Although the buying and selling of about 300 local television stations in 2013 netted a combined $8 billion, a new RTDNA and Hofstra University survey of 1,300 local TV news directors shows a mixed bag for TV news staffing.
While most news budgets grew or held steady in 2013, total staff in local TV newsrooms decreased and salaries for on-air reporters and anchors were flat, further evidence that stations have difficulty attracting the best and brightest.
The study finds that there are 400 fewer full-time jobs in local TV news (27,300) than in 2012, with an especially sharp decrease in the top 25 TV markets. However, stations’ median staff size of 31 employees stayed the same from year to year. Underlining the importance of storytelling visuals, graphic specialists saw a 10% increase in salary, a far cry from on-air staffers, who earned slightly less or the same as the prior year or two.
The 1,026 local stations that aired newscasts in 2013 is the highest number since 2008; then again, 50% more stations aired other station-produced newscasts since 2008. Additionally, local stations’ revenue is increasingly coming from news, as 50% of the average station’s revenue in 2013 came from ad revenue from local newscasts, up from 40% in 2002.
As for news budgets, more than half of news directors answered in the survey that theirs increased, but market size is key here. Whereas 54% of stations in mid-sized markets increased their budgets, only 48% in the top-25 TV markets increased theirs.