From the Editor's Desk
Peacework Readers -- please check out this important call for action from Free Press, a national nonpartisan organization working to generate policies that will produce a more competitive and public interest-oriented media system with a strong nonprofit and noncommercial sector. Peacework, as well as many of the other small-circulation, independent periodicals you depend on -- and even the Internet -- could be at risk.
Our nation's founders understood the First Amendment would be worth little without a postal system that encouraged broad public participation in America's "marketplace of ideas."
Our free press did not happen magically; it was built on the foundation of postal policies that encouraged small publications and dissident ideas to sprout and flourish. The postal system is based on policies of public service and democratic values.
All of this could change in 2007.
Earlier this year, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) rejected a postal rate increase plan offered by the US Postal Service which proposed a rate increase for periodicals of about 11.7 percent, an increase that would have affected all periodicals more or less equally. Instead they opted to implement a modified version of an extraordinarily complicated plan submitted by media giant Time Warner.
The decision was followed by an industry "comment period" of only eight working days. The matter was so complicated and unreported that the general public played no role whatsoever, and publications that could not afford significant lobbying and lawyer fees faced high barriers to effective participation. Nonetheless, the new rates are scheduled to take effect July 15.
As the USPS struggles to meet its costs, postal rates for magazines are basically a zero-sum game. Lower rates for some magazines, and others must pick up the cost. The Time Warner plan proposed higher costs for small publishers and discounts for big publishers. The Time Warner plan may result in increases for small publications' mailing costs of 25-30 percent.
This is a struggle for the Internet, too. Much of the material on the web sites that covers public affairs is generated by these print publications. Much of the material bloggers address originates in these print publications. There is still no clear business model to support quality journalism online, and these print publications provide the resources to pay for the journalists and writers whose material is available on-line.
It is imperative that Congress, which is ultimately responsible, intervene to protect the postal subsidy for small publications that is the foundation for the free press in the United States.
Teresa Stack, President of the company that publishes The Nation, offers these three demands for use in contacting your elected representatives and James Miller III, Board of Governors, USPS, 475 L'Enfant Plaza SW #3436, Washington, DC 20260-3436:
1. The Board of Governors must move quickly to delay the implementation of these new rates, allowing an additional period of public comment.
2. A full assessment and justification must be conducted of the new rates and their impact on the public good is completed. And if the new rates cannot be adequately assessed and justified at this time, that the decision of the BOG is revised and the new rates revoked.
3. Whether it exercises its right to file another case under the old reform law, or whether it moves right to the new law's provisions, the Postal Service shifts some of the added burden from the smaller circulation publications that manage to survive until then.
For more information visit http://freepress.net.