Broadcast Salaries Level Out, Still Lag

An annual salary survey of salaries in local broadcast markets contains some good news, but not for everyone.

The RTDNA/Hofstra University annual survey, written by Bob Papper, professor and chair of the Department of Journalism, Media Studies, and Public Relations at Hofstra University, showed that local television news salaries rose 2.5 percent and local radio news salaries held the line in 2009. A year earlier, local TV salaries dropped 4.4 percent and local radio was down 1.8 percent.

Statistically, then, we are not back to 2007 levels, but the direction looks better.

The survey broke the results down by jobs and showed that not everyone is doing better. Some, however, received significant raises. Reporters, managing editors and art directors saw their salaries rise by about 10 percent, the survey said. Sports reporters’ salaries dropped by about 10 percent, even in what was generally a better year.

In radio, the pattern was similar, though the change was much smaller. Average salaries for news directors, reporters, producers and sports reporters inched up, but the change was offset by a decline for sports anchors.

The survey’s 10-year comparison between inflation and salaries shows that local broadcast journalists, on average, have not been keeping up with inflation. A release about the survey said: “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.”

Market size continues to play a significant role in pay, according to the survey. It pegged the median salary for a news anchor in a top 25 market at $117,000, and said anchors in markets smaller than 150 had a median salary of $35,500. The median for reporters was $65,000 for those in top 25 markets and $22,000 for those in smaller markets.

The survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2009. Responses came from three quarters of the 1,770 non-satellite TV stations and 301 of the 4,000 randomly selected radio stations.

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