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SF may fine papers for unwanted deliveries

The Examiner’s practice of dropping unsolicited newspapers on doorsteps is under fire in San Francisco. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi (left) has introduced legislation that would impose fines on newspapers that continue to deliver after a resident has asked that the paper stop. He says half of the litter complaints his office gets are about newspapers.

Mirkarimi wants to require newspapers that deliver unsolicited copies to publish a phone number or e-mail address residents could use to place their residence on a do-not-deliver list, according to a report in today’s Chronicle.

If newspapers keep coming, the publisher would face a $100 fine per residence on the first violation, $200 for the second and $500 for any thereafter, the Chron reported. Also, in some circumstances, people living at the residences where the unwanted newspapers are delivered could collect three times the amount of the fine from those who violate the law.

The law targets the Examiner, owned by billionaire Denver oilman Phil Anschutz (right), which is the only major paper in San Francisco that delivers unsolicited papers to homes. Publisher John Wilcox is quoted as saying his company delivers 120,000 copies to San Francisco homes each day. The Examiner’s pitch to advertisers is that it is read in high-income homes. The law exempts paid subscription papers such as the Chron. The SF Daily, SF Weekly, Guardian and Anschutz’s other daily, The City Star, don’t go to homes.

If the “comments” section after the Chron article is any indication, the law has popular support. “I must have called 5 or so odd times over the last 10 years, and after a few litterless days, the trash — err Examiner — is delivered again … out on the sidewalk, bushes or street. Make it stop!” Wrote another person: “The Examiner is obnoxious, they way they MAKE you pick up their garbage.”

The same law was proposed by a Maryland legislator after complaints by residents about the Examiner in the suburbs of Baltimore and Washington. Residents there were unable to get the Examiner to stop delivering despite numerous phone calls to the paper. A Washington TV station did this report about their complaints. The AP reports that the Maryland legislator withdrew the legislation, however, after the Examiner and other papers promised to clean up their act.

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