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Public Goods

Peter A. Thompson


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The idea of public goods has been subject to considerable debate and contestation. The term is generally used to classify products or services that are not diminished through usage and for which charges cannot be levied on individual consumption (e.g., street lighting). The concept of public goods is significant for media and communication scholars because it potentially applies to some forms of broadcasting and informational or audiovisual products and services. Such classifications also have implications for contemporary media policy debates concerning the regulation of communication technologies and the legitimate role of state intervention in market activities (→  Communication and Law ; Media Policy ). In contemporary economic theory, the notion of public goods refers to products or services that exhibit the two key characteristics of nonrivalry and nonexcludability ( Ver Eecke 1999 ; Shankar & Pavitt 2002 ). Nonrivalry means that the consumption of the goods by one person does not preclude consumption by another. When, say, a loaf of bread is eaten, it ceases to be available to anyone else. In contrast, the reception of a television program can be extended to extra viewers at no additional cost without diminishing its availability (i.e., Pareto efficiency; see Samuelson 1964 ; Minasian 1964 ). Nonexcludability, meanwhile, means that there is no technically practical ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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