Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) yesterday announced that it will be laying off about 140 staff from its Media Solutions Division (MSD) and SPH Magazines - about 5% of the overall Media Group's headcount. This will incur retrenchment costs of approximately S$8mn.

According to a media release by SPH, the restructuring of its media sales and magazine operations as part of its media transformation roadmap and to address the adverse impact of COVID-19 on its advertising revenue.

The Ministry of Manpower, the Creative Media and Publishing Union (CMPU), and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) have already been informed on this exercise, and affected staff will receive compensation on terms negotiated and agreed with the union. 

In a corporate presentation attached to the release, SPH noted that the one-off retrenchment cost of S$8mn will be recognised in the fourth quarter of 2020. It added that its newsroom staff and journalists are not affected by this exercise. SPH has also been working closely with the union and e2i to ensure that affected staff receive the help and support they require during this period.

David Teo, President of CMPU, said: “CMPU was notified by management in advance of the restructuring exercise. Since then, we have been working closely with management to ensure that our colleagues are treated fairly. CMPU will continue to engage SPH, as well as our partner NTUC’s e2i, to provide necessary support to the affected employees during this period of career transition.”

Apart from the staff cuts, the Singaporean media organisation has also exited the magazine business in Malaysia and ceased publication of several magazine titles, such as Cleo, Young Parents, and Shape

Ng Yat Chung, CEO of SPH, explained: "Subscriptions and readership of our news titles have increased since the onset of COVID-19. However, the economic downturn has significantly impacted our advertising revenue. A more integrated approach of producing and selling our content across our various platforms will allow us to deal more efficiently and effectively with the new level of demand we are seeing from our advertisers and audience."

Since the crisis, the company has reviewed its costs, cut back on discretionary spending and instituted pay cuts for senior management. In March this year, SPH announced that its directors (including the CEO) and senior management would take voluntary pay cuts of 10% and 5% respectively.

Last year, SPH started a review of its media business to provide advertisers with more effective marketing solutions by adopting an integrated sales approach across its different platforms and titles. It brought together the specialist appeal of its magazine titles and radio audiences with the broader mass market audiences of its newspaper titles. The media organisation has also progressively rolled out self-service options for advertisers to customise their campaigns.

SPH has also intensified its efforts to share its content resources across its print, digital and voice platforms. This streamlining of operations for greater efficiency and synergy has led to the redundancy of some roles.

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