Bill allowing broadcast of legal ads clears House

By Kate Nash: The New Mexican

A measure that would allow a legal advertisements to be broadcast on television or read on the radio to meet publication requirements has cleared the House, but might face a tough time in its first Senate committee.

The measure, sponsored by House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Nambe, would allow ads for things such as lawsuits, public meetings and estate-related notices on the airwaves, and on television and radio station websites. Those ads could still be printed in newspapers.

Lujan said the New Mexico Broadcasters Association asked him to carry the measure, which he said would give small towns without their own daily paper the option of using radio or TV to get the word out.

“We have had a lot of small communities, especially in the area of Las Vegas, (where) papers are only printed several days a week,” he said.

Larger papers in the state like the Albuquerque Journal do circulate in some small towns without their own daily.

Paula Maes, the executive director of the broadcasters group, said she’s heard from leaders of several small towns including Las Vegas and Espanola who have expressed concerns about meeting the publication requirements for legal ads.

“It’s just really giving the municipalities and counties, anyone who has to give notice, more of an opportunity,” she said.

“When you have communities like Clayton, where are they going to go?”

The House on Saturday afternoon approved the measure 58-2 and it was referred to the Senate Rules and Judiciary Committees.

A few members of the Rules Committee said Monday they have some concerns about the measure (HB 895).

Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, a lawyer who uses legal notices in his practice, said legals on TV might not reach everyone they are intended to.

“I’d just be concerned that with the ever-evolving technology out there, people are on cable, they are on satellite television…the purpose (of the legals) is to try and get them as accessible as possible.”

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings,D-Roswell, said he wants to hear the bill in committee.

“It would be a new way of doing things…in all honesty, that’s been the accepted way we do things for a long time. Newspapers I know are having extremely hard times right now…I don’t like kicking industries when they are down.”

The New Mexico Press Association, of which The New Mexican is a member, opposes the bill.

Dana Bowley, executive director of the press group, said it’s hard to picture how the ads on the air would work.

“I can’t imagine any station taking time to read a state engineer’s water rights transfer, with all of its geographical descriptions on the air,” he said. “And more importantly, I can’t imagine a listener staying tuned in to it.”

Legal ads are a source of revenue for newspapers.

Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, said he’s against the bill at the present time.

“I think those things ought to be in print. I just think that it’s hard to read things like that and on television it would be lengthy,” he said.

Ingle said he thinks viewers and listeners might tune out when the legals come on.

“I don’t know how radio would do it. That’s an awful lot of reading and you can’t take a shortcut, you’ve got to read them all,” he said.

“I can’t imagine people doing anything but switching the channel.”