TV salaries fall, radio stagnant

July 1, 2013 01:30

By Bob Papper, Hofstra University

The latest RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey found that local television news salaries actually fell 1.9% in 2012.  With inflation a modest 2.1%, that meant that TV news salaries dropped in purchasing power by 4% last year. Radio salaries fared only slightly better, with an increase of 0.8% last year.  That's not enough to compensate for 2.1% inflation, leaving radio news salaries down 1.3% in terms of real wages.

Television news salaries

  Average Median Minimum Maximum
News Director $100,400 $85,000 $30,000 $400,000
Assistant News Director 76,100 65,000 30,000 225,000
Managing Editor 69,300 62,000 26,000 220,000
Executive Producer 57,000 50,000 22,000 200,000
News Anchor 87,100 64,000 15,000 1,000,000
Weathercaster 69,600 55,000 15,000 500,000
Sports Anchor 58,800 45,000 17,000 369,000
News Reporter 39,400 30,000 16,000 200,000
Sports Reporter 38,300 30,000 15,000 200,000
Assignment Editor 40,200 37,000 12,000 110,000
News Producer 35,100 31,000 18,000 140,000
News Writer 42,200 36,500 18,000 100,000
News Assistant 29,000 28,000 12,000 85,000
Photographer 34,500 30,000 15,000 95,000
Tape Editor 32,100 28,000 13,000 95,000
Graphics Specialist 34,900 31,800 15,000 95,000
Web/Mobile Writer 32,600 32,000 14,000 60,000
Web/Mobile Prod/Ed 37,900 35,000 16,600 90,000
Art Director 49,000 50,000 18,000 90,000


No matter how you look at it, it was a lousy year for TV news salaries.  It's true that nine average salaries went up, four went down and one stayed the same.  But the increases were almost all extremely small, and median salary is a better gauge of what's happening.  Eleven median salaries went down with four each going up and staying the same.  In an unusual move, the poor benefitted the most in the last year, with the biggest salary jumps (proportionally) for news writers and news assistants.  Other than those two positions, only managing editors rose in both average and median salaries.    

Five and ten year median television news salary comparisons 2003 to 2008 to 2013

Median Comparisons 2013 2008 5-Year Percentage Change 2003 10-Year Percentage Change
INFLATION     +9.6%   +27.3%
All TV news     +8.1   +21.8
News Director $85,000 $74,000 +14.9 $64,000 +32.8
Assistant News Director 65,000 63,000 +3.2 57,000 +14.0
Managing Editor 62,000 58,000 +6.9 50,000 +24.0
Executive Producer 50,000 52,000 -3.8 47,000 +6.4
News Anchor 64,000 60,000 +6.7 50,000 +28.0
Weathercaster 55,000 53,300 +3.2 43,800 +25.6
Sports Anchor 45,000 40,000 +12.5 35,000 +28.6
News Reporter 30,000 29,500 +1.7 26,000 +15.4
Sports Reporter 30,000 29,000 +3.4 25,000 +20.0
Assignment Editor 37,000 34,000 +8.8 30,000 +23.3
News Producer 31,000 30,000 +3.3 27,000 +14.8
News Writer 36,500 24,000 +52.1 27,500 +32.7
News Assistant 28,000 25,500 +9.8 21,000 +33.3
Photographer 30,000 27,000 +11.1 25,000 +20.0
Tape Editor 28,000 25,000 +12.0 23,000 +21.7
Graphics Specialist 31,800 29,500 +7.8 25,000 +27.2
Web/Mobile Writer 32,000 33,800* -5.3 30,000* +6.7
Web/Mobile Prod/Ed 35,000 33,800* +3.6 30,000* +16.7
Art Director 50,000 42,000 +19.0 na na


Last year's dismal 5 and 10 year comparisons have now gotten worse.  Last year, only four positions beat both 5 and 10 year inflation rates.  It's the same this year -- but only because the relatively few writers and news assistants that were hired got nice jumps in pay.  Only news directors and sports anchors really kept pace (and more) with inflation over both the last five years and the last decade.  Assignment editors came reasonably close, but keeping up with inflation isn't much of a target -- even though relatively few positions managed to stay even close.  In fairness, the median salaries of some positions fell because more of them were hired (like executive producers and meteorologists), and new hires tended to be staff expansions filled with lower paid, less experienced people.  

