Strength In Numbers p.11

By: Debra Gersh Hernandez Newspapers join other mailers to fight USPS proposals
that they say favor the nation's giant mail users sp.

TWO NEWSPAPER associations have joined other mailers to oppose U.S. Postal Service (USPS) proposals that benefit only the largest mailers.
The National Newspaper Association (NNA) and the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) have united with the American Business Press, the Society of National Association Publications and the Red Tag News Publications Association, whose members include time-sensitive publications, to form the Independent Mailers Group.
"This is a group that feels the Postal Service is clearly going in the wrong direction, particularly in favoring big mailers over small mailers, which seems to be the way their classification is skewed," said John Sturm, NAA senior vice president/public policy and general counsel.
"It's clear that it doesn't help any newspaper, pretty much regardless of size, and it helps our competitors more," he said, adding that the group welcomes other organizations with similar views to "communicate and perhaps coalesce."
Larry Graves, NNA public policy director, said the impetus for forming the group was "the philosophy embodied in the Postal Service reclassification case.
"I think the urgency was increased by the proposed rule making to allow [the Postal Service] to negotiate rates with very large mailers on a one-to-one basis," he added.
According to NNA, the proposal for negotiated service would give price breaks to individual mailers who guarantee to send over 5 million pieces of mail or to pay at least $2 million in postage.
The reclassification proposal would raise second-class rates about 17% while decreasing rates for high-volume mailers in a new second-class category by about 14%, NNA explained.
"The Postal Service is a zero-sum gain. It can't make a profit," Graves explained. "The law requires it to take in about $55 billion a year. If it gives one [mailer] a lower rate, it has to charge someone else more to make up the difference.
"Any rate reduction to one mailer is an increase to more mailers," he said, noting, "that's why in the reclassification case a couple of hundred mailers will get a 14% decrease, and about 11,000 will get an increase."
Graves pointed out that the Postal Service "has relationships with large mailers that are simply not available to smaller mailers . . . . It's just something they do institutionally."
This philosophy means the Independent Mailers Group may not have much clout with the Postal Service but may have better luck with Congress, the Postal Rate Commission, and the public, Graves said.
"We'd like to draw attention to what we feel is the appropriate role of the Postal Service as a government agency ? universal service, providing the fundamental delivery system in the United States," Graves said.
"We don't feel that, as a government agency, it ought to be providing favored deals to mailers," he added.


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