Newspapers Balk At Paying For Their Own Recycling

By May 24, 2014Hot Topic

By Mike Archer. Newspapers in BC are resisting a provincial recycling program, (Multi-Material BC (MMBC), that will save municipal taxpayers money by shifting the cost of recycling newsprint to the industry.

According to a report on BC’s newspaper owners say they will have to layoff up to 500 people, and close newspapers as they try to absorb what they say would be a $10 million loss if they are required to pay for recycling which municipal taxpayers have so far been paying.

But the province says the recycling program, which will be operated by the industry group, Multi-Material BC (MMBC), would charge newspaper 20 cents per kilogram in fees and puts the figure closer to $6 million, according to the Vancouver Sun. MMBC would also increase the recycling rate of packaging and printed paper to 75 per cent from 52 per cent. – The Tyee

The industry has been hit hard by the near complete disappearance of its classified advertising revenue – once the source of its day-to-day operating cash – a dramatic reduction in government and national advertising, which has for years subsidized local operations, and a loss of a technological monopoly over information. Readers can now access information for free and at any time on the internet rather than waiting until the newspapers can put it all on newsprint, stuff it full of flyers and drive it around town in CO2- spewing vehicles to every household whether they want it or not.

If you went to a bank with the newspaper business model today you would laughed out of their offices for coming up with such an unsustainable, environmentally unfriendly, and cumbersome method of delivering information. Like most old industries who rely on practices which no longer make sense or which damage the world from which they make their living, BC’s newspaper industry seems to think taxpayers should keep it afloat and pay for the cost of recycling the millions of tons of pulp it consumes and spews out every day.

Perhaps the most laughable part of the industry’s PR effort is its claim that the communities from which they siphon cash to their out-of-town headquarters will somehow suffer if they are forced to shut down newspapers in order to protect their profit margins.

One of their own answered the question of the importance of newspapers in today’s world:

“Try raising the cost of a subscription, and you know what will happen—we’ll lose subscribers. The only place where publishers can cut is editorial and that’s something that journalism just doesn’t need.” – John Hinds, president and CEO of Newspapers Canada

The Lower Mainland community newspapers gave up on the idea of charging readers for their product years ago and, with no need to compete for readers, the journalism has suffered with many of them simply parroting whatever they are told by politicians or business leaders and few of them providing any serious journalistic opposition or counterpoint to the political will of the small minority of wealthy and powerful people who effectively run the community, if not with the newspapers’ active and public support, at least with quiet acquiescence.

In the Lower Mainland both existing newspaper chains bought up all of the independent newspapers in the 90s and converted them from paid circulation to blanket free distribution, thereby sacrificing circulation revenue in order to distribute flyers for grocery chains and national companies like Canadian Tire.

Now that major grocery chains like Loblaws, Safeway and National Grocers are offering free personalized electronic flyers, available on electronic platforms from laptops to tablets to cellphones, the only major source of reliable revenue left for community newspapers in the Lower Mainland is also under threat.

Another reliable source of income for the local community newspaper chains has been municipal advertising. With the advent of municipal websites, where the same information is available for free, and community websites which do the same, that reliable source of revenue may now be under threat as well.

In other provinces, such as Ontario, newspapers offer municipalities’ in-kind advertising promotion instead of passing the cost on to publishers. – The Tyee

If BC’s local newspaper chains are forced to give up municipal advertising in return fro local taxpayers paying their recycling costs, they may not be any better off than if they were to pay for their environmental footprint themselves.

Either way, their attempt to explain why taxpayers should shoulder the environmental and financial costs of their outdated business model sound more like a sad admission of failure than a legitimate argument for financial support from taxpayers.

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