No such thing as free media

Philip Bell writes: Re. “ABC efficiency — how well does it stack up against its rivals?” (Friday). Like the ABC, all so-called “free-to-air” media are also funded by taxpayers. The commercial networks are different only in that they are also paid for by those citizens whose incomes are not sufficient to pay direct taxes. This is because the billions of dollars that fund sit-coms, “reality” shows and sports broadcasting come from advertising. Whenever a viewer sits through an ad for a car, beer or hamburgers, the viewer is working with the broadcaster to pay for the programs that the ads so annoyingly interrupt. It’s just that the transfer of cash is hidden as part of the purchase cost of the vehicle, slab or burger. In effect, advertising is a hidden surcharge on everything — a bit like the GST. And even those of us who choose not to consume commercial media are obliged to pay for the programs, because we all must purchase goods and services. We can choose not to watch Channel 9 or Ten, but we can’t choose not to pay for their advertising.

Then there are what might be called the “opportunity costs” of spending ten minutes or so per hour watching advertisements. If they watch an average amount of TV, viewers might spend the equivalent of a working week consuming advertising each year.  Obviously these costs are miniscule for public media.

Per program hour, the ABC is markedly more “efficient” than the commercials if one takes into account the total respective budgets of the services, and hence what they cost us, their audiences. The debate about “who pays for the ABC” should acknowledge that each and every one of us contributes to the profits that media corporations make. No media are “free”. It’s just that people can’t literally see the commercial transactions from which privately owned media make their profits.

Paul Hampton-Smith writes: When conducting an efficiency audit of the ABC, one should compare apples with apples. During prime time, commercial stations can and do actually display program content only 70% of the time, and that’s including program promos. Yes, prime-time commercials can total more than 18 minutes per hour! Media Watch coined the amusing label of “48 Minutes” for 60 Minutes. “Free” to air TV is a disingenuous term: free only in the limited sense of not directly requiring payment, but costing dearly in wasted time (and that’s not even going into the value of the actual program). We should more accurately call it “70% free-to-air TV”.

What’s good for Thorpey is good for Rupert

Ian Hancock writes: Re. “Crikey says: tabloid turmoil for Rupert, Wendi, Tony” (Friday). Usually Crikey‘s editorial is bang on the money. Especially on Tuesday, when you rightly stated that the media should keep out of Thorpey’s troubled private life. Well, no prizes for guessing that I was disappointed about the hypocrisy in today’s editorial as you got stuck into the more juicy aspects of Murdoch’s private life. Good enough for Thorpe — why not Murdoch? I know you love to put the boot into the man, but it’s starting to sound like a broken record.

Please don’t pet the Prime Minister

Ian Smith writes: Re. “You’ve gotta be kitten me ” (Friday) Love the piece about the Google add-in that substitutes photos of the PM with cute cat photos!

I shared this with a friend who made this comment:  “So much more pleasant. And could we have St Bernards in place of Joe Hockey? And poodles in place of My Pyne? And … I’m not quite sure which poor animal to insult as a substitute for Scott Morrison …”