Philly Transit Paper, Dailies Settle Case

By: Lucia Moses

Philadelphia transit paper Metro will retain the right to distribute on city buses for the next 18 months under a settlement reached Monday with the city’s major dailies and transit agency.

Philadelphia Newspapers Inc. (PNI), parent of The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News, went to court just before Metro‘s launch in January of last year, arguing that the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) acted unconstitutionally in letting Metro distribute in areas off-limits to other papers.

PNI was joined in the suit by the New York Times Co. and Gannett Co. Inc., which circulates USA Today and community papers in the Philadelphia region.

PNI and its fellow plaintiffs failed to win an injunction stopping Metro from distributing. Monday was the deadline for them to submit a brief supporting their case for an injunction.

Under the settlement, SEPTA will give no preference with regard to newspaper distribution on train and trolley platforms for the next 18 months.

Metro agreed to notify the dailies if SEPTA changes its distribution terms with Metro after 18 months.

Philadelphia’s Metro, a splashy tabloid designed for a quick read, was the first U.S. edition of global transit paper publisher Metro International S.A. In May, the company launched a Boston edition.

Under its publishing contract with SEPTA, Metro gives SEPTA a page for transit-system news in each issue as well as a cut of the ad revenue for the right to distribute in buses and on train and trolley platforms.

John G. Walsh, PNI’s senior vice president for operations, said the settlement met PNI’s objectives.
“Essentially, our goal was to make sure we were not put in a situation where we were not able to compete effectively,” Walsh said. He added that PNI agreed to let Metro alone distribute on buses because of difficulty in arranging a way to sell paid dailies on buses.

Metro Publisher Jim McDonald said the agreement has no impact on its operations. He said Metro stopped distributing on buses a few weeks ago, and has been moving distribution beyond the transit system to locations with a lot of young people, its target audience.

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