By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In this age of digital magazines and newspapers, newsstand owners in Philadelphia say they’re hurting.

A City Council committee today approved a measure that could give the owners a financial boost — through digital advertising around the sides of their newsstands.

The proposal from councilman-at-large Bill Greenlee would double the amount of ad space allowed on each side of a newsstand, from 28 square feet to 56 square feet.  Ad space on the front and backs of the stands would also increase.

In addition, the measure would let the newsstands display, for the first time, large electronic ads and wraps.

(Councilman Greenlee.  Image from City of Phila. TV)

(Councilman Greenlee. Image from City of Phila. TV)

“This bill will add some vitality to some blocks, particularly in center city, which particularly after the normal business hours are rather dark and uninviting,” Greenlee (right) said as the hearing opened.

John Rocco, of the local Newsstand Association, told Council’s Rules Committee that the owners desperately need the additional revenue.

“We are the modern day mom-and-pop store, the epitome of what small business is about in America today,” Rocco said.

(CCRA president Jeff Braff.)

(CCRA president Jeff Braff.)

But Jeff Braff (right), president of the Center City Residents Association, said his group opposes any expansion of newsstand advertising.  He said digital ads in particular could cause safety concerns for pedestrians.

“Drivers are going to be watching these billboards and in fact create potential safety issues,” Braff said.

The committee tweaked the bill to lower the maximum brightness allowed, but then approved the proposal and sent it to the full Council for a vote.

Under Greenlee’s proposal the new, larger ads would, for the first time, be subject to a seven-percent excise tax, with the money going to the city.  Officials estimate that could bring in $400,000 per year.

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