Bill Removing Requirement To Publish Public Notices In Newspapers Advances
Government agencies won’t have to purchase ad space in newspapers to publish public notices thanks to language in a bill advancing in the House. Opponents argue it’ll make public notices harder to find while also weakening the newspaper industry.
Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) says his new bill will give Floridians greater access to public notices.
"Today governments spend tens of millions of dollars a year purchasing print ads in newspapers in public notices," said Fine. "This bill would in effect allow those public notices to go online, which is now the primary way people contain their content."
Tallahassee Democrat editor William Hatfield disagrees. He says a large portion of people still read daily newspapers.
"We know Florida’s demographics, most markets in the sunshine state still have a huge population of print readers," said Hatfield. "Many of them older folks who’ve consumed a large diet of local news through print for decades."
But Fine says his bill wouldn’t stop what currently happens.
"We’re not saying that local governments can’t choose to continue to buy newspaper ads, we're simply saying that they no longer have to," said Fine. "And they have to provide for the first time in Florida history free access at your home to public notices without having to have internet access and a device to use it or subscribing to every newspaper eligible for public notices in your community."
Opponents to the bill worry the local governments will take the cheaper route and Hatfield says that result would mean a loss of revenue for some newspapers.
"The brunt of this bill would fall on the very newspapers providing critical information to the most needy residents," said Hatfield. "Small publications in communities without the plethora of information sources found in more urban parts of the state. There’s risk that these publications will have to downsize further putting their communities at risk of becoming so-called news desserts."
Fine says that’s not his problem.
“It’s not our job to keep industries alive. That’s not our role," said Fine.
The bill passed with approval from Republicans on the committee.
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