Copies of SPH Media publications were printed & destroyed to inflate daily circulation numbers

Several senior employees have either been "taken to task", or left the company.

Fiona Tan | January 09, 2023, 11:53 PM

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An internal review of SPH Media revealed that its daily circulation figures were inflated by between 85,000 and 95,000 copies daily across all of its publications.

Several senior employees have been "taken to task" or have left the company, following the review.

"Some inconsistencies" discovered during internal review

The inconsistencies in reporting the data account for about 10 to 12 per cent of the reported daily average circulation, The Straits Times (ST) cited an SPH Media spokesperson as saying.

Publications under SPH Media include ST and The Business Times, Lianhe Zaobao, Shin Min Daily News, Berita Harian and Tamil Murasu, amongst others.

ST reported that a review was initiated shortly after SPH Media was spun off in December 2021 from its mainboard-listed company Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) to become a not-for-profit entity – a company limited by guarantee.

An internal review of internal processes, including the reporting of circulation data, was conducted in March 2022, and "some inconsistencies in the reporting of the data were discovered," ST cited the SPH Media spokesperson saying.

The review looked at the period from Sep. 2020 to March 2022. SPH Media did not state for how long these practices had been going on, CNA reported.

Copies were printed, included in circulation figures, and then destroyed

The inconsistencies in data reporting included lapsed contracts that continued to be counted in circulation data, copies that were printed, counted for circulation, and then destroyed, as well as double-counting of subscriptions across multiple instances.

"A project account was injected with additional funding over a period of time to purchase fictitious circulation," said the spokesperson, adding that "certain circulation numbers were arbitrarily derived."

Several senior employees "taken to task"

The SPH Media spokesperson said the company has "immediately taken steps to strengthen processes", adding that the staff involved had either been taken to task or had left the organisation.

ST reported that they were senior employees, but did not provide their names or list the number of employees affected.

ST did not mention in its report what exactly "taken to task" meant.

Wake Up Singapore (WUSG) alleged on Jan. 9 that three executives have left SPH Media, adding that they were "all industry veterans with more than five decades of experience among them."

These three individuals were still with SPH Media according to their LinkedIn profiles as of Jan. 8, 2023, stated WUSG.

Mothership has reached out to SPH Media for comment.

MCI is aware; asked SPH Media to share full findings

A Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) spokesperson told ST that the ministry is aware of the reports.

"MCI has asked SPH Media to share its full findings and has recently received SPH Media’s internal report on the matter," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added: "MCI will undertake our own review to determine if these inconsistencies in circulation data affect the decision to fund, and the amount the Government committed to fund SPH Media. MCI expects SPH Media to fully cooperate with our review."

MCI announced in February 2022 that SPH Media would get up to S$900 million in funding for the next five years, which works out to around $180 million annually, to sustain the not-for-profit entity.

During this period, SPH Media is required to provide progress updates to MCI on a half-yearly basis, and its performance will be closely monitored by the ministry.

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Top image by Ahmad Shahir from Google Maps.