SPH Media circulation issue, public housing affordability to be aired in Parliament next week

Circulation numbers at SPH Media, public housing affordability and the Keppel O&M probe are among the topics at the upcoming Parliament session. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The overstatement of circulation figures at SPH Media looks set to be a hot topic when Parliament sits on Monday, with 17 questions filed by MPs on the matter.

Top of mind for 13 lawmakers is how the inflated figures will affect the Government’s decision to fund the media company to the tune of $900 million over a period of five years.

SPH Media, spun out of Singapore Press Holdings Limited in December 2021, found – after reviewing data between September 2020 and March 2022 – that the circulation figures for some of its publications had been overstated by about 85,000 to 95,000 daily average copies.

Questions from MPs such as Mr Shawn Huang (Jurong GRC), Mr Don Wee (Chua Chu Kang GRC) and Mr Gerald Giam (Aljunied GRC) include whether the numbers would have affected the Government’s funding decision and if the grant amount will now be adjusted.

Of particular interest too is how the news broke.

Mr Dennis Tan (Hougang) asked why it had taken “a long time” for the inconsistencies to be made public, while Mr Leon Perera (Aljunied GRC) asked if SPH Media would even have disclosed the matter if it had not been revealed first by an alternative media outlet. Ms He Ting Ru (Sengkang GRC) asked how all this would affect public confidence in SPH Media and its publications.

Other MPs wanted to know if more would be done to get to the bottom of things, with Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (Chua Chu Kang GRC) asking if a fuller audit will be done to cover earlier periods, and Ms Mariam Jaafar (Sembawang GRC) asking if the Ministry of Communications and Information will look into how the matter had affected advertisers.

The House will also debate the affordability of public housing, with Minister for National Development Desmond Lee and Non-Constituency MPs Leong Mun Wai and Hazel Poa filing separate motions on the topic.

Housing affordability has come under the spotlight in recent months, with property prices in Singapore going north.

Mr Lee will speak on the Government’s commitment to the twin goals of “keeping public housing affordable and accessible while protecting the interests of current and future generations of Singaporeans”.

The motion by Mr Leong and Ms Poa, meanwhile, calls on the Government to “review its public housing policies in order to deliver affordable and accessible HDB flats to all Singaporeans... and keep public housing inclusive for every Singaporean of each generation”.

In a Facebook post on Jan 30, Senior Minister of State for National Development Sim Ann had said that the assumption in the two Progress Singapore Party MPs’ motion is that the Government has not done enough to deliver affordable and accessible HDB flats.

That is why the two motions “are not really the same”, she added, saying that the Government feels it is better to state its intent and strategy squarely in a separate motion to be debated together.

According to the agenda issued by the Clerk of Parliament on Friday, Leader of the House Indranee Rajah will call for both motions to be debated simultaneously.

Ms Indranee, who is Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, has also said she will explain the facts of the Keppel Offshore & Marine corruption probe in Parliament on Monday.

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