Indie Toolbox

NPR Freelancer Rates – effective 1/1/2012

January 1, 2012:  NPR today announced a 7.5% increase across the board in standard rates paid to outside freelance and station-based contributors. This news caps a year of discussions between NPR and AIR.  It is the first increase since AIR worked with NPR to launch a restructured payment system in 2002, and comes with additional news of a revised, 3-tier compensation structure – including standardized rates for tape syncs – and plans to launch in 2012 a first-ever on-line resource portal for outside contributors at

Read the AIR and NPR announcements here.

Base rate
Level 1: $645
Level 2: $430
Level 3: $375
Superspot: $200

Regular rate
Level 1: $1075
Level 2: $565
Level 3: $430
Superspot: $200

Top rate
Level 1: $1500
Level 2: $915
Level 3: $540
Superspot: $200

Tape Sync/Vox Rates
2hrs: $ 110 – minimum call
3hrs: $ 140
4hrs: $ 175

Day Rate: $ 300

Purchase of Already Gathered Actualities: $30 each

Compensation Arrangements:
The rate will be based on the individual contributor’s skill and experience. NPR editors will make the final determination as to the rate as well as the level of a piece using the descriptions below as a guide. If we request a piece and it is approved and recorded, we will pay you in full even if we don’t use it. Once the piece is accepted by the editor, please send an e-mail to: freelancepayments(at) with a cc to the editor. In the body of the e-mail, please provide the agreed upon rate and level along with your name and address.

Level 1 Piece: These pieces would typically:
• involve research and original reporting
• require the reporter to have substantial subject matter expertise
• involve time-consuming reporting
• have a sophisticated narrative
• require travel by the reporter
• have sound that does not involve phone tape
• be rich in a variety of sounds demonstrative or supportive of the story

Level 2 Piece: These pieces would typically:
• involve multiple interviews
• involve interviews conducted where the interviewee is carrying on activities relevant to the story
• involve sound, scenes, and advanced radio storytelling techniques
• involve reporter having good prior knowledge of subject matter

Level 3 Piece:
These pieces would typically:
• involve interviewees found through other reports/news conferences
• contain interviews conducted mostly in one place or on the phone
• involve less extensive use of sound and scenes

“Superspot” Piece:
These pieces would typically:
• but not exclusively be one-day turnaround stories
• be two minutes or less in length

Newscast spots will be paid at a rate established upon submission. As a general guideline:
Domestic Voicer: $40
Domestic Wrap: $45

Foreign Voicer: $45
Foreign Wrap: $50

For background: Rates Watch 2002