By: Joe Strupp
A bill being considered by the Pennsylvania State Senate that would allow free newspapers to run legal notices and “end a monopoly long enjoyed by the established newspaper industry,” is drawing opposition from numerous dailies in the market, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Inquirer reports today that supporters believe the bill would save tax dollars by offering a cheaper alternative to newspapers. But critics argue that allowing legal notices in “so-called shoppers, which they say few people read or want, would shortchange the public in the end.”
“The issue has produced rhetoric on both sides, with newspaper representatives calling free papers ‘junk mail’ and a consultant for free papers labeling dailies as a ‘cartel’ bent on protecting a coveted revenue source,” the story said.
Senate Bill 428 has already been approved by two Senate committees, with the full state governing body poised to vote on it as early as next week, according to the Inquirer.
“The idea was that people have a right to know what their government is up to,” Deborah Musselman, director of government affairs for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, told the Inquirer. Allowing notices in free papers, she said, would “make it a lot harder to know what your government is up to because you wouldn’t know where to look to find the information.”
Current law requires that local governments place legal notices in a “newspaper of general circulation” in a county, the paper stated. The proposed change would expand that to include “community papers of mass dissemination” that are distributed free through the mail or delivered by carrier to all households in a political subdivision.
“Right now, the legal-advertising law grants an exclusive monopoly that doesn’t recognize that there are other bona fide options out there,” Jim Haigh, a consultant to the Mid-Atlantic Community Papers Association, which represents 300 free papers in seven states, told the paper. “We are just looking for fair competition.”