Sunday, January 1, 2017

A stealth subsidy for newspapers...

End newspaper subsidies

The practice of posting legal notices in newspapers has been a billion-dollar boondoggle for newspapers since the 19th century.

Chris Christie wants to end it in New Jersey.

From the Associated Press:
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- As classified advertising, once the lifeblood of newspapers, has dried up, one constant has remained: a thick daily listing of government public notices. But legislative fights have put that at risk.
A measure to allow government agencies in New Jersey to no longer publish their legal notices in newspapers recently stalled, but Republican Gov. Chris Christie said he will make the change a priority in 2017. And Democratic leaders in the Legislature aren't backing down from having the debate, either.
Christie says the change would save taxpayers and residents $80 million, but the state's newspapers dispute that math. They say that the state spends $20 million on legal notice advertising each year and that more than half is reimbursed by private business. Christie's figures also apparently include an estimate that $60 million will be spent on public notices of pending foreclosures, a fee paid for by banks.
It's not only an issue in New Jersey. State lawmakers nationwide have considered ending the requirement to publish notices for things like public meetings and government bids, but lobbying efforts from publishers have stopped that so far. But as the audience for printed newspapers continues to dwindle, some think it's only a matter of time.
Newspaper circulation is under 50 million in a nation of 320 million.

Rare is the citizen who actually reads these legal notices.

From the Associated Press:
"You don't want to put the fox in charge of the hen house," said Robert Ambrogi, of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association. "The main reason legal notices are published is to ensure government transparency and government accountability. In order to have that process done in a neutral and objective way, it needs to be managed and overseen by a third party."
If this is so vital and information people need, why don't the newspapers publish it gratis?

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