Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Free" Lunch

When reading Anderson's article, I couldn't help but reflect upon the saying, "there's no such thing as a free lunch."  For me, this idea rings especially true.  When I was seven, I described the food at my school cafeteria as "not bad, for free food, anyway."  I could not understand why this statement seemed so incredibly humorous to my parents, but they soon explained to me that the food was not free, even though I never had to hand out cash in my cafeteria.  In fact, schools were not free, the library was not free, and neither was the water from the drinking fountain.  Turns out, we all pay for these things.  I think that all citizens come to this understanding at some point in their lives--that we pay for everything, even if we are not shelling out actual cash at the use of our "free" resources.

However, it seems that, as consumers of broadcast media, we rarely come to the same understanding.  When you ask any person on the street who pays for CBS or NBC, they may have no idea.  Some may say that it is free.  The truth is, nothing is free.   In fact, it is us as consumers who indirectly pay for our broadcast television.  Advertisers who pay for commercial space gain this money to market through their profits, and we are the ones who give them those inflated profits to cover the cost of their advertising.  This is known as cross-subsidizing, and we take part in a type known as the "Three Party Market" every time we consume broadcast media.

Though it seems like a complicated process, in essence, it simply means that advertisers pay for the networks to broadcast "free" media which is paid for by consumers through the purchase of the products of advertisers.  For the networks, this system works brilliantly.  Advertisers pay for content, and consumers pay for the advertisers.  There is a never-ending cyclical money flow for the networks.  Of course, they take must risk in producing content if it does not work, however, the pay out is exponential in comparison to the risks.

As audience members, I am sure we would all like to think that we gain the most out of this Three Party Market, but this simply isn't the case.  We are not impervious to advertising.  If we were, this system would not work.  However, we can be smarter consumers by acknowledging the motives behind all the broadcast content, and understanding that "there is no such thing as a free lunch."

No comments:

Post a Comment