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Independent media in Singapore: there's more than you think!

Reflecting on the very first Singapore Independent Media Fair.

If you subscribe to this newsletter, you already know that Singapore doesn't do well when it comes to media freedom. In terms of news sources, the landscape is dominated by mainstream media outlets that, for a variety of reasons, skew towards the ruling party and uphold hegemonic narratives.

There is a severe imbalance in platform, influence and resources, and this doesn't look like it's going to change any time soon. Even after SPH was exposed for having fudged its circulation figures, the government stuck to its decision to fund SPH Media up to $900 million for the next five years. Josephine Teo, Minister for Communications and Information, said:

”[SPH Media Trust’s] internal review of circulation numbers reinforced our assessment that the media landscape had become highly unfavourable for news organisations, even if they had substantial reach and were trusted by the public. In particular, demand for print and digital subscriptions had weakened because news had become freely available. This is why circulation had come under pressure. I emphasise: This does not make it right for anyone to overstate circulation numbers. But it reaffirms the need for restructuring.”

Minister for Home Affairs and Law, K Shanmugam, also justified still giving a boatload of money to SPH Media by saying that there is “no choice” but for the government to support the media if we want “high quality journalism”.

The PAP government conflates SPH Media's offerings with quality journalism and the provision of news. As long as they see it that way, SPH Media essentially becomes "too big to fail"—no matter how their circulation figures had been fudged, no matter how the standard of the articles in the papers have dropped, the government will find some way to prop them up.

But is that the only way to support high-quality journalistic work in Singapore? And what if we broaden our gaze from just news organisations? When we look for media organisations and media work in Singapore, what do we find?

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