Friday, September 4, 2020

Survey: Radio News On Tenuous Financial Footing

The RTDNA has released the first installment in the 2020 edition of the annual local TV and radio news survey. Additional reports will be released each week in September.

  • In 2019, more stations aired more hours of local TV news than ever recorded in the annual newsroom survey.
  • One fewer station originated news, but 30 additional stations began airing local news.
  • Increases of about 20 minutes each day on average in weekend news brought the average hours of weekly news aired to a record high. Average weekday news remained at last year’s record high levels.
  • The increase came primarily from smaller markets and smaller newsrooms.
  • Fewer stations ran local radio news in 2019, and close to a record high percentage of stations report running local news from other sources rather than originating it. While the amount of local news aired on radio in minutes increased slightly, fewer stations increased their news programming.
  • 68.2% of radio stations surveyed report running local news, including 70.8% of AM stations (down slightly) and 69.6% of FM stations (up slightly).
  • Fewer radio news directors report plans to increase news, though public radio news directors were more likely to expect to increase news.
  • More local radio stations, especially non-commercial stations, reported decreasing budgets in 2019. Of radio news directors who were able to report on their website’s profitability, more reported losses.
Overall, the newsroom survey indicates that local radio began 2020 on tenuous financial footing – and its challenges have only increased this year.

Similar to local TV managers, radio managers also report fragmented audience (25.2%) followed by staffing (11.9%), corporate cuts/consolidation (7.2%), declining news appetite/trust (4.9%) and technology and media landscape changes (4.6% and 2.9%) as key threats.

While just over half of TV managers report local newspapers are competitors, 71.5% of radio news managers say local newspapers are not competition, including two thirds of commercial radio managers and 80% of public radio managers.

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