Public notices change in Ohio

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The publication of Ohio public notices in newspapers will be reduced under a change approved by that state’s legislature at the end of June.

The Ohio Newspaper Association estimated the changes will reduce revenue for its members from public notice advertising by 20 percent to 30 percent.

Ohio’s proximity will embolden Indiana lobbyists for local government entities to push for the reduction of the publication requirement for public notices in our state next year, said Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel. 

“When the opportunity presents itself this summer and fall, publishers need to talk to their state legislators about the benefits of public notice advertising as the third building block for government transparency, along with the Open Door Law and Access to Public Records Act,” Key said.

Ohio Newspaper Associ­ation Executive Director Dennis Hetzel said changes contained in the original version of the bill would have resulted in an 80 percent to 90 percent reduction in public notice revenue for member papers. The changes that made it to law impact notices required to be published more than one time in newspapers.

The first notice will continue to be printed in a local Ohio newspaper, but the government unit can decide to print only a summary of the notice in the newspaper for the second publication if it also posts the notice to a state-approved website and on the newspaper’s website.

The newspaper will not be allowed to charge an additional fee for the web posting of notices.

The Ohio law also was changed to make free publications that meet certain news content criteria eligible to carry public notice advertising.

These changes are indicative of the nationwide attacks on the concept of public notice advertising in newspapers, Key said.

The Illinois Press Association beat back attempts during its 2011 legislative session to move public notices to websites, he said.

In Indiana legislators filed three bills in 2011 that would have effectively eliminated public notice advertising in newspapers, but at HSPA’s urging the bills did not receive hearings in the Senate committee where all three bills were assigned.

“I fully expect bills negatively impacting public notice advertising to be filed again during the 2012 Indiana legislative session,” Key said.

To prepare for a potential fight, HSPA will be emailing publishers a request for local information that staff will compile as part of the defensive effort to preserve public notice advertising in newspapers.

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