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Postal tariff growth bodes ill for Russian press

March 05, 2014, 16:41 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Most subscribers will not be able to subscribe at new prices

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© ITAR-TASS/Valery Sharifulin

MOSCOW, March 05. /ITAR-TASS/. Journalists and publishing houses are raising the alarm: printed media are on the verge of a precipice. The government has abolished subsidies for the delivery of subscription editions. Postal tariffs will soar and become unaffordable to many. Last year Russians received more than 1 billion papers and magazines on subscription, which is almost 40% of all of the country’s periodicals. Pensioners and people in the regions will thus have no alternative to federal television and local papers.

The threat has encouraged the media to address a letter to President Vladimir Putin published in many papers on Wednesday. The letter signed by almost 50 chiefs of printed periodicals and publishers points to the fact that from July 1 on Russian Post will be stripped of the 3-billion-ruble ($83 million) annual subsidy that covered press delivery costs, while increased postal tariffs will hike subscription prices 1.5—2 times.

“Most subscribers will not be able to subscribe at new prices. The government’s refusal to support the press is a stark contrast to foreign experience, where subscription enjoys considerable state support,” says the letter.

In effect, the letter says, circulations will fall to a level unable to sustain publishing businesses' profitability. “Russia will see massive closures of papers and magazines and printers’ bankruptcies. Amid the economic stagnation about a million citizens will be left out in the cold: journalists, employees of the printing industry, logistics companies delivering the press, and members of their families,” believe the signatories.

A special meeting of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights on Tuesday discussed the threat for the printed media posed by Russian Post’s reorganization.

“Everything happening to Russian Post now will deliver a deadly blow to the printed media,” said editor-in-chief of the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily, Pavel Gusev. “Those who now want to tackle the post’s problems do not care a damn about the press and postal services. The press makes up 4% and is not the post’s key field of service,” he explained.

“We are struggling for the spending item not only to be restored to the budget but also amended so that it should be adequate to the Post’s needs. If it is not back, subscription in the country will crumble down,” said the Chairman of the Press Distributors Association Alexander Oskin.

“I am not aware of any measures that could partially save the situation, if this spending item is not back to the budget,” he added. “There is no sponsor in the country that could help the population. The government is the only possible sponsor.”

According to Oskin, this situation is a flagrant case, but also an isolated one.

“It’s high time the government adopted a law on state support for the media as a whole. There was such a law under President Yeltsin, and it was effective during five years. We believe that under new circumstances there is a need for another law on state support for the media, printing industry, book publishing and the distribution of printed matter.”

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