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AP Revenue Declines Slow In 2011; Seen Up In 2012

Also at the meeting on Tuesday, the AP board added six members, re-elected three and saw three leave. It now has 19 board members, who serve in staggered three-year terms.

The new board members are Rich Boehne, CEO of The E.W. Scripps Company; Stacey Cowles, publisher of The Spokesman-Review; John Winn Miller, publisher of the Concord Monitor; Robin McKinney Martin, owner of the Santa Fe New Mexican; Jim Moroney, publisher of The Dallas Morning News; and Bill Nutting, vice president of Ogden Newspapers Inc.

The AP's finances have suffered in recent years largely because of the financial pressures many of its member newspapers are under. Newspapers have been hit hard by declines in advertising revenue. As a result, the AP has cut the fees it charges newspapers.

Under accounting guidelines established by the Financial Accounting Standards Board, a company that has a cumulative loss over a three-year period must establish a reserve against the future tax benefits of those losses that it carries on its balance sheet. Those tax benefits on the AP's books were $168 million. Although the AP is optimistic that it will be able to realize the tax benefits in the future, the accounting rules dictate that a charge had to be taken, Dale said.

This has become standard practice in corporate finance, as accounting firms force companies to take the most conservative view of the value of such assets.

Dale said the charge had no impact on operations, adding they held up well considering the U.S. newspaper business continued to face declines in print advertising revenue. Fees from newspapers account for about a fifth of the AP's revenue, roughly the same amount it gets from online media outlets.

AP was able to control costs in 2011, even as it poured resources into news coverage of the Arab Spring revolts in the Middle East, Japan's earthquake and tsunami, Hurricane Irene and the royal wedding in Britain.

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