Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bill in committee Thursday would likely require annual increases in newspapers' postal rates

A founding principle of American democracy, that newspapers should pay favorable postal rates so that the maximum number of voters can be informed about public issues, would be eroded by a bill scheduled for action in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Thursday morning.

The committee agenda includes HR 2309, sponsored by Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. It would reorganize the U.S. Postal Service, allow it to end Saturday mail delivery (a major rural issue) and require rates for periodicals (newspapers and magazines) to rise at least 5 percent per year "when costs are allegedly under 90 percent of cost coverage," according to the National Newspaper Association, the lobby for weekly and small daily newspapers, which rely on the mail.

NNA says the bill "takes for granted the USPS claim that . . . the class as a whole fails to generate enough revenue to cover costs. The provision could be understandable in a system where all mail is required to cover its costs. But the periodicals mailing industries have long questioned the reliability of mail processing cost figures." NNA says that is especially true of USPS cost estimates for newspapers mailed within the paper's home county, the majority of almost all papers' circulation and the heart of the democratic rationale for favorable rates. "NNA's attacks on the reliability of the system caused the Postal Rate Commission to adjust the costs numerous times over the past 20 years. PRC has issued several reports questioning the data reliability."

NNA says the committee may consider amendments to delay implementation of the 5 percent increase until 2015, after which time the bill's cost-control provisions may have kicked in; or cap the increase at 2 percent. For the full NNA statement, click here.

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