Postal rate hike threatens free speech

It’s nearly impossible to find any issue on which the People’s Weekly World and the extreme right-wing National Review can agree, but a proposed postage rate increase that would negatively affect small publications does the trick.

A broad coalition of smaller publications — independent, progressive, conservative — has come together with free press organizations to fight a rate increase formula proposed by U.S. Postal Service regulators.

Timothy Karr, campaign director for Free Press, toYou ld the World that after a period of reviewing the new regulations, individual publishers “realized that the smaller publishers would be paying exorbitantly higher rates of increase to get their print publications out to their subscribers. We’ve looked at it, and realized that something just didn’t smell right.”

Karr added that if the proposed regulations were to be enacted, small publications would pay rate increases of 20 percent or more, while large publications would face an average rate increase of only 8 percent to 10 percent.

Free Press, founded to support a strong, independent media, said in a statement on its web site that the new plans contradict more than 200 years of American history, noting that many of the founders of the U.S. considered the small press indispensable to democracy.

“Thomas Jefferson,” the statement reads, “supported this with calls for a postal service that allowed citizens to gain ‘full information of their affairs,’ where ideas could ‘penetrate the whole mass of the people.’ Along with James Madison, he paved the way for a service that gave smaller political journals a voice. Their solution included low-cost mailing incentives whereby publications could reach as many readers as possible.”

Karr said the Postal Service itself had suggested a rate increase plan that most found fair and equitable. However, the service’s overseers, the Postal Regulatory Commission and the Board of Governors, trashed the original plan in favor of the current proposal, which was submitted by Time Warner. The latter, as the largest publisher in America, stands to save millions of dollars under the new plan.

The coalition is pressing for the Board of Governors to reconsider its decision, and for a House Government Oversight subcommittee to hold hearings to investigate “what appears to be a pretty unorthodox and unfair rate hike,” said Karr, adding that it appeared likely that hearings would be held.

“We want an investigation of this unorthodox rate change, and until there’s clarity on this, we’d hope that the post office would delay implementation of the Time Warner plan.”

To sign the petition, visit .

dmargolis @pww.org