I think it was cheap, carp. The idea of bread and circus was that you kept the people complacent by giving them entertainment and enough food to quiet the belly. The key term is "give," I think. I don't know how factual Juvenal was in his satire, but it seems credible to me that both the bread and the circus were, if not free, then next to it. The modern counterpart? TV.
MACTECH ubi dolor ibi digitus