Is the US Postal Service a broadcast medium?

Posted on October 2, 2011  /  1 Comments

The right analogy is key to a decision to subsidize. When the main thing USPS does is distribute coupons, what rationale is there for subsidy?

The Internet can’t be used to tele-transport packages, of course, and our use of package delivery services, including the Postal Service’s, has grown with e-commerce. But the Postal Service is running large deficits, bumping up against the $15 billion limit it is permitted to borrow, and is on the brink of default unless Congress comes to the rescue.

Is this where the Postal Service wants to make its stand, as a package delivery service, one among several providers? Does anyone really care whether the Postal Service or U.P.S. drops the package at the doorstep?

A. Lee Fritschler, a professor of public policy at George Mason University and a former chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, says our Postal Service should be viewed not as a communications medium but as a broadcasting medium, spraying identical messages, in the form of “standard” mail, far and wide. If Congress had to bail out the Postal Service, it would effectively be subsidizing the private interests that use the service to distribute advertising cheaply. “Why on earth should our government be subsidizing a broadcast medium?” Professor Fritschler asks.


1 Comment

  1. The postal service indeed has become an advertising broadcaster. But by regulation, by tradition, and in fact, it is much more than that. It binds the nation together. For many people, receiving a letter in the post, a greeting card, or a note from family, is and will remain something special. As the internet grew, greeting card sales did not decline. So, the proposed gutting of the postal service, or changing it into something that ignores the value of the mail, can be seen as a further erosion of the commons. The Post is one of the oldest public services, and one of the better ones, in fact.

    Subsidy has always been what the post has been about, from the very beginning. The post was and remains a basic function of government. When has it been other than subsidized, I wonder?

    (I am enjoying your posts, sir!)