Limitations on Legal Advertising Beaten Back by Newspaper Industry

Limitations on Legal Advertising Beaten Back by Newspaper Industry


Two legislative proposals in the state of Virginia seeking to reduce or eliminate the quantity of legal advertising required of local and state governments were beaten back by the Virginia Press Association.

This outcome developed despite the efforts exerted by localities to loosen the grip that newspapers presently have on legal notices.

The Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns of the Virginia House of Delegates decided to take no action on the two proposals. It effectively put the issue off until 2012. There were no other measures introduced in the state Senate relating to the subject.

The issue over the need to put notices of public meetings and other government actions in court-certified “newspapers of record” and general circulation in a community, has been subject of an argument of newspapers and local governments in recent years.

Local governments contend that with the presence of Internet and other communications options, localities should not be compelled to place legal notices in printed editions of newspapers. Status quo supporters maintain that newspapers are still the most effective communications tool available to disseminate information.

The real issue, however, are the finances. Due to the plummeting advertising revenues in recent years, newspapers, now count on legal ads to help pay their mounting bills. On the other hand, local governments who are also facing their own financial troubles are more than eager to cut costs.

While County Board members voiced their support for ending the monopoly of newspapers on legal advertising, they were unable to make it one of the major priorities in their legislative package.