But it’s not shedding a significant number of participants, according to a RTNDA/Hofstra University survey. Most television stations are cutting back, not cutting completely. Give and take on the radio side kept it almost at par with the previous year. On the television side you might call it the terrible 4s: staff is down 4.3% and salaries are down 4.4%, but only four stations have stopped originating their own news.
Hofstra professor Bob Papper noted, “It’s clear that stations are banking on local news to carry them into the future. Television is clearly suffering from the same stress as the entire economy, but stations are by no means giving up on local news.”
In all, 1.2K TV news jobs were eliminated during 2008, which was worse than the 3.8% decline in employment across all categories but was light years better than the 11.3% drop in employment suffered by the newspaper industry.
Stations actually added a half hour of local news on average, and the 4.6 hours of local news per weekday at a typical station is a new record.
Staffing at radio news operations experienced some churn, but the number of stations letting staffers go was cancelled out by those hiring staffers. Salaries did dip a bit, registering a 1.8% loss of income.
RBR/TVBR observation: The best place to take hold of your own destiny, especially for television stations, is with local news. It requires an investment, but if you can pull it off, it will be the best place to start pulling out of the 2009 general revenue tailspin.