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Local Radio Broadcasts Less News in 2013, Study Says

RTDNA and Hofstra U. survey shows slight shifts from 2012

The results are in for the latest Radio Television Digital News Association-Hofstra University study, which tries to capture broadcast newsroom trends across the country. Professor Bob Papper headed the study that concluded that, overall, local radio news declined over the past year.

On average, the median amount of local radio news broadcast fell by 10 minutes per weekday, the report said. Additionally, most stations omitted local news entirely on the weekends. Overall, the amount of radio news per week fell from a year ago. Average minutes of news per weekday rose in the largest and smallest markets, but those increases were offset by drops in large and medium markets.

Overall in the survey, three-quarters of local radio groups reported that at least one station in the group runs local news. In total, 70% of radio stations run local news — 76.2% of AM stations and 67.1% of FM stations. The overall percentage is down from last year, with AM stations down 2.6 points and FM stations down 10.1. In cases of two or more stations in a market, there is a centralized newsroom handling the news for all the stations for 85.6% of these markets.

Commercial stations ran about twice as much local news as noncommercial stations. Stations in the Northeast tended to run more news than elsewhere. These stations were also least likely to have added or cut a newscast, along with those with the smallest staffs or in the smallest markets and stations.

Noncommercial stations were much more likely to increase local news than commercial stations. Stations in the smallest markets were less likely to add news than other market sizes.

About one in six (16.8%) news directors reported adding a newscast last year, less than the year prior. The top time for expansion was afternoon drive, edging out morning drive and midday.

One in twelve (8.1%) news directors reported cutting a newscast last year. On average, the cuts were spread all across the board, although afternoon drive and weekend were close to leading cuts.

This year, 75.7% of radio news directors said they had other responsibilities at the station beyond news, more than reported this last year, but significantly fewer than did so in 2008. In other jobs stats, announcing stayed on top for positions added; sales increased from 10th place to tie for first.

The survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2013 among all 1,659 operating, nonsatellite television stations and a random sample of 3,263 radio stations. Valid responses came from 249 radio news directors and general managers representing 649 radio stations.

The complete study can be found here.