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Khaw Boon Wan to chair SPH’s non-profit spin-off; ties between MCI and newsroom unchanged, says Iswaran

SINGAPORE — Former Cabinet minister Khaw Boon Wan will be appointed the chairman of the company limited by guarantee that will own the news media titles of Singapore Press Holdings, Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran announced on Monday (May 10).

Former Cabinet minister Khaw Boon Wan’s appointment has been agreed upon by Singapore Press Holding's management shareholders.

Former Cabinet minister Khaw Boon Wan’s appointment has been agreed upon by Singapore Press Holding's management shareholders.

  • The founding members of the company limited by guarantee will include the management shareholders of SPH’s parent organisation
  • Mr Khaw’s appointment was discussed with the proposed CLG’s members
  • Mr Khaw will be able to provide strong strategic leadership for the CLG, said Mr S Iswaran
  • Government funding of the SPH spin-off will not affect relationship between SPH journalists and Ministry of Communications and Information

 

SINGAPORE — Former Cabinet minister Khaw Boon Wan will be appointed the chairman of the company limited by guarantee that will own the news media titles of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran announced on Monday (May 10).

Representatives of SPH’s current management shareholders — banks such as OCBC, UOB and DBS, insurers Great Eastern and NTUC Income, telecommunications company Singtel, the National University of Singapore, the Nanyang Technological University, as well as state investment firm Temasek Holdings’ subsidiary Fullerton — will become founding members of the company limited by guarantee. 

Mr Khaw’s appointment has been agreed upon by SPH’s management shareholders. 

Mr Iswaran said in Parliament while delivering a ministerial statement: “The intent has always been for these management shares to be held by reputable and established institutions, so that the stewardship of the newspaper is entrusted to entities with an abiding interest in, and commitment, to Singapore’s stability and success.” 

He added that the move will ensure that news media here will remain in the hands of trusted institutions with a long-term stake in Singapore. 

Membership of the company limited by guarantee will be expanded to include newer and more diverse institutions, he said.

Mr Khaw retired from politics last year as the coordinating minister for infrastructure and the minister for transport.  

Mr Iswaran said: “With his high standing and more than 25 years of public service experience in various senior appointments, Mr Khaw will be able to provide strong strategic leadership for the company limited by guarantee.”

He added that Mr Khaw will give his views on the way forward for the CLG in due time.

A company limited by guarantee is an entity that does not have share capital or shareholders but, instead, has members who act as guarantors and agree to pay a nominal amount in the event that the company dissolves. Organisations that run under such a model here include Gardens by the Bay and arts centres Esplanade and The Arts House.

Under SPH’s proposed restructuring, the company limited by guarantee will own and operate SPH’s media titles, such as The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao, as a non-profit business. It will also be allowed to receive funding from private and public sources.

The Newspaper and Printing Presses Act (NPPA), which restricts ownership and control of Singapore’s newspapers, will apply to the news business under the charge of the company limited by guarantee, though not the company limited by guarantee itself, Mr Iswaran said.

“Appropriate safeguards will be incorporated in the constitution of the company limited by guarantee to ensure that its structure achieves its purpose and fosters the objectives of the NPPA framework, and that its members and directors will remain committed to Singapore’s stability and success.” 

GOVERNMENT AND NEWSROOM RELATIONS

The Government is also willing to help fund the proposed company limited by guarantee in areas such as digital innovation and capability development as part of a “long-term sustainable business plan”, while ensuring fiscal discipline and accountability, Mr Iswaran said.

He put across the point again that SPH’s proposal is not a panacea for the challenges faced by its news media business but is an “essential first step” if the media business is to adapt to the digital and commercial realities of the industry.

He pointed out that such a financing model already exists with national broadcaster Mediacorp and that national broadcasters, newspaper publishers and online news platforms are a public good that benefit the whole of society. 

The move for the company limited by guarantee to receive public funding, however, is not intended to affect the relationship between his ministry and the SPH newsroom, he stressed. 

“Local news organisations must remain credible institutions that are trusted by Singaporeans.

“It remains the responsibility of the editors and journalists in SPH Media to report news and diverse opinions objectively, and from a Singaporean point of view.”

This means that journalists report and analyse the news fully and objectively, not holding back bad news, not advancing any singular ideological view or agenda, but focused on Singapore’s interest. 

“The Government and the media will not see eye-to-eye on every issue and incident — but that is to be expected. That is how SPH and Mediacorp have operated hitherto. And that is how the Government expects the company limited by guarantee to continue to operate after the proposed restructuring.

“The company limited by guarantee must maintain the reputation and high level of trust that SPH has built with generations of readers, domestically and internationally,” Mr Iswaran said.

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