Superboxes, Megabins & Freedom of the Press

The Globe & Mail reports today on the move towards aggregating the muddle of newspaper boxes on our public streets. Although it is always good to get rid of clutter the article points out some of the issues that are connected to this seemingly good thing:

The conglomerated superboxes could potentially limit the freedom to distribute the press:

“If you can only have [the box] in certain locations and the locations are controlled, there is a severe restriction on being able to distribute news,” said Stan Mukuch, a lawyer representing the association.

Public space is a valuable commodity for competing advertisers:

But Mr. Sutton said the Tribune has lost a key advertising vehicle by having to shelve its trademark blue and white boxes.

While Viacom is gaining advertising space – the newspapers are losing it. Viacom is insinuating itself into the public realm by offering a pseudo public benefit: the uncluttering of our streets. Similarly Eucan offers the public good of garbage collection in return for advertising space. Ironically newspapers rely on advertising to exist and have to produce content as a business. Advertising distributors like Viacom and Eucan are in the business of securing visibility and the public realm is their territory of occupation.

Perhaps clutter is the best protection from conglomeration?


  1. Interest, having just watched Mayor David Miller’s Keith Davey lecture on Toronto as a World Class 21st city, that Spacing reported on a few days ago.

    In the speech, Mayor Miller mentions how he was concerned about the number of paper boxes at the High Park subway stop, and that he had someone in his office check to see how many were licensed. He found the vast majority of them were not licensed, and indicated that in the last budget, a newspaper box license inspector position had been created to handle these unlicensed boxes.

    Was that just fortune timing for Viacom’s unveiling, or is Mayor Miller setting us up for the introduction of the mega-boxes. Perhaps Mayor Miller learnt something from the garbage bin backlash – make the newspaper boxes the enemy before you bring in the mega-advertising space…

  2. The article says these superboxes can only hold 6 different papers, and there are many more than that operating in Toronto. Presuming that large distributors with paid audiences get the prime spots (Star, Globe and Mail, Post, and Sun), what does this mean for smaller papers that are circulated for free?

  3. this may be old news, but in reference to the large number of newpaper boxes cluttering High Park subway and Avenue – they have been removed, and eventhough I always thought they were cluttering I have now come to realize how horrible and redicilous they looked in the first place. I’d be happy to see more of this removal across the city – however that solution is found. Having read the above, I presume I might soon be stumbling over one of these megabins in place of the removed?

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