Skip to main content

RTDNA: Fewer TV Stations Make More News

WASHINGTON—Fewer TV stations are creating more news than ever before for more TV stations, according to the Radio Television Digital News Association. The RTDNA’s annual local broadcast news survey found that a record 1,053 U.S. TV stations are carrying local newscasts. That's up eight from a year ago, but the number of stations supplying those newscasts—714—is down by three from 717. The amount of news those stations generated also hit a record at a weekday median of 5.5 hours. The average—also 5.5 hours—tied with the 2012 figure for the amount of local news.

Stations in the top 25 markets had the greatest increase in the amount of local news they are doing this year compared to last year, the RTDNA said.

“After three years of slow drops in the percentage of TV stations increasing news, the numbers this year went the other way. The percentage increasing the amount of news went up by almost 7 points; the percentage cutting back was cut in half.” writes Bob Papper, emeritus distinguished professor of journalism at Hofstra University who compiles the survey.“This past year, a majority of top 25 market stations increased the amount of news. All market sizes except 26 to 50 went up, and stations in the West were a little more likely than others to increase the amount of news.”

NBC topped the list among affiliate groups, with 179 NBC affils creating newscasts—down two from last year. ABC was next and flat at 173. Next was CBS with 172, or one less than last year. Fox came in fourth with 74 affiliates, up four from last year. The top 10 were rounded out by Univision 36 affiliates; 27 independents; 23 Telemundos, 14 PBS member stations, nine CWs and four American One affiliates.

O’dark thirty was the top time for adding a newscast. Most were added at either 4 a.m. or between 4 and 6 a.m. Sunday morning came next and tied with weekday evenings between 5 and 7 p.m.

Among radio stations, 80 percent of local radio groups said at least one station in the group ran local news—up around one percentage point from last year. Nearly 70 percent of radio stations surveyed said they run local news—75.2 percent of AM stations and 65.6 percent of FM stations—up overall by 3 percentage points from last year. The increase compares to a 4 percent drop last year and an 8 percent drop the year before. The increase in newscasts at AM and FM stations was about the same amount.

The survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2015 among all 1,681 television stations and a random sample of 4,037 radio stations. Valid responses came from 1,286 television stations (76.5 percent) and 484 radio news directors and general managers representing 1,316 radio stations.

See more details at the RTDNA website.