From an Indianapolis corporate chairman:

Q: Should a public notice advertisement be the same price in two newspapers if the ads are identical?

A: The answer in Indiana depends on what type of public notice advertising is involved.

State and local governments are required to place some public notice ads, and those are paid for out of taxpayer funds. Non-governmental entities or private citizens pay for other types of public notices.

When a school corporation publishes its performance report or the county publishes its financial report, they fall under the first category. Mortgage foreclosures, opening of an estate, or petition to change one’s name fall under the second category.

For the government public notice, the state legislature has set a cap on what a newspaper may charge. It’s based on a formula taking into account the point size and column width of the ad.

While there may be some small differences due to where lines break in the copy, the goal with the formula is that if one took the same ad to multiple newspapers, the price should be same.

The legislature also prescribed that newspapers can’t charge government units more than they would charge other customers, so this serves as an additional cap on the price, which may come into play with smaller newspapers.

For the notices that the public must place, newspapers are free to decide the price just as they set the price for their display or classified advertising.

This price does take into account the distribution of the newspaper.

Buying an ad in The Indian­apolis Star is going to be much more expensive than buying an ad in a newspaper with a paid circulation of less than 1,000 copies, for example.

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.