A new study from Syracuse University and the Radio Television Digital News Association finds that the radio news workforce is becoming more diverse, but representation still lags behind the general population.
Released this week, the 2020 RTDNA/Newhouse School at Syracuse University Survey on Newsroom Diversity finds that “15.4% of the local radio news workforce are people of color, up just under one percentage point in the last year.”
Compared to the overall percentage of the U.S. population (projected to top 39% this year), the number of radio news staffers of African, Asian, Hispanic/Latino and Native American background may seem relatively low — yet the report says it’s “the most representative radio has been since 1998, just before courts struck down FCC Equal Opportunity Employment rules, when people of color made up 16% of the radio workforce.”
It also shows a steady rate of increase from the low of 2010, when people of color made up just 5% of the radio news workforce, compared to 34.9% of the population at the time.
The change hasn’t been uniform, however. “Africans, Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans are all slightly better represented in radio than year ago,” the report says. “But Hispanic and/or Latino radio broadcasters lost ground.”
Diversity also varies between markets. “Just 23.2% of local radio newsrooms include one or more people of color, up half a point after an almost eight-point gain last year,” the report says.
Large markets are leading the way, with people of color making up 26.3% of news staff members, 9.1% of news directors, and 9.4% of the overall workforce. Representation in medium markets was 12.9% of news staff, 4.8% of news directors and 7% of overall. Small markets show 7%, 4.5%, and 5.7% respectively, the report says.
In addition, “the non-commercial workforce (47.7%) is about twice as diverse [as the industry as a whole] but lags in diverse leadership,” the report says — (6.1%) compared to commercial radio (7.6%).
“As is typical,” the report says, “radio stations in the Midwest are least diverse.”
Diversity lags in leadership roles, the report finds. In 2020, news directors are 92.9% white, and Caucasians make up 93.7% of general managers. Both represent a slight dip from 2019. “Last year, there were more news directors of color in radio than at any point in the last five years, at 8.2% of news directors,” the report says. “This year, just 7.1% of radio news directors are people of color.
“Larger market radio stations and stations in the South are most likely to have a news director of color,” the report adds, “while stations in the Midwest are least likely to.”
Just under 3% of radio general managers are African American (a slight rise), while “1.8% are Hispanic and/or Latino, down a point,” the report says. Native Americans represent 1.1% of GMs, while 0.5% GMs are Asian Americans.
Women Are Underrepresented
Overall, the report finds, women are underrepresented in radio news — though the gender gap is lower among people of color.
“Men tend to be overrepresented in local radio news, except among people of color,” the report says. “This year radio is 60.1% men to 39.9% women overall, including 65% men to 35% women among whites. There are more African American, Hispanic/Latino and Asian American women than men in local radio. There are more Native American men than women, but the numbers are small.”
Overall, women are employed by 47.8% of the country’s radio news staffs and women make up 39.9% of the overall workforce.
These numbers also vary by market: Over 81% of major markets have women on the news staff, with around 40% employing female news directors. For large markets, those numbers are 63.2% and 24.2%, respectively. The gender gap is much wider at medium (35.6% / 20.8%) and small markets (31.4% / 33.9%).
Non-commercial radio stations are much more likely to have female news staff (71%) than commercial outfits (34.7%). “At 28.8%, there are more women news radio news directors overall this year,” the report says. “23.6% of general managers are women, down slightly from last year. Women general managers were much more common in major markets and at the biggest radio news operations.”