The news rack war has returned.
The Minneapolis City Council today introduced an ordinance to charge newspapers fees for newspaper racks. According to WCCO:
“There’ll be a fee, yeah. There’ll be a fee imposed, $39 per box, per year,” said Minneapolis city councilmember Ralph Remington.
For the free Downtown Journal — with more than 100 boxes — that adds up.
“What’s it going to do to me if I got to shell out, you know, half a salary on news boxes that I haven’t ever had to shell out before? I’m either going to raise my advertising rates or I’m going to lay somebody off,” said Downtown Journal publisher Terry Gahan.
This could be a battle of attrition, literally. There are some fees already in place in St. Paul. But in the past, this has been a contentious issue that ends up in the court in a battle over the First Amendment.
Atlanta, for example, tried imposing fees on newspaper racks during the Atlanta Olympics, according to the First Amendment Center:
The appeals court also struck down an Atlanta license-fee plan for news racks as imposing too high a price to pay for the exercise of First Amendment freedoms. Citing an earlier decision, the appeals court reasoned that cities can charge licensing fees as long as the fees do not cover more than what is needed to offset administrative costs.
Times have changed since the big court battles of the ’80s and ’90s, though. Cities don’t have the money to waste on lawsuits, and newspapers don’t even have the money left to get the news, let alone go to court.
So the solution will likely be the “new economy” way of doing things — the two sides will cut a deal.