Big business invades your mailbox

Marketplace Staff May 14, 2007

Big business invades your mailbox

Marketplace Staff May 14, 2007


MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Beginning today that first class stamp will cost a little more, 41 cents to be precise. If you’ve got large envelopes and packages, size and shape will count along with weight. Another change affects magazines. It used to be that most postage rates applied pretty evenly to all publications. But starting July 15, big magazine publishers will get a big discount but not smaller publications. Not surprisingly, a coalition of small magazines including the National Review and The Nation are crying foul. Katrina vanden Heuvel is the editor and publisher of the Nation. She says this move could silence important voices.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: The radical restructuring that small publications face could end up silencing the diverse voices our Founding Fathers tried to foster when they created the national postal system.

Sure, like everyone else, we’d like to avoid a massive increase in costs. And it’s not that we’re afraid of intellectual competition; we welcome it.

But postal policy for the past 215 years has played a pivotal role in creating an extraordinarily free press and we shouldn’t let this magnificent tradition change.

In this latest postal rate hike, the U.S. Postal Service itself had proposed a 12 percent increase that would have affected most magazines more or less equally.

Surprisingly, the Postal Regulatory Commission rejected that proposal and adopted a complicated alternative devised by the giant publisher Time Warner.

That proposal would give huge discounts to big magazines, but smaller magazines would have to swallow hikes of between 15 and 30 percent.

For some small publications such huge and unexpected increases may prove fatal. New periodicals will find it very tough to enter the market. That means magazine publishing will get much less competitive.

Time Warner argues that this is simply sane pricing by the postal authorities to reward efficiency.

But wait a minute. The Postal Service is a monopoly.

If magazines like ours that require the post office to distribute our wares dislike the onerous new rates, we have nowhere else to turn.

THOMAS: Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor and publisher of the Nation.

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