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San Francisco supervisors OK newsrack settlement

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    NMU         CALIFORNIA         Newsgathering         May 14, 2002    

San Francisco supervisors OK newsrack settlement

  • City officials accept agreement with newspaper companies, allowing plan for large uniform publication boxes to replace freestanding newsracks.

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors last week gave its approval to a lawsuit settlement with newspaper publishers over freestanding newsracks, paving the way for city officials to replace them with large publication boxes.

The city plans to install as many as 1,000 of these new boxes called pedmounts, which allow newspapers to be sold or distributed side-by-side in a neat, orderly fashion instead of in individually maintained newsracks. The city has been testing the pedmounts in downtown San Francisco.

Clear Channel Adshel Inc., a national media company that owns some 1,200 radio stations and thousands of billboards, will provide and maintain the racks. In exchange, the city agreed to allow Clear Channel to place advertisements on the boxes.

Several newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Bay Guardian, the San Jose Mercury News and the New York Times, sued the city in 1999, arguing that the ordinance stifled their First Amendment rights. Specifically, publishers claimed city officials could unfairly restrict the placement of the pedmounts or refuse space to a specific newspaper.

As part of the agreement, the newspaper companies work out among themselves the placement of the pedmounts and what publications get to use them. If an area of the city does not have a pedmount, individual racks may be used.

The supervisors voted 8 to 3 on May 6 to accept the lawsuit settlement.

But the agreement and the ordinance still have critics.

The Media Alliance and the Independent Press Association claim the agreement stifles the distribution of alternative newspapers and smaller publications. They also slammed the plan for granting Clear Channel control over the newspaper boxes.

“This law will set a devastating national precedent and provide Clear Channel with control of yet another medium, in addition to their monopolistic dominance of radio, billboards and concert venue promotion,” a statement at the Media Alliance Web site reads.

PT


© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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