1997 NewsBank President Daniel S. Jones statement before United States Congress

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1997 NewsBank President Daniel S. Jones statement before United States Congress

1997 NewsBank President Daniel S. Jones statement before United States Congress


Daniel S. Jones

May 8, 1997

1997 NewsBank President Daniel S. Jones statement before United States Congress

STATEMENT OF DANIEL S. JONES, PRESIDENT, NEWSBANK, INC., ON BEHALF OF THE INFORMATION INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION


Mr. Jones. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and good morning.

NewsBank is a mid-sized news information publishing company. My objective today is to bring you an example of the type of problem which occurs when an agency of the Government ignores the Paperwork Reduction Act.

I'm not an expert on PRA, but I want to relate an injustice that has injured my company, that has occurred by an agency not adhering to PRA. The bottom line of my presentation is that the Government, in the form of an agency, specifically the NTIS, is competing with my business by republishing material which is not even Government information. It is copyrighted private information that is being sold by the NTIS to my customers, which are university libraries.

Now, as you can imagine, this disturbs me greatly; also, that my taxes and the taxes of my employees are subsidizing my competitor, the Government.

I am very much in favor of the public access to Government information, on the other hand. I have been a trustee of my local public library for 10 years. I have been a member of the American Library Association for 25 years. All of my customers are librarians, and a number of my products actually facilitate the further use of Government information.

Now, since the passage of PRA, my fellow IIA members and I have witnessed a number of agency initiatives that fly in the face of both the language and the intent of PRA. I can best explain these problems by citing the experiences of my company.

I began NewsBank 25 years ago and now employ 400 people in Connecticut, Vermont, and Florida. It may surprise you to learn that my company, whose primary mission is to provide access to news sources, is so concerned about Government competition and Government information policy.

In fact, when I started my company, I certainly didn't think that unfair competition for my business would arise from the Federal Government. Sadly, this is precisely what I have been battling for over a year now, with the World News Connection, a product published by NTIS. It is competitive because it contains much of exactly the same foreign news content that I publish with my business, and other publishers in our industry republish, exactly the same content.

When NTIS created this competitive product about 2 years ago, it appears that they did not demonstrate any significant effort to comply with the PRA. As a result, much of its content, as I mentioned, duplicates the very same information which is found in my products and that of other publishers that are private.

As I understand it, Congress intended NTIS to be subject to the PRA. In fact, the IIA and its members have consistently brought this situation to the attention of the officials at that agency and OIRA. Sometimes I wonder, however, if the agency's only real knowledge of PRA is how to avoid the act, not how to implement it.

Best I can tell, NTIS did not take adequate efforts to give public notice about its plans for its new product, the World News Connection. If they did, it was only to determine whether they could capture a profitable market share.

Now, another significant point that I would like to make is that when I publish a product, I must cover the entire cost of that product to bring it to market. Apparently, this practice is not required of the NTIS. As the director of NTIS has stated, the translation costs for the foreign news content in his product are at least subsidized by the taxpayers. That's a significant savings to NTIS, and one that I can't match.

Now, on top of the ability to avoid covering some of the costs of publishing its competitive product, NTIS doesn't pay any taxes. About half of my profits are paid out to various Government taxing bodies. That means that I have to earn twice as much to improve my products for my customers as the NTIS.

Now, in addition to these points, I don't know how a foreign news information product falls under the purview of the NTIS. It's not scientific; it's not technical; and it's not engineering information.

For over a year I have worked to resolve this issue. I regret to tell you that no progress has been made. The NTIS World News Connection product is on the market. The harm has been incurred by my company, in terms of lost customers and potentially future sales.

If this trend continues, my company may have to stop investing in some of its information products, and a significant number of my employees may lose their jobs. My company's case demonstrates, gentlemen, that unless a strong enforcement of the PRA is forthcoming, NTIS and other Government agencies will continue to compete with the private sector, to the detriment of private sector jobs.

Now, is the loss of private company jobs the objective of an agency of the Department of Commerce? I certainly hope not. NewsBank's experiences with the World News Connection are especially relevant to today's hearings, in that NTIS has demonstrated the dangers that lie in not strictly enforcing PRA principles.

I would also like to comment that, for the most part, the GPO seems to have been a responsible disseminator of Government information, but there is no guarantee that, in a rapidly changing information marketplace, tomorrow's GPO may not be pressured to act more like a competitor, nor that agencies will use the GPO to avoid the mandates of the PRA. As I see it, one certain way to avoid these potential problems is to require enforcement of PRA.

My point, therefore, is that I believe passage of the PRA is not enough, not enough without enforcement. We would recommend that the subcommittee review the efforts that OIRA has taken to ensure that agency officials follow the specific requirements of the law. And gentlemen, we are very much appreciative of your starting that process by holding this hearing here today.

The information industry does not make this request lightly, but only after attempts to deal directly with OIRA and several other agencies that have proven to be unsuccessful. My case, as I have described to you, as well as that of other industry situations, indicate that there appears to be a general lack of enthusiasm for the PRA within the executive branch, and only congressional intervention would seem to be the way to overcome this condition.

In closing, I would like to express my appreciation to you all and the subcommittee, and for the opportunity to appear today. My goal in being here is to find a way to stop the Government from competing with my product, my taxpaying business. I hope you can help achieve that goal.

Thank you.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).