Network News

Salaries Out of Whack

No, we’re not talking about bank CEOs.  Mike Messing is talking about salaries of network news anchors.

Katie Couric’s annual salary is more than the entire annual budgets of NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered combined. Couric’s salary comes to an estimated $15 million a year; NPR spends $6 million a year on its morning show and $5 million on its afternoon one. NPR has seventeen foreign bureaus (which costs it another $9.4 million a year); CBS has twelve. Few figures, I think, better capture the absurd financial structure of the network news.

I have no particular beef with Couric.  How could I; I’ve never watched her show from beginning to end.  In fact, since she’s been on the air at CBS, I’ll bet I have seen 10 minutes of her show.  I am an NPR fan, though I don’t get to hear it but occasionally. 

The network signature news programs each night are losing their audiences in droves.  Young people rarely listen to them.  As with newspapers, many of which continue to follow the political gamesmanship rather than give readers information they can use, network news hasn’t changed the product in a meaningful way in decades. 

The networks are in a death spiral, yet they keep airing the same tired product. Could they do things differently? Has the anchor system perpetuated the problem? What changes might succeed in luring new viewers?

You can’t really blame the anchors, but you can’t credit them with anything either.

So why do they continue to pay anchors multi-million salaries when there is no evidence they improve the product or increase the audience?