SPH CEO Ng Yat Chung apologises after taking 'umbrage' at journalist's question

"Being a direct and blunt-speaking person, I apologise for any offence I might have caused."

Andrew Koay | May 08, 2021, 07:00 PM

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Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) CEO Ng Yat Chung has apologised after his recent outburst at a press conference announcing the restructuring of the company.

"I had stood up for SPH Media's long-cherished editorial integrity and will continue to do so," said Ng according to The Straits Times.

"Being a direct and blunt-speaking person, I apologise for any offence I might have caused and regret any distraction from the merits of the proposed restructuring."

Background to incident

In the now-viral incident, Ng had taken umbrage at a reporter's questions about SPH's editorial integrity.

The reporter, who was from Mediacorp, asked if the restructuring would result in a "pivot to emphasise editorial integrity, for example, ahead of advertiser interests."

Seemingly incensed by the question, Ng's fiery response saw him "call out" the reporter, at one point declaring that he was not a "gentleman".

"So in reporting the answer to this, I will tell you first that the fact that you dare to question SPH titles for — in your words — 'conceding to advertisers', I take umbrage at that comment," he said.

"Very unfortunate"

When asked by reporters for comment on the incident, Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam said that Ng's response was "very unfortunate".

Speaking to the media on May 8, Shanmugam said that both the reporter and Mediacorp editor-in-chief Walter Fernandez knew that taking money from advertisers did not automatically compromise an outlet's independence.

"If that were so, most newspapers in the world would not be considered independent because most newspapers do, in fact, completely rely on advertisements," he continued.

However, he noted that the question was a fair one, since the journalists should naturally be concerned with editorial independence.

"Mr Ng's reaction, and the way he answered the question, I think was very unfortunate," the minister said.

"His outburst can be described in stronger terms, but I want to be careful and understated, because SPH is a listed company, with shareholders, management, and I need to be careful."

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Top image from Straits Times' YouTube Channel