By Lisa Macdonald
Australia's independent magazine publishers are in danger of being killed off by Australia Post. In August 1990, a standard 300 gram magazine cost 47 cents to mail anywhere in Australia. Under AP's new Print Post system, to start at the beginning of next year, postage on the same article will cost between 87 cents and $1.52, depending on its destination. Interstate country areas face an increase of 223.5%
In a letter to publications (such as Green Left Weekly) which currently use a special Registered Publications service for mailing to subscribers, AP alleges a loss of $21 million on handling such publications as justification for axing the service. This claim is questionable given AP's profit of $144 million the same year, and the fact that registered publications constitute only 1.5% of total postal volume, contributing negligibly to the overheads and direct costs of AP's core business.
As details of AP's departmental cost allocations are not publicly available, it is not possible to calculate any profit on the carriage of magazines. However, according to Newsagents' Direct Distribution (NDD), which is campaigning to save the Registered Publications service, available evidence suggests that the service is in fact profitable.
The proposed Print Post prices will discriminate most heavily against small publishers relying on subscribers, and those serving interstate and country readerships. The price rises could force the closure of many independent publications, the loss of thousands of jobs, and a further concentration of media ownership.
"It is our belief that no publisher or association should accept Print Post increases that are greater than the CPI", says Bernie McGeorge, director of NDD. The rises are discriminatory and "contrary to the ideals of a free press and against the public interest as a whole."
NDD will make submissions to the Prices Surveillance Authority, the Industry Commission and the Trades Practices Commission, and is distributing a petition calling on the federal government to "protect diversity of media ownership in Australia as a mainstay of our democracy by legislating the maintenance of the Registered Publications service as a community service obligation of Australia Post".
Copies of the submissions and petition are available from Ben Crawford at NDD on (02) 693 9765 or at PO Box 199, Alexandria NSW 2015.