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Rate Guide: Public Radio Features

This guide is part of a larger research project on radio and podcasting rates. See all of AIR's work on rates for a complete guide. This particular guide should be used in tandem with our guide to calculating day rates to establish fair rates for feature stories.

These recommendations represent what is fair. Many public radio stations pay independent contributors substantially less than the rates described here. We acknowledge that some segments of the industry will need some time to bring rates up to fair standards.

These rates represent a floor. There may be, and often are, circumstances where a freelance or other independent contributor warrants a higher rate. That may be because the contributor brings exceptional experience or is based in an expensive market, or because the story is more demanding. If you have feedback or input on this or other rate guides, we would love to hear from you! Our contact information is at the bottom of the guide.

Feature Stories

Our recommendations on compensation for feature commissions extend our day rate recommendations and should be based on appropriate day rates as described in our Guide to Day Rates. These recommendations only address producer compensation. Travel, tape sync and other expenses should be addressed separately.

Level 1 / Enterprise Features often take at least 5 full days to report and should be compensated at least 5x the appropriate day rate. These stories require research and original reporting and a reporter with substantial subject matter expertise. The reporting itself is likely to be time-consuming and may require travel (travel expenses should be addressed separately).

Enterprise features have a sophisticated narrative and are rich in sounds that demonstrate or support the story.

To calculate a fair rate for an enterprise feature, review our Guide to Day Rates and multiply the appropriate day rate by 5 (or by as many days as the story should take—some in-depth features will take more than 5 days of work).

Samples of 5+ day feature stories: 

Level 2 / News Features can generally be expected to take 2.5 days of work. They incorporate multiple interviews, including interviews that capture the sounds of an interviewee carrying on activities relevant to the story or sound, scenes, and advanced radio storytelling techniques. These features require good prior knowledge of subject matter, but any travel should be local.

To calculate a fair rate for a news feature, review our Guide to Day Rates and multiply the appropriate day rate by 2.5.

Level 3 / Daily Feature stories are the quickest feature to turn around. They generally feature sources identified through publicly available reports or news conferences, interviews conducted by phone or at a single site, and minimal sound design and scenes. These stories can usually be turned around in a day and a half and would be compensated at 1.5x the appropriate day rate.

To calculate a fair rate for a daily feature, review our Guide to Day Rates and multiply the appropriate day rate by 1.5.

  • Real Steam Whistles Return To Ferries On Cape Cod Monique LaBorde, All Things Considered; Jan 1, 2019 – This audio postcard incorporates some layered sounds of steam whistles, ferry horns,  and a little Van Morrision clip but was reported in a single day on site at the ferry terminal on Cape Cod and the three characters in the story were straightforward to find. With three characters and a variety of sound elements, this story is right on the edge between Level 2  and Level 3. (Length 02:47)
  • California's Largest Legal Weed Farms Face Conflict In Wine Country Clair Heddles, All Things Considered; Aug 14, 2019 (Length: 03:55)
  • Atlanta's Mayoral Race Too Close To Call Stephannie Stokes, Morning Edition; Dec 6, 2017 – This election night story draws heavily on archive audio. (Length 02:37)

Super Spots are typically one-day turnaround stories of two minutes or less in length. They should be compensated at a day rate that assumes a single day of work.

To calculate a fair rate for a super spot, review our Guide to Day Rates and multiply the appropriate day rate by 1.

Tape Syncs

Our recommendations on tape sync rates are described in a separate document: https://airmedia.org/tools/rate-guide-tape-syncs

In general stations should expect to pay no less than $150 to $175 for the first hour of a straight forward tape sync.

News Spots

Adjusted for