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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

US postal rate increase threatens small magazines

This is from another list. I thought that some US readers might be interested in this issue. THe increased rates will no doubt bankrupt quite a few small magazines and please the big players.


Dear friend, relative, or acquaintance of Bob McChesney,



The news media are covering the tragic murders in Virginia this morning,
and as they do an extraordinarily significant story is slipping through
the cracks.

On very rare occasions I send a message to everyone in my email address
book on an issue that I find of staggering importance and urgency. (My
address
book includes pretty much everyone who emails me in one form or another,
and I apologize if you get this message more than once.) This is one of
those
times.

There is a major crisis in our media taking place right now; it is
getting almost no attention and unless we act very soon the consequences
for our society
could well be disastrous. And it will only take place because it is being
done without any public awareness or participation; it goes directly
against
the very foundations of freedom of the press in the entirety of American
history.

The U.S. Post Office is in the process of implementing a radical
reformulation of its rates for magazines, such that smaller periodicals
will be hit with
a much much larger increase than the largest magazines.

Because the Post Office is a monopoly, and because magazines must use it,
the postal rates always have been skewed to make it cheaper for smaller
publications
to get launched and to survive. The whole idea has been to use the postal
rates to keep publishing as competitive and wide open as possible. This
bedrock
principle was put in place by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. They
considered it mandatory to create the press system, the Fourth Estate
necessary
for self-government.

It was postal policy that converted the free press clause in the First
Amendment from an abstract principle into a living breathing reality for
Americans.
And it has served that role throughout our history.

What the Post Office is now proposing goes directly against 215 years of
postal policy. The Post Office is in the process of implementing a
radical reformulation
of its mailing rates for magazines. Under the plan, smaller periodicals
will be hit with a much larger increase than the big magazines, as much
as 30 percent.
Some of the largest circulation magazines will face hikes of less than 10
percent.

The new rates, which go into effect on July 15, were developed with no
public involvement or congressional oversight, and the increased costs
could damage
hundreds, even thousands, of smaller publications, possibly putting many
out of business. This includes nearly every political journal in the
nation. These
are the magazines that often provide the most original journalism and
analysis. These are the magazines that provide much of the content on
Common Dreams.
We desperately need them.

What the Post Office is planning to do now, in the dark of night, is
implement a rate structure that gives the best prices to the biggest
publishers, hence
letting them lock in their market position and lessen the threat of any
new competition. The new rates could make it almost impossible to launch
a new
magazine, unless it is spawned by a huge conglomerate.

Not surprisingly, the new scheme was drafted by Time Warner, the largest
magazine publisher in the nation. All evidence available suggests the
bureaucrats
responsible have never considered the implications of their draconian
reforms for small and independent publishers, or for citizens who depend
upon a free
press.

The corruption and sleaziness of this process is difficult to exaggerate.
As one lawyer who works for a large magazine publisher admits, It takes a
publishing
company several hundred thousand dollars to even participate in these
rate cases. Some large corporations spend millions to influence these
rates. Little
guys, and the general public who depend upon these magazines, are not at
the table when the deal is being made.

The genius of the postal rate structure over the past 215 years was that
it did not favor a particular viewpoint; it simply made it easier for
smaller
magazines to be launched and to survive. That is why the publications
opposing the secretive Post Office rate hikes cross the political
spectrum. This
is not a left-wing issue or a right-wing issue, it is a democracy issue.
And it is about having competitive media markets that benefit all
Americans. This
reform will have disastrous effects for all small and mid-sized
publications, be they on politics, music, sports or gardening.

This process was conducted with such little publicity and pitched only at
the dominant players that we only learned about it a few weeks ago and it
is
very late in the game. But there is something you can do. Please go to

www.stoppostalratehikes.com
and sign the letter to the Postal Board protesting the new rate
system and demanding a congressional hearing before any radical changes
are made. The deadline
for comments is April 23.

I know many of you are connected to publications that go through the
mail, or libraries and bookstores that pay for subscriptions to magazines
and periodicals.
If you fall in these categories, it is imperative you get everyone
connected to your magazine or operation to go to

www.stoppostalratehikes.com.


We do not have a moment to lose. If everyone who reads this email
responds at

www.stoppostalratehikes.com
, and then sends it along to their friends urging them to do the
same, we can win. If there is one thing we have learned at Free Press
over the past few
years, it is that if enough people raise hell, we can force politicians
to do the right thing. This is a time for serious hell-raising.

And to my friends from outside the United States, I apologize for
cluttering your inbox. If you read this far, we can use your moral
support.

>From the bottom of my heart, thanks.

Bob


Robert W. McChesney

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