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RTDNA Survey Details Local Radio News Coverage

Radio news programming edges up

The in-depth Newsroom Research Project survey prepared for the Radio Television Digital News Association by Bob Papper, professor emeritus at Hofstra University, tackles a lot of topics, everything from social media and mobile strategies to radio budges and salaries. The findings are reported regularly on the RTNDA website and this week’s release highlights local radio news coverage.

The survey data, based on a random sample of 430 radio news directors and general managers at over 1,000 radio stations collected during the fourth quarter of 2016, seems to indicate that locally owned radio stations and groups are more likely to carry local news. Over 80% of respondents in the survey say their station or station group was locally owned. Of those stations the survey concludes that 78.1% of local radio groups report at least one station in the group airs local news. That’s up about 2% from last year.

RTDNAHowever, when all radio stations despite ownership are considered those numbers drop a bit. “In total, 71.2% of radio stations in the survey run local news — 70.8% — of AM stations and 71.3% of FM stations,” according to the survey. That signifies a drop among AM radio stations of about 4.5% from the previous year’s survey while FM stations were up almost 6%.

The highest percentage of stations presenting local news, according to the survey, indicated they were country formatted stations (21.3%) with news/talk formats next on the list (11.4%).

Commercial radio stations in the survey run local news more often that noncommercial stations (72.6% vs. 67.9%), but that margin was smaller than the previous survey indicated.

For those responding radio stations adding local news in the past year “the newscast additions ranged across the day, with morning drive (5–10 a.m.) edging out afternoon drive (3–7 p.m.), which came in barely ahead of midday (10 a.m.–3 p.m.). Newscast cuts were virtually tied: morning, afternoon, midday,” according to the RTDNA survey.

In addition, commercial stations were almost twice as likely as noncommercial stations to have added a newscast in the past year. “Generally, the smaller the market but the bigger the local group, the more likely it was to have added a newscast. All market sizes were about the same except major markets, which were noticeably less likely to have added a newscast.”

You can pore over all of Papper’s latest survey results here.