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Lesson Not Learnt

You can’t sell vinegar as good wine by putting it in a wine bottle. The SPH saga is one such bootleg attempt. Blaming its market performance on digital disruption is like blaming the container for not being attractive enough. Back in 1996, Bill Gates was quoted, “content is king” and described the future of the Internet as a marketplace of content. It is important for the bootleggers to be reminded that it is the content that readers want.

SPH promises wine but a retired minister at the helm of the company will ensure that only vinegar is made. It was the hangar for retired secret police heads (S R Nathan and Tjong Yik Min) and General Umbrage. With such high profile and infamous heads in the office, even breathing would be difficult, much less writing with conscience. The recent restructuring of SPH is yet another missed opportunity to set the media industry right. With the stranglehold at the top, the agent of the fermentation will remain in the new public company limited by guarantee (CLG). When a news agency does not ask probing questions, provide insight and enlightened analysis, gossip makes a better read.

Sadly, this is a lesson we had 20 years ago – dismissed and forgotten.

The year was 1999, the advent of digital broadcasting and broadband information infrastructure. Singapore Broadcast Authority (under Ministry of Communications and Information) was the regulatory and promotional body of the digital broadcast roll out. The implications of digital broadcasting meant that the airwave would be more productive and efficient – many more channels can be squeezed into the same bandwidth and coverage of the whole island can be achieved more cheaply. A digital audio broadcast network with an island wide coverage could be setup with about $1 million while the existing broadcast network cost about $50 million. The forthcoming disruptions and opportunities were noted by the media industry. More interestingly was that digital broadcast is autonomous to text, audio and video content. Plugging content into the broadband Internet would make the world your marketplace. Singapore was one of the first in the world to embrace the technology then.

Young officers at SBA who understood the implications explored “liberalising the media industry”. 5 new licenses were promised for players who could bring value in the form of technology deliverance and new ideas. I was one of the 5 probably because I introduced the concept of data broadcasting two years earlier.

I remember it was a Friday morning when we were supposed to collect the licences from the then Minister of MCI, Lee Yock Suan. Five CEOs were all dressed up for the history-making photo opportunity. The minister started his speech innocuously on the changing landscape of the media industry by technology and how the government would embrace it. But then he dropped a bombshell with his declaration that government would “liberalise” the media by awarding ONE more licence to the existing broadcast scene and has decided that SPH would be awarded that licence. Tempering the shock that was reverberating in the front row of the audience who were waiting eagerly for the award of the licence, he said that government would be offering five perpetual trial licences.

None of the 5 took up the offer. SPH would then go on to set up SPH MediaWorks. Channel i and u were created, at about the same time South Korea was realising its soft power via distribution of their Korean content in the region. Channel i and Channel u would continue to make drama with safe content revolving around HDB void decks and coffee shops plying to an audience that would buy dishwashing detergent “Mama Lemon”. With their cash cow, Straits Times, SPH MediaWorks lasted for 4 years and was folded into MediaCorp.

I have stopped watching our free-to-air channels just like I have stopped buying Straits Times. Now there are Korean drama, Chinese drama and Netflix to meet my entertainment needs. As for news, as I mentioned earlier when a news agency does not ask probing questions, provide insights and enlightened analysis, gossip makes a better read. The Straits Times will not be missed.

 

* Facebook post by Tan Tee Seng.

 

 

 

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READER COMMENTS BELOW

13 Responses to “Lesson Not Learnt”

  • Sounds familiar:

    “As for news, as I mentioned earlier when a news agency does not ask probing questions, provide insights and enlightened analysis, gossip makes a better read. The Straits Times will not be missed.”

    The same applies here. Now look at writers/commenters before reading.

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  • Singaporeans R Free Riders:

    Dear Tan, you said “when a news agency does not ask probing questions…”
    =================================================================
    My master PM Lee PAP did not stop Singaporeans from asking probing questions.

    It is not PAP fault because Singaporeans never ask.

    Why? Because Singaporeans are always waiting for others to do the jobs for them so that they get to enjoy the fruits of others hard labour.

    Stop blaming our great PAP government when it is the fault of Singaporeans.

    GE2024.PAP.Guarantee.Win.HuatAgain
    Majullah $PAP$ $PAP$ Huat$ Huat$ Huat$

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  • Sounds familiar:

    How you expects Singaporeans to ask erudite questions much less write deep insightful articles. Tan Kin Lian, Simon Lim, Goh Meng Seng??? l

    They’re only good at “stirring shits” to umbrage those uneducated ah pek /ah mah in coffee shops, markets, etc. lol

    Singaporeans R Free Riders:
    Dear Tan, you said “when a news agency does not ask probing questions…”
    =================================================================
    My master PM Lee PAP did not stop Singaporeans from asking probing questions.

