Survey finds noncommercial radio stations outpace commercial counterparts in newsroom diversity

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A survey tracking workforce diversity in radio and television found that racial diversity has grown among the news staffs of noncommercial radio stations. 

The RTDNA/Newhouse School at Syracuse University Survey, conducted during the fourth quarter of 2021, found that workforces in TV and radio newsrooms are overall becoming more racially diverse. But they’re not keeping up with racial demographics in the U.S. 

The survey of radio stations found that white employees made up 75.4% of the workforce in noncommercial newsrooms. That was down from 78.8% in the fourth quarter of 2020. In commercial radio newsrooms, white staffers made up 92.1% of the workforce. 

The survey also found that 63.9% of the noncommercial radio newsrooms surveyed had staffers of color. Meanwhile, 15.9% had news directors who were people of color. Only 12.1% of commercial newsrooms employed people of color.

“The bottom line here is that if it weren’t for non-commercial stations, American radio news would still look blindingly White,” the report said

The study also found that 83.1% of noncommercial radio newsrooms surveyed had female employees, compared to 40.4% of commercial newsrooms. Women held the role of news director in 39.3% of noncommercial radio newsrooms surveyed, compared to 17.4% at commercial stations. RTDNA did not provide comparable data for TV newsrooms. 

Among noncommercial TV newsrooms, however, women “were half as likely to be news directors compared to network affiliates and other commercial stations,” the report said. In previous years, more women worked as news directors in noncommercial TV, according to the report. 

In response to a new question in the latest survey, 34% of noncommercial radio stations said their newsrooms included at least one member of the LGBTQ+ community. Among public television newsrooms, 20% employed a member of the LGBTQ+ community. 

The survey’s authors said they received valid responses from “as many as” 1,336 television stations and 765 radio news directors and GMs representing 2,310 radio stations.

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