Leong Mun Wai’s position on government funding for SPH Media Trust is a disservice to Singapore

media, local, Singapore, funding, revenue, Singaporean, trust

Imagine we do not have an independent local media of our own that is trusted by Singaporeans. Imagine everything that we read about Singapore is written by foreign media. 

Can we leave it to foreign media to write our story to shape public and international opinion of us? How will the likes of Stephen Sucker and Richard Branson, for example, write our story?

We’ll be reading headline news like how Singapore murders innocent people and hanged the intellectual disabled. Or news like our migrant workers were badly discriminated during the pandemic when in reality, migrant workers here were very much better off than migrant workers elsewhere.

What will be our sense of global events if everything we read is from the foreign media? 

Should we not have our own mainstream media to provide our sides or our perspective of a story?

Speaking in Parliament on the government funding of SPF Media Trust, Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo said our local media companies play an important role in the mission to inform and engage Singaporeans.

They help to keep Singaporeans united by: providing a Singapore lens through which citizens can make sense of global events. They also presents an authoritative source of information that cuts through the noise of an online space chock-full of clickbait content and misinformation. By producing content in our official languages, local media help celebrate our diverse culture and create shared experiences for all Singaporeans.

Clearly, our local media companies serve a broader mission beyond commercial success. This is why the Government put their support behind SPH Media Trust, Mrs Teo said. 

Advertising revenue and funding

The global digital shift has severely disrupted print business models. Traditionally, they have relied heavily on advertising revenue to support quality journalism.

But today, the proliferation of free news aggregators and user-generated content has intensified the competition for eyeballs and correspondingly, advertisers as well. 

For print media, this means declining revenue. While digital advertising revenue has increased, a large share of it goes to big tech platforms like Google and Meta. 

Our local media, like media outlets across the world, have seen their advertising and subscription revenue drastically reduced. 

If we agree that it is important that we have our own trusted media to provide a Singapore lens through which we project ourselves to the world as we are and not as the world think we are, an authoritative source of information to unite us in a time of crisis such as during the pandemic, a media for Singaporeans and our businesses to be able to see the world through our own unique lens, for our voice to be projected without impediment, for our cultures and our traditions to be expressed in the way we want it to be expressed, then we must support funding for local media.

The mission served by our local media is a broader one that goes beyond commercial success. Nation-building cannot take place without local trusted media. 

Does PSP Leong Mun Wai not see the importance of Singapore being able to project our voice without impediment? Does he think that the Singapore narrative can be left to others, to those motivated by commercial gains or other agendas? 

Leong Mun Wai spends his time focusing his fans on the dollars and cents of funding SMT while completely ignorning the greater mission of the local media. Funding – at $180 million annually for 5 years – is indeed not cheap but it is a price we must be willing to pay in return for an independent voice of our own. The Opposition has often accused the government of being money-minded. Yet it is Leong Mun Wai’s money-minded focus on funding while ignoring the larger challenges that is not only foolish but also a disservice to Singapore.  

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