    It is not PAP fault because Singaporeans never ask.

    Why? Because Singaporeans are always waiting for others to do the jobs for them so that they get to enjoy the fruits of others hard labour.

    Stop blaming our great PAP government when it is the fault of Singaporeans.

    GE2024.PAP.Guarantee.Win.HuatAgain
    Majullah $PAP$ $PAP$ Huat$ Huat$ Huat$

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  • Xoxo:

    *CONTENT IS KING* indeed!
    But ,Andrew,*CONTENT* to THEM has been PAPaganda news,fake or real???
    Now,THEY ARE PAYING THE PRICE as sgs have access to SOURCES OF OTHER contents.
    Thats oso the reason to institute POFMA?

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  • the privileged few:

    //As for news, as I mentioned earlier when a news agency does not ask probing questions, provide insights and enlightened analysis, gossip makes a better read.//

    aiyoh. the reason why it stay a “highly respectable” 151th ?? it is partly financed by the collective daft to keep themselves daft for the privileged few ??? that the privileged few need to have open-leg policy to educate the rest of the daft populace ???

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  • More of the same shit:

    By khaw promising to have zero retrenchment and maybe even pay rise, same writers will produce the same old stories.

    Its a wise decision to go non profit and funded by our money.

    This means they can lose money but fund comes from the people who still have to pay for the contents of sph media.

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  • Flickshit:

    Very simple, they don’t understand what is marketing? or Strategic marketing. They thought that by getting former minister or paper general they can turn the company around. if that is so easy, why Pepsi still can’t beats Coke and why Burger King still can;t overtakes MacDonald.

    Why these US companies, like Burger King, Pepsi taking in US general to run the companies. Anyway, PAP always think they are the smartest with its own YES man to sell ‘ Road-Side medicine” can con the road-side uncle, aunty, small boy and makes themselves look great, but in fact, they are just nothing but a figure-head for carrying balls.

    I can assure you, with KWAK, the SPH Media will be another Titantic very soon and will sink deeper within 3 years. Mark my words.

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  • Harder Truths:

    I need the Saturday edition to pick up doggie poo.

    It is the only paper than can do the shit job.

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  • Mother Shit mai hum:

    I keep seeing straite media used by apologists like kishort mabok barnie sugar coating the record infections in SG. Other professionally paid apologists include writers and the usual suspects.

    Its never gonna change. But they can say whatever they like eg. Oh, they transforming. More like a leopard saying it has changed its spots.

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  • MarBowling:

    Now that $8Cow aka Fart Hou Seah Sump(speak like an Angel but with a Heart of Snake)has come on board SPH(SinKapore Puki Holdings as the New Chairman, will Umbrage Ng Jung-Un TREAT him like he has treated ex-Chairman Dr Lee Boon Yang by saying in the next press LJ Conference: He is a Gentleman, But I am NOT!

    Btw, Whose LJ is more Dua Kee: Chairman or the CEO? Understand Umbrage Ng Jung-Un has very STRONG backing from the Big Mountain behind!

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  • liew mun leong must be jailed:

    Flickshit:
    Very simple, they don’t understand what is marketing? or Strategic marketing. They thought that by getting former minister or paper general they can turn the company around. if that is so easy, why Pepsi still can’t beats Coke and why Burger King still can;t overtakes MacDonald.

    Why these US companies, like Burger King, Pepsi taking in US general to run the companies. Anyway, PAP always think they are the smartest with its own YES man to sell ‘ Road-Side medicine” can con the road-side uncle, aunty, small boy and makes themselves look great, but in fact, they are just nothing but a figure-head for carrying balls.

    I can assure you, with KWAK, the SPH Media will be another Titantic very soon and will sink deeper within 3 years. Mark my words.

    hahaha.

    cotton sheep is footing the bill.

    pap states times wont sink as long as S$m is payable by cotton sheep.

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  • Sum Gah Poh:

    Actually, the generally bohchup well educated naive citizens to be blamed.

    1. They knew how NOL sunked.
    They did not chup or speak up.

    2. Now, they also know SPH in trouble. And the Sir Umbrage.
    Yet they continue to BohChup even if sph gonna spend our tax money and we still have to pay for it.

    These bobos continue not to speak up. How daft is daft?

    I would theorise why these are well educated but daft :
    1. Scared of speaking up.
    Selfishly self preservative.
    In war, i pessimistic. they will surrender or not?

    2. They have yet understood why they can only defend themselves by themselves and not continue to live in denial of the huge problems they created.

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  • Tough business:

    Tough business to be in…
    Our market is too small..
    Need quality to attract readers ,especially from oversea.
    More important need deep pocket to sustain losses….unless willing to change the rule of the game…to attract innovation.

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