Big-time TV salaries disappearing?

The evidence has been building for a while. As the latest cover story in RTNDA Communicator magazine points out, the broadcast economic is facing a perfect storm, which has led to staff and salary cuts, even for top anchors and reporters:

Those moves may come as a shock in some newsrooms, says Sandra Connell, president of the recruiting firm Talent Dynamics, because news staff have been in denial for years. The era of the “unreasonable paycheck” for big name anchors is over, she says. “Talent need to get real about it all,” Connell says.

For years, layoffs at local stations generally meant a leaner, meaner production crew and fewer video editors, but high-profile anchors and reporters were left untouched.  Not any more.  A case in point is last week’s layoff of WFLA-TV (Tampa) health reporter, Irene Maher.  Maher, a former anchor for the station, has been there for more than 20 years.

Now, a TVNEWSDAY article takes a closer look at what’s happening at the higher end of the TV news salary scale, quoting talent agents who say the economy and shrinking audiences are at the core of the shift.  They say it takes longer for reporters and anchors to get jobs and that they’re now getting lower salaries.

Some of the agents feel that even when the current economic downturn ends, TV newsrooms will have undergone a fundamental change with the survivors those workers who can work multiple jobs on multiple platforms.

On the flip side, Bob Papper of Hofstra University does an annual salary survey for the Radio-Television News Directors Association – he says for now TV salaries are fairly stable.

“There is no question that there are stations, which have let higher priced talent go,” Papper says. “But in the scheme of things, that doesn’t show up in the salary numbers.”

In the last two or three years, Papper says salaries have increased “relatively modestly,” right around the rate of inflation. They have not been going backward.

Then again, salary surveys reflect the past and these changes may be part of TV’s future.

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