TV and radio news salaries stabilize in 2009


The good news in broadcast news salaries in 2009 is that there isn’t bad news.  Local television news salaries rose a modest 2.5% during 2009, and local radio news salaries were unchanged.  That compares with drops for both local TV (4.4%) and local radio (1.8%) the year before.

“With negative inflation in 2009, even flat salaries mean no loss in buying power,” said Bob Papper, professor of journalism at Hofstra University and the survey director.

With inflation non-existent in 2009 (negative 0.3 percent), news people really did hold their own. But it was a mixed picture in TV salaries. Eleven positions went up from last year; four dropped; three stayed the same. But no position changed much, which is probably the more important point. Overall, salaries rose by 2.5 percent. The only salaries that moved much were reporter, managing editor and art director. All rose by about 10 percent. The biggest loser was sports reporter, which fell by about the same amount. Because the largest, highest-paying stations can raise the average salaries out of proportion, the median — or midpoint — is usually considered a better gauge of typical salaries.

Overall, in the last five years, TV news salaries have slipped further behind inflation, growing less than a quarter as much as the consumer price index, 2.9 percent versus 13.6 percent. The ten year picture is better,
but overall salary growth, 17.6 percent, still lags well behind inflation, 28.8 percent.

Over the last five years, only assignment editors have kept up with inflation; four positions are unchanged from five years ago; and five positions have actually dropped during that time. Over the last 10 years, only news anchors have kept pace with inflation, although news directors and assignment editors are close.

As usual, the larger the market, the larger the salary. The top 25 market salaries would be even higher, but it also includes a number of smaller, independent newsrooms which generally pay lower salaries than their network-affiliated counterparts. Of all the positions in TV news, only two went up in median salary in every market size: assignment editor and photographer. News producer, tape editor and internet specialist
came close. In most years, some market sizes fare better — or worse — than others.

This year, there’s surprisingly little difference from one market size to the next, although, overall, markets 101 – 150 fared just slightly better than the others.

Usually, when Papper breaks down salaries by staff size, he said thaty he sees some pattern of differences
with salaries going up and down. Not this year. If there’s a pattern, it’s the uniformity of the small changes in salaries, regardless of how they’re broken down. “And not a single job moved either uniformly up or down across all staff sizes. With rare exception, the bigger the newsroom, the bigger the salaries — as always. There are no meaningful differences based on network affiliation. Salaries in the Northeast and West tended to be higher than the South and Midwest.”

Overall, radio news salaries were unchanged in 2009. News directors rose slightly. News reporters, producers and sports reporters rose, but news and sports anchors fell. Because the largest, highest-paying stations can raise the average salaries out of proportion, the median — or midpoint — is usually considered a better gauge of typical salaries.

Overall, local radio news salaries have risen less than half as fast as the rate of inflation, 5.2 percent versus 13.6 percent. Over the last 10 years, radio news salaries are much closer to the inflation rate, although still falling behind.

The salaries by staff size are almost always highly variable, although there is a general tendency for the largest news operations to pay more.

The RTDNA/Hofstra University Survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2009 among all 1,770 operating, non-satellite television stations and a random sample of 4,000 radio stations. Valid responses came from 1,355 television stations (76.6 percent) and 203 radio news directors and general managers representing 301 radio stations.