Median TV news salaries by market size

Median by Market Size 1 – 25 26 – 50 51 – 100 101-150 150+
News Director $200,000 $135,000 $100,000 $80,000 $62,000
Assistant News Director 130,000 86,300 62,500   48,000 40,000
Managing Editor 95,000 77,500 60,000 50,000 35,000
Executive Producer 88,800 65,000   51,500 40,800 30,000
News Anchor 180,000 122,500 85,000 55,000 40,500
Weathercaster 130,000 110,000 70,000 49,500 36,200
Sports Anchor 105,000 82,500 53,800 39,000 30,000
News Reporter 72,000   50,000 34,500   26,800   23,000
Sports Reporter 61,500   50,000 35,000 26,500   23,000
Assignment Editor 50,000 45,000 40,000   33,000 27,500  
News Producer 50,300 44,500 33,000 27,000 23,000
News Writer 48,800 30,000 23,000 26,800 *
News Assistant 32,000 30,000 25,000 25,000 13,000
Photographer 49,000 45,000 31,500 27,000 25,000
Tape Editor 46,000 33,300 25,000 25,000 23,000
Graphics Specialist 55,000 24,000   31,800 29,000 21,500
Web/Mobile Writer 40,500 40,000 32,800 30,000 25,000
Web/Mobile Prod/Ed 43,000 50,000 35,000 29,000 28,000
Art Director 85,000 45,000 50,000 40,000 *
     *insufficient data

As usual, not everyone fared the same.  Last year's big salary winner was the smallest market group, 151+.  Not this year.  Salaries in those smallest markets were stagnant.  The biggest winners were markets 1 - 25 (which did well last year as well) and markets 101 - 150.  Markets 26 - 100 were also largely unchanged.

Median by Staff Size 51+ 31-50 21-30 11-20 1-10
News Director $155,000 $95,000 $75,000 $60,000 $50,000
Assistant News Director 97,500 58,000 45,000 41,200 *
Managing Editor 75,000 55,000 44,000 50,000 28,000
Executive Producer 70,000 50,000 40,000 40,000 31,500
News Anchor 140,000 76,500 47,900 42,500 26,000
Weathercaster 116,500 58,000 41,000 40,000 28,000
Sports Anchor 95,000 47,500 38,000 30,000 24,800
News Reporter 53,000 33,800 25,000 24,000 25,000  
Sports Reporter 50,500 30,000 25,500 23,500 23,000
Assignment Editor 46,500 37,000 33,000   30,000 23,000
News Producer 45,000 30,500   26,000 27,500 32,000
News Writer 38,900 24,000 * * *
News Assistant 33,000 17,000 15,000 28,000 *
Photographer 45,000 30,000 27,500   27,800 30,000
Tape Editor 35,000 25,000 22,000 26,500 35,000
Graphics Specialist 36,500 27,300 30,500 20,400 18,000
Web/Mobile Writer 40,000 32,800 25,000 27,300   *
Web/Mobile Prod/Ed 43,000 35,600 26,000 32,500 *
Art Director 50,000 40,000 * * 18,000
     *insufficient data

Generally, the rich got richer, and the poor didn't.  Almost all the salaries rose at the biggest stations, but the picture tended to be spottier after that.  And it looks like the smallest stations took advantage of a weak economy and generally hired cheap.    

Radio salaries

Overall, radio news salaries edged up 0.8% in 2012.  But you really have to burrow into the numbers to see what took place. Major market salaries rose in 2012 and rose by quite a bit.  The overall number was so much lower because median salaries actually fell in large, medium and small markets, although the small market results were a bit more mixed.  As usual, the larger the market, generally, the higher the salary.
Major markets are those with 1 million or more listeners.  Large markets are those from 250,000 to 1 million; medium markets are from 50,000 to 250,000; and small markets have fewer than 50,000 listeners.

Radio Salaries Average Median Minimum Maximum
News Director $43,000 $35,000 $15,000 $130,000  
News Reporter 37,200   33,000   17,000   110,000  
News Producer 39,000   40,000   26,000   70,000  
News Anchor 50,400   45,000   26,000   120,000  
Sports Anchor 36,700   35,000   17,000   75,000  
Sports Reporter 59,500   59,500   24,000   95,000  
Web Prod/Ed 48,700   45,000   30,000   85,000  

Median by Market Major Large Medium Small
News Director $67,000 $41,500   $35,500   $30,000  
News Reporter 50,000   32,000   32,500   24,000  
News Producer 40,000   41,500   33,500 *
News Anchor 50,000   66,800   38,000   35,000  
Sports Anchor *   *   27,500   35,000  
Sports Reporter *   * 24,000   *  
Web Prod/Ed 40,000 56,500 * *
     *insufficient data

Five and ten year median radio news salary comparisons 2003 to 2008 to 2013

Median Comparisons 2013   2008 5-Year Percentage Change 2003 10-Year Percentage Change
INFLATION     +9.6%   +27.3%
All radio news          
News Director $35,000 -$37,000 $32,000 +9.4 $30,500 +14.8
News Reporter 33,000 -34,500   25,000 +32.0 22,000 +50.0

The comparisons this year are problematic because of two coincident factors.  First, a disproportionate percentage of major market news directors are skewing this year's numbers out of line on an overall basis, and, second, that's throwing off the numbers of other positions, like producer, anchor and sports anchor, which are becoming less and less common in smaller and medium sized markets.  The salaries by staff size are almost always highly variable, although there has almost always been a general tendency for the largest news operations to pay more.  As with previous years, there is no consistent pattern to salaries based on the number of stations a news director supervises. 

