Friday, June 30, 2006

If Kinko's charged a dollar a page...

… nobody would go to Kinko’s. But what if you HAD to go to Kinko’s to get a copy of the document you wanted?

For years now, ICPR has tracked candidate ads on Chicago television stations. We do this partly by taping broadcasts and partly by obtaining the contracts from the 9 largest stations in the Chicago market. Stations are required by federal law to make copies of these contracts available to the public, though the law also allows stations to charge a reasonable copying fee. Which quickly raises the question, what’s reasonable?

Actual fees charged by the stations vary wildly. Some are free. Others are ten cents a page, or twenty cents a page. But one is fully a dollar a page. That’s out of the ballpark of most stations; it’s also much more than what commercial copiers charge, and it’s more than most governmental agencies charge for copies.

Today’s papers carry at least two stories on a challenge to the DuPage Election Commission’s practice of charging $1 per page for copies requested by the public. High copying fees prevent the public from gaining access to records that are supposed to be available to the public, not just to see, not just to read, but to have, to write on, to mark up, to study. High copying fees, as the people quoted in these stories so eloquently describe, work against the purpose of public access to records.

We stand with those who ask the DuPage Election Commission to lower their fees. And we also hope that the people at WBBM (CBS-Channel 2) in Chicago will re-examine what it actually costs them to make copies of ad contracts.

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