Rise due in part to increase in local TV news profitability

Despite a weak job market, local TV news operations added 1,131 workers last year, according to an annual survey conducted by the Radio Television Digital News Assn. and Hofstra U. The survey showed a 4.3% gain in TV news biz employment in 2011.

In the U.S., 725 local TV stations produced news programming, employing 27,653 full-timers to do so. Another 242 stations air local news produced elsewhere. The average station added 1.5 new positions in news last year.

Profitability has been improving at local TV news operations, likely contributing to the staffing increase. The RTDNA survey shows 59.3% of station news efforts are in the black in 2012. That’s up slightly from last year and significantly from the 47.8% that were profitable in 2010. RTDNA says the profitability of local TV news is at the highest level since 1998.

The survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2011. At that time, more than half of the local news directors planned no staffing level changes in 2012, and 36.7% said they would hire this year. Another 2.4% said they’d cut positions and 6.3% remained unsure. In 2011, 46.2% of local TV news operations maintained the same staff size, 42.9% increased staff and 10.1% decreased.

Almost 1% of stations “don’t know” if they changed the size of their news units in 2011. That statistic has to make you wonder how well they report information not directly under their noses.

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