TV Salaries Edge Up, Radio Salaries Dip

RTDNA Research,

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After falling in 2019 for the first time in seven years, local TV news salaries made gains in 2020. Despite pandemic-related pay cuts, local television news salaries, on average, increased by 3.5%, or 2.1% after accounting for inflation. This was the largest increase in salaries since 2016.

70% of local news positions saw salary increases, on average, with 20% decreasing and 10% seeing no change.

Download Full 2021 TV Salary Report

Long-Term Picture
Overall, news salaries are beating inflation over the last five and 10 years. Management roles tended to lag inflation over last 5 years but beat it over the last 10. Anchor, editor and producer roles are more likely to meet or exceed inflation over both timeframes. Reporters and digital roles are difficult to compare as those titles have shifted significantly in the last five and 10 years.

Market Size
Markets 101-150 faired the best, with salaries for most positions increasing. On the other hand, in the top 25 markets, salaries for most positions fell. All newsroom positions were mixed across market sizes.

Newsroom Size
Newsrooms with 31-50 staffers again saw a majority of positions lose salary, with the largest newsrooms close behind in losses.  

Salary numbers for the smallest newsrooms tend to vary widely as several are in the largest markets. 

Starting Pay
Average and median starting salaries both rose during 2021 to the highest staring salaries in the survey’s history. Average starting salaries increased by $2,100 to $32,600 and median starting pay increased $1,200 to $31,200.

However, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ 2019 report, the average starting salary for a collage graduate was $50,944, putting TV news well below average.



After a 4.5% increase in 2019, local radio wages rose just 0.9% in 2020. Accounting for inflation, real wages fell by 0.5%.

Download Full 2021 Radio Salary Report

Long-Term Trends
All radio news positions’ salaries have run ahead of inflation over the last ten years and four of seven positions measured have beaten inflation in the last five years. Overall, radio salaries are running ahead of inflation in both time frames.

Position and Market Size
Radio news salaries tend to increase overall with market size and with staff size, but no role or market size saw consistent increases or decreases.

Commercial vs Public
Public radio news salaries are significantly higher than commercial radio salaries. Some off this difference is due to more public stations being in major or large markets.

However, looking at major and large markets only, average and median salaries for public stations still top commercial stations’ pay.

Starting Pay
Average starting pay increased for local radio news, but by smaller amounts than each of the last two years. Median, or more typical, starting pay actually decreased.

Average and median starting salaries were $10,000 to $12,000 higher in public than in commercial radio, though most public stations represented large and metro markets.

Bob Papper is Adjunct Professor of Broadcast and Digital Journalism at Syracuse University and has worked extensively in radio and TV news.  

About the Survey
The RTDNA/Newhouse School at Syracuse University Survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2021 among all 1,780 operating, non-satellite television stations and a random sample of 3,379 radio stations.  Valid responses came from as many as 1,336 television stations (75.1%) and 765 radio news directors and general managers representing 2,310 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.