Ex-minister Khaw Boon Wan to be Chairman of SPH’s not-for-profit media business: S Iswaran

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<i>Video by Dhany Osman</i>

SINGAPORE — Airport businesses experiencing a lull due to the coronavirus outbreak should take the opportunity to
Then Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan speaking to media on 6 February 2020 during a visit to Changi Airport. (VIDEO SCREENSHOT: Dhany Osman/Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Former Minister Khaw Boon Wan will be the chairman of Singapore Press Holdings’ not-for-profit media business, said Communications and Information Minister S Iswaran said in Parliament on Monday (10 May).

Delivering his Ministerial Statement, Iswaran said he has discussed the proposed restructuring of SPH’s media business into a not-for-profit entity and a company limited by guarantee (CLG) with management shareholders.

“They have all agreed that, given the national importance of this undertaking and the scale of the challenge, the chairman should be Mr Khaw Boon Wan. 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 CLG,” said Iswaran. 

Khaw has agreed to be the CLG chairman and he will be sharing his thoughts on its way forward in due course, Iswaran added. 

At a press conference last Thursday, SPH announced plans to restructure its media business as a CLG. Such a model will allow the media business to receive funding from private and public sources, including financial support from the government.

The move to restructure SPH's media business comes as its core segment's revenue and profit continued to plunge amid falling advertisement revenue.

Following the Ministerial Statement, Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim asked Iswaran whether the government had suggested Khaw to take up the role before the management shareholders agreed to the suggestion. Lim clarified that she was not questioning Khaw's personal integrity but noted that he was the former chairman of the ruling People's Action Party, and former Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure.

In reply, Iswaran said Lim's question appeared to be referring to the issue of editorial independence at the CLG. Citing the examples of current SPH chairman and former minister Lee Boon Yang and former public servants heading Mediacorp, Iswaran said these media leaders and their companies have earned the trust of Singaporeans.

"We should therefore be very clear that what matters is not a perceived political hue in appointments, but rather in the substance of the character and capability of the people who are involved...Mr Khaw Boon Wan is held in high standing in Singapore by many and beyond Singapore," Iswaran said.

Khaw later issued a statement on the "heavy responsibility" of his new role and his anxiety given that he has "no digital media experience".

Having been "blissfully content" in the past year, Khaw said, "This assignment will disrupt my retirement!...But I cannot allow a Singapore institution to go into decline. I will see how I can help unleash the talent and the passion in our newsrooms."

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