« Getting rid of my TV | Main | Tough questions »

Small political magazines get rate hike, Time Warner off the hook

Last week I got a letter from one of the publications I subscribe to, the High Country News.  It said their annual bill for mailing the magazine would increase by $28,000 because of rate hikes approved by the Postal Service Board of Governors.

No big deal, I thought.  Postal rates are rising all the time.  That's part of life.

But it turns out there's more to this story.  The rate hike for HCN and other smaller publications, including the left-wing Nation and the right-wing National Review, is going to be a lot larger than the rate hike for publishing giant Time Warner.  In effect, the postal service is subsidizing the largest publishers at the expense of the smallest.  It should come as no surprise that the plan essentially grew out of a proposal by none other than . . . Time-Warner.

"At the heart of the debate is whether the Postal Service should be a
market instrument that benefits the most efficient players or a
distribution system that levels the playing field to create a free flow
of ideas."

Our media voices are already too few, too large, and too homogenous.  For example, all 175 publications in Rupert Murdoch's empire editorialized in favor of going to war in Iraq.  Time-Warner's publications cannot be reliably counted on to give voice to opinions contrary to Time-Warner's business interests (which as a large publisher are largely the same as Rupert Murdoch's).  This is why we all benefit from the independent media.  They are more free to tell us things that challenge the status-quo, whether from the right or the left.

Efficiency may be the highest virtue when you're talking about running errands or manufacturing widgets.  Other virtues, like heterogeneity, should rank higher when we're talking about political journals and newspapers.

EDIT: On October 30th, a congressional subcommittee will be revisiting this issue.  You can click here if you want to weigh in on the side of truth, justice, Mom, and apple pie.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)