MediaCorp, SPH get nod to merge TV operations - Dec 07, 2008 (BT)

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The Straits Times / The Business Times News On SPH

MediaCorp, SPH get nod to merge TV operations

By Wong Wei Kong
Dec 07, 2008
The Business Times

THE Media Development Authority (MDA) has given the nod for MediaCorp and Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) to merge their mass-market TV operations. No regulatory approval is needed for the proposed merger of the two companies' free newspapers, Today and Streats, as the move does not amount to a consolidation, MDA said.

The approval for the merger of the two TV operations is subject to certain conditions.

MediaCorp TV will be required to outsource at least 285 hours a year of local content production work to independent production companies.

'This requirement will create jobs for local firms and help raise production standards, contributing to the overall growth of the local independent production sector,' said MDA.

It will also help to increase the diversity and quality of local programming by tapping into the diversity and experiences of the growing independent production sector.

In addition, MediaCorp TV will be required to continue to provide local content on its free-to-air TV channels to cater to the diverse interests of the audiences.

MDA said it will ensure that the broadcaster continues to meet its public broadcast requirements. It will also review the sharing of rights in relation to programmes which it funds, and will work with companies to realise the maximum commercial potential of such programmes.

MDA will also engage in further discussions with the broadcaster and the industry to examine new models of broadcasting technology, standards or business rules that can add to the choice and diversity of programming and grow the local production sector.

In a bid to stem losses, MediaCorp and SPH announced the merger of their TV and free newspaper operations in September this year.

MediaCorp would hold 80 per cent of the merged TV company, with SPH holding the remaining 20 per cent.

At the same time, SPH would acquire a 40 per cent stake in MediaCorp Press, which publishes Today, with MediaCorp holding 60 per cent. SPH would close its free sheet, Streats.

'The MDA hopes that the consolidation will lead to better quality programmes and services for local audiences as well as markets overseas,' the media regulator said.

'The synergies created will benefit MediaCorp and SPH and allow both to work towards regionalisation.'

MediaCorp and SPH welcomed MDA's formal approval of the TV merger. 'Both sides believe that the merger will bring rationality to the free-to-air TV markets,' they said in a joint statement.

With the MDA approval, the two media groups hope to complete the legal process of the consolidation by the end of the year.

The statement said that the joint TV company would likely be able to fulfill the conditions set by MDA.

It added: 'The requirement to outsource some local production is consistent with the role of the joint venture, as the largest player here, to help develop Singapore's creative industry.'

Separately, at its annual general meeting yesterday, SPH chief executive Alan Chan told shareholders it will be making an announcement soon on Channel i, its current English channel.

It is widely expected that Channel i will be closed while SPH's Chinese channel, Channel U, will be absorbed by the new TV company.

The AGM also approved the appointment of Sum Soon Lim as chairman of SPH's audit committee, taking over from Tang I-Fang.