By: Todd Shields
Hold the phone. That seemed to be the message sent by a federal agency last week when it announced plans for a national “Do Not Call” registry to keep telemarketers from bothering peace-seeking householders.
The stricture, which likely would take hold next year, would affect interstate calls only, leaving untouched many newspaper subscription drives that entail calling within a state.
But newspapers straddling state lines — and papers that hire out-of-state telemarketing firms to do their home-area calling — could feel a pinch.
Last week’s announcement by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had special resonance for, among others, The Kansas City Star. The Knight Ridder paper, published on Missouri’s western border, has about 45% of its home-delivery customers in Kansas, said Inside Sales Manager Jim Gorman. “It’s just another in a series of complicated laws,” sighed Gorman. “It’s becoming more and more difficult.”
The 259,612-weekday-circulation Star already contends with federal rules that prohibit a merchant from telephoning a consumer who has asked that specific merchant not to call. The FTC’s new proposal would go a step further, letting consumers place their names on a list of those whom most merchants may not call. Some loopholes exist, but none for newspapers.
In addition, Missouri last year joined the roughly 20 states with their own “Do Not Call” laws. That boosted by about a third the number of households on “Do Not Call” lists the Star must maintain, Gorman said.
“There’s talk of a Kansas list,” Gorman said. “And with a federal list, there’s the possibility of us juggling four or five lists. … What’s going to be enough?”