Thursday, May 20, 2010

RTDNA/Hofstra Survey Finds TV Doing More With Less

WASHINGTON - The RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey found that 2009 meant another year of TV news doing more with less and news leaders typically feeling optimistic about staffing levels staying the same or growing in 2010.

All told, 400 people in local TV news lost their jobs in 2009, according to the survey – accounting for 1.5 percent of the local TV workforce. That may be considered a bad year, but not nearly as bad as 2008, when 1,200 people lost jobs in TV news (4.3 percent of the workforce).

Even as staffing fell, the amount of news on the average station rose to another record high of five hours per weekday. That’s up from last year’s record 4.7 hours.The best news in this year's survey regards planned staff changes in 2010. In a dramatic turnaround from a year ago, over 60 percent of TV news directors say they expect staffing levels to stay the same. That's up nearly 20 points from a year ago.

The number expecting a decrease in staffing dropped 77 percent from a year ago, and the percentage expecting an increase in staff went up by 145 percent.Station profitability on news dropped slightly, but the percentage of station revenue produced by news remained the same.

2009 started with 770 TV stations producing original local news, shared with another 205 stations for a total of 975 using the content. Going into 2010, a net loss of eight stations left 762 stations producing original local news, and sharing it with another 224, for a total of 986 stations.

Only one network affiliate simply dropped local news completely in 2009. Most of the cuts involved independent stations, and most wound up continuing to run local news but getting it from another station.

RTDNA/ Hofstra Survey Finds One-Man-Band Usage Up Modestly

Over the last few years, talk about using one-man bands has soared, but it seems that actual use of one-man-bands has risen only modestly, according to the latest installment of the RTDNA/Hofstra survey.

"It appears that with one-man-band usage, a lot of [television] stations are more talk than action, according to the numbers," said survey director Bob Papper, professor and chair of journalism at Hofstra University.

Three years ago, 22.3 percent of surveyed television stations said they "mostly use" one-man-bands. Today, that percentage is up to 31.7 percent. The stations reporting "some use" of one-man-bands edged up from 26.9 percent to 29 percent this year. The "not much" usage category slid from 22.3 percent to 21.0 percent, and the "do not use" group dropped just over 10 points from 28.6 percent to 18.3 percent.

Most of the growth in the use of one-man bands from 2007 to 2010 came in the smallest markets and in the smallest newsrooms. Only 8.5 percent of the largest newsrooms - 51 or more employees - said they "mostly" use one-man-bands.

"Expected use" of one-man-bands is where we see the biggest change - up to 43.1 percent this year from 27.7 percent three years ago. There should be a word of caution in interpreting these results, though. These are close to the same numbers we had the year before, and the actual growth of one-man-bands was far more modest than the expectation.

Radio news changed little in 2009. The amount of news on the air is just about the same as a year ago, and the typical radio news staff remained at one person. If anything, radio news is even more centralized now than it has been, with the typical news director overseeing the news on three stations, and more than 80 percent of radio news directors saying they have additional station responsibilities beyond news.

Over the next few weeks, RTDNA will incrementally release a series of results from the full survey to RTDNA members including information on: how TV news is changing, social media usage, technology development, web trends and one-man bands.

About the Survey

The RTDNA/Hofstra University Survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2009 among all 1,770 operating, non-satellite television stations and a random sample of 4,000 radio stations. Valid responses came from 1,355 television stations (76.6 percent) and 203 radio news directors and general managers representing 301 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.

The annual survey is conducted for RTDNA by Bob Papper, the Lawrence Stessin Distinguished Professor of Journalism and chair of the Department of Journalism, Media Studies, and Public Relations at Hofstra University. This research was supported by the School of Communication at Hofstra University and the Radio Television Digital News Association.


RTDNA is the world's largest professional organization devoted exclusively to electronic journalism. RTDNA represents local and network news executives in broadcasting, cable and digital media in more than 20 countries.

Contact: Ryan Murphy, 202.495.8730,

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