SPH Media files police report on circulation inflation following internal probe

Investigation by its audit and risk committee reveals circulation data inconsistencies and prompts police involvement

SPH News Centre
SPH News Centre. (PHOTO: Reuters/Caroline Chia)

SINGAPORE — SPH Media Group has filed a police report regarding potential offences discovered during its investigation into the inflation of its circulation numbers.

The media company responsible for publishing daily broadsheet The Straits Times (ST) stated on Wednesday (21 June) that it would fully cooperate with the police, based on recommendations made in a report by the organisation's audit and risk committee. The board had assigned the committee to investigate the exaggerated numbers.

According to The Straits Times, the committee's chairman Max Loh clarified in an internal briefing that the police report did not target specific individuals or entities, but included the investigation's findings.

He emphasised that disclosing more details could prejudice police investigations, and deferred to the authorities for the next steps.

When questioned about specific offences mentioned in the redacted report, Loh explained that it was not the committee's role to determine the offences, and added that the police have access to the un-redacted report.

The report, available on SPH Media's website, also concluded that there was no evidence implicating the journalism and editorial departments in the circulation number overstatement.

The committee had engaged legal advisers Allen & Gledhill, who, in turn, enlisted the assistance of the accounting firm Deloitte for forensic discovery and analysis of relevant data.

Discovery of circulation data inconsistencies

In January, the SPH Media Trust (SMT) announced that several senior employees had faced consequences or left the company after discovering inconsistencies in circulation data reporting.

The issue was uncovered during an internal review of processes between September 2020 and March 2022, a period that coincided with the restructuring of SPH and the creation of SMT.

According to ST, Loh confirmed that more than 10 people from SMT and SPH were interviewed for the investigation report. However, the report did not include the four staff members who had departed in January, as they had been interviewed during the earlier internal audit.

ST reported that the committee presented a 14-page report to the SMT board on Tuesday, stating that Allen & Gledhill deemed the actions taken against the employees and former employees in January to be "reasonably justified in the circumstances" and in compliance with SMT's policies.

Regarding staff who were still with the company but involved in the matter, Allen & Gledhill found that they had acted under their superiors' instructions and mistakenly believed that the practices directed by their superiors were acceptable within the company.

According to the law firm's findings, which were reported to the audit and risk committee on 16 June, SMT had inflated its daily circulation numbers by 82,600, based on data from August 2021.

This included 49,000 bulk copies from the Newspapers in Education (NIE) fund that was reported but not distributed; 5,000 from a Y Deal; 15,000 from an X Barter deal; 1,900 school copies; 2,300 airline copies; 9,000 agency copies; and 400 copies from subscribers to all-in-one packages.

These numbers accounted for approximately 10 per cent of the reported daily average circulation.

Do you have a story tip? Email: sgnews.tips@yahooinc.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter. Also check out our Southeast Asia, Food, and Gaming channels on YouTube.

Yahoo Singapore Telegram
Yahoo Singapore Telegram