Median by Ownership Standalone AM or FM Combo AM/FM Standalone + combo Group of 3 or more
News Director $35,000 $35,000   $35,000   $40,000  
News Reporter 30,000   32,000   32,000   33,000  
News Producer 40,400 42,000 40,400 37,500  
News Anchor 45,900   54,700   50,300   50,500  
Sports Anchor 32,500 25,000   30,000   37,500  
Sports Reporter * *   *   59,500  
Web Prod/Ed 51,000   65,000 58,000   40,000  













*insufficient data

This is the second year that I've broken down the stations differently than in the past.  I asked about standalone AM or FM, combo AM/FM and groups of 3 or more stations.  This year, as in most years, group-owned stations usually paid more the independent ones.  

Contracts

Contract numbers tended to languish in the recession, but they moved up noticeably in TV news last year and edged up again this time around.  Almost all job categories rose in the percentage under contract.  Note that non-competes are illegal in a number of states.

Contracts Percent under contract Percent with non-competes Percent under contract with non-competes
News Director 37.4% 46.6% 92.8%
Assistant News Director 43.8 53.3 91.9
Managing Editor 36.4 42.9 88.9
Executive Producer 52.2 55.6 85.5
News Anchor 94.4 88.2 90.4
Weathercaster 94.1 86.9 90.4
Sports Anchor 90.7 86.7 91.6
News Reporter 83.0 80.3 91.3
Sports Reporter 72.9 75.0 91.2
Assignment Editor 27.5 38.2 89.3
News Producer 63.6 67.2 92.6
News Writer 11.5 9.1 100
News Assistant 0 13.3 0
Photographer 10.9 24.0 90.9
Tape Editor 1.5 12.5 100
Graphics Specialist 3.3 4.2 100
Web/Mobile Writer 31.5 37.8 93.8
Web/Mobile Prod/Ed 31.7 37.0 94.4
Art Director 28.6 23.1 100


Contracts Percent under contract Percent with non-competes Percent under contract with non-competes
News Director 8.5%   17.8%   85.7%  
News Reporter 20.0   28.6   83.3  
News Producer 22.2 12.5 50.0
News Anchor 33.3   33.3 66.7  
Sports Anchor 45.5   77.8   100  
Sports Reporter 33.3   50.0   100
Web Prod/Ed 14.3   0   0  


    








 

Up and down for various positions, overall, radio numbers this year are generally in line with last year.

Starting Pay

The TV positions above are listed in order of number hired, and the sequence is virtually identical to last year (and pretty similar to the last few years).  The only meaningful change was that multimedia journalist moved from number 5 on the list last year to a distant number three this year.  But it was only one ahead of number four, and MMJ was half the number of producers and well under half the number of reporters.  Starting salaries were flat this year, with the overall average edging up $500 but the median staying exactly the same.

2013 starting salaries for new employees with no fulltime experience.
 

Position Average Median Minimum Maximum
All TV news $25,000 $24,000 $15,000 $50,000
Reporter 23,200 22,500 16,500 34,000
News producer 25,200 25,000 19,500 45,000
Multimedia journalist 25,000 25,000 15,000 32,000
Photographer 25,600 24,000 16,000 50,000
News assistant 28,500 29,000 21,000 50,000
Multimedia journalist 25,000 25,000 15,000 32,000
Tape editor 26,300 25,000 21,000 45,000
Assignment editor 25,900 27,500 20,000 30,000
Studio technical 26,600 26,000 20,000 33,500
News anchor 24,800 24,000 19,000 30,000
News writer 32,000 31,000 25,000 40,000
News anchor 24,800 24,000 19,000 30,000
Web 26,300 25,000 25,000 29,000
Sports reporter 22,000 22,000 22,000 22,000
Other 24,500 24,000 15,000 50,000


Position Average Median Minimum Maximum
All radio news $24,700 $24,000 $15,000 $40,000
News reporter 25,800 25,000   15,000 40,000  
General news 24,200   24,000   17,500   32,000  
Other 24,900   24,000   15,000   40,000  

More than half of all new, starting positions in radio news were reporters.  About a third as many news anchors were hired next, followed by news directors and then random positions.  Average radio news starting salaries rose just $200 in the last year, and median starting salaries -- as with TV -- were unchanged.  


Bob Papper is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Journalism, Media Studies, and Public Relations at Hofstra University and has worked extensively in radio and TV news.  This research was supported by the School of Communication at Hofstra University and the Radio Television Digital News Association.

About the Survey

The RTDNA/Hofstra University Survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2012 among all 1,732 operating, non-satellite television stations and a random sample of 3,000 radio stations.  Valid responses came from 1,377 television stations (79.5%) and 217 radio news directors and general managers representing 575 radio stations.
Some data sets (e.g. the number of TV stations originating local news, getting it from others and women TV news directors) are based on a complete census and are not projected from a smaller sample.