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Asia Minute: Hong Kong Newspaper Changing Ownership

David Bailey / Flicker
David Bailey / Flicker

It’s happened from Honolulu to Washington DC: billionaires who made their fortunes by way of the internet buying or starting up media organizations. Now it’s happening in Asia—with one of the oldest regional names in journalism. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post is heading for new ownership.  The newspaper has been in operation for 112 years… and now the Alibaba Group is buying it.  Billionaire Jack Ma is the man at the head of Alibaba, which is based in China and trades on the New York Stock Exchange.  The South China Morning Post has been owned by Malaysian billionaire Robert Kuok since 1993, when he bought it from another billionaire: Rupert Murdoch.

Twenty years ago, the paper was one of the most profitable in the world on a per reader basis, but its parent company has seen declining profits for the past three years.  Circulation remains relatively low at about 100-thousand, but the paper retains influence.  Its coverage of China has come under close watch for years—especially since Hong Kong’s handover to the Chinese in 1997.

Critics say the paper has become increasingly pro-Beijing…despite its coverage of events like Occupy Hong Kong and the city’s annual commemorations of the Tiananmen Square massacre.  The new ownership deal will bring further scrutiny of China coverage.  On Friday the New York Times quoted Alibaba’s executive vice chairman discussing “misconceptions” about China…and adding “What’s good for China is also good for Alibaba.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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