May 4, 2007



Stamping out the free press
by Jim Hightower

At last, Washington officials are doing something about the problem of corporate control of America's media sources. Unfortunately, what they're doing will make the problem worse.

The culprit is the U.S. Postal Service, which is now a corporation rather than a government agency. It is presently changing what it charges for mailing publications, doing so in a way that reverses 215 years of postal policy.

From Jefferson and Madison forward, a bedrock principle of the post office has been to use mailing rates as a means of encouraging a free press. Rates for smaller publications have always been cheaper to help them get started and survive. The idea is to stimulate competition and keep the flow of ideas open.

Now, however, the postal corporation has proposed a rate increase that'll sock smaller periodicals with a hike of up to 30 percent, while letting the largest and richest publishers skate by with a hike of less than 10 percent. Mailing is the highest expense for most small publications, so this skewed rate structure threatens their very existence.

Guess who drafted this new rate scheme. Time Warner, the largest magazine publisher in the country. Small publishers were not consulted, there were no public hearings, and not even Congress was asked about it.

Throughout our history, it's been the sassy, iconoclastic publications outside the conglomerate structure that have often provided the sharpest analysis and most original journalism. America desperately needs them. This is not a left-wing or right-wing issue — it’s a democracy issue.

The perverted rate policy is scheduled to be imposed on July 15, but there's still time to demand congressional action. Rep. Danny Davis chairs the post office oversight committee in congress. Ask him to stand against Time Warner... and for a free press: 202-225-5051

For more information on Jim Hightower's work — and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown — visit www.jimhightower.com


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