010, which said that the country’s press was being kept in a state of “permanent artificial respiration”.
In terms of readership, SPH’s newspapers, which include The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao, have done ‘extremely well’, said Mr Shanmugam. But while readership has gone up, ‘bottom lines have come down, suffered’, he said. “𝐀𝐝 𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐧𝐮𝐞𝐬 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐝𝐨𝐰𝐧 𝐬𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐩𝐥𝐲. 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐨𝐥𝐝 𝐛𝐮𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐦𝐨𝐝𝐞𝐥 𝐝𝐨𝐞𝐬𝐧’𝐭 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤.”
Hiving off its media business into a not-for-profit entity and restructuring the company into a company limited by guarantee will allow it to receive funding from private and public sources, including extra financial support from the Government.
Singaporeans trust our media
Independent surveys such as the Edelman Trust Barometer have shown that Singapore ranks higher than other developed countries – including the United States, United Kingdom and Japan – on this topic.
Around 62 per cent of respondents in Singapore trust the media to do what is right, compared with the global average of around 51 per cent. A 2020 survey by YouGov also found that seven in 10 people here trust local media reporting on Covid-19, compared with three in 10 in the UK.
‘Trust’ is important and it is extremely important for media to maintain this trust through high-quality journalism.