Radio salaries – how much is too much and how much isn’t a living wage?

Speculation is again mounting that there is some sort of bidding war going on between the Australian Radio Network (ARN) and Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) over ARN’s Kyle and Jackie O. News publications are suggesting that a $200 million radio deal, and annual base salaries each of $10 million, are on the table.

With ARN’s half year radio revenue down and their June aftermarket raid of a 14.8% interest in SCA, a part of me can’t help but wonder if ARN is putting these stories out themselves to say to SCA, if you want them, this is how much they’ll cost.

SCA’s full year results also indicated that they can’t really afford to put all their eggs in one basket.

I’m aware that many of you reading are ex-commercial radio people. Perhaps you’ve left the industry altogether, maybe some of you dip your toe back in casually or pull regular shifts on community radio or a podcast.

How many of you left the radio industry because you weren’t earning a living wage?

I have.

I was working as a breakfast announcer / commercial production manager (a job I loved) and pregnant with my second child. I’d broken a lease to take a bigger and better radio role and was paying two lots of rent plus a mortgage on a house in Brisbane we were trying to hang onto by renting out ourselves.

One day I bought a load of grocery essentials, and my card was declined because of insufficient funds.

We ended up having to move back to our Brisbane house and both working full time, me in a non-radio management role, just to get on top of our finances again.

I saw on LinkedIn that Tracee Hutchison, the recently appointed Manager of community station BayFM in Byron Bay is leaving the role after her three month probation period because she couldn’t secure long term affordable housing. This is so disheartening for all concerned and anyone seeking regional radio work to get a foot in the door. You’ve got to be able to afford the home the door is attached to.

The BBC recently released a list of their highest broadcasting earners. Like the US who pay big money to sporting commentators, Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer are first and third with Radio 2 breakfast host Zoe Ball second, earning just under £1 million annually, or the equivalent of AUD$2 million. Lineker took a £10K pay cut in 2020 to answer criticism from female staff about pay parity. Ball herself took a £380,000 pay cut during the pandemic both to save her breakfast role and because she felt it inappropriate to get a pay rise during a time when people were struggling. Her salary hasn’t increased since.

Imagine that.

Ross Stevenson, one half of the 3AW breakfast show with cohost Russel Howcroft apparently earns between $1 and 1.2 million dollars a year. This is despite the duo more than doubling the listening figures of their nearest breakfast competitors in Melbourne in the latest GfK survey results.

While I respect Kyle and Jackie O’s experience and own rating success in Sydney, I just can’t justify why anyone would be prepared to pay them ten times what Stevenson gets, each, for the next decade. It’s a huge risk.

The flow on effects to other networks stations, talent and potential succession plans, would all forcibly be made cheaper.

For me though, it sends the most godawful message to that talented kid straight out of TAFE, who gets their first job at a station in regional NSW, works on air and off, and still doesn’t earn enough to cover the rent, utilities, petrol and groceries.

Why would you stay in that industry?

Jen Seyderhelm is a writer, editor and podcaster for Radioinfo
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