SINGAPORE: Questions have arisen about whether Singapore’s mainstream media outlets only cover the Government’s perspective on the recent EZ-Link controversy after both The Straits Times and CNA published articles accused of appearing one-sided.
The articles came in the days after the LTA announced that EZ-Link cards and NETS FlashPay cards will no longer be accepted on public transport starting in June and that all non-concession cards must be upgraded to SimplyGo EZ-Link cards or NETS prepaid cards.
While some have already upgraded to the SimplyGo system, others expressed deep disappointment and asked why the existing system needs fixing as it is not broken.
One significant point of contention revolves around the SimplyGo cards’ failure to display the card balance at MRT gantries or bus card readers.
The LTA argues that this feature, though technically feasible, would impede the flow of commuters at the gantries. However, critics argue that the inconvenience of being unable to check the card balance at a glance may lead to additional steps for users to determine if a top-up is necessary.
Additionally, concerns have been raised about integrating the new system with existing ones.
Drivers, in particular, lamented the inconvenience of not being able to use the same card for Electronic Road Pricing (ERP), parking, and public transport under the new system.
Online discussions have emphasized calls for system integration rather than eliminating the existing setup.
Amid the furore, CNA published an explainer on why some commuters are upset with the change on Thursday (11 Jan). A day later, The Straits Times published a story explaining the changes and why they were made.
Both articles went into detail about why the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is pushing for SimplyGo but did not seem to cover the complaints on the ground fully.
Asserting that these articles both sidestep the real issues at the centre of the controversy, veteran journalist Bertha Henson said on Facebook over the weekend that the local media is “pussyfooting around the EZ-Link fracas” and “have gone into overdrive to mollify” upset commuters.
She wrote on Saturday (13 Jan), “Mainstream media shied away from reporting commuters’ complaints fully, and moved straight into explanatory mode.
“After the MediaCorp published a CNA Explains which spoke of the backend process that underpinned the SimplyGo platform which could not incorporate some cherished features such as informing commuters about the cost of the trip at point of travel, ST published an askST column which could be a copy of an LTA FAQ.”
Singaporeans responding to Ms Henson’s observation asked whether the articles are part of a public relations exercise by the LTA.
Some also pointed out the connection between the mainstream media and the Government, highlighting the Government’s decision to pump close to a billion dollars into Singapore Media Trust, which publishes The Straits Times.
Referring to the planned injection of 180 million dollars into Singapore Media Trust over five years, former Finance Ministry civil servant Shih-Tung Ngiam shared Ms Henson’s post and quipped, “I mean the Govt has got to get something for $180m/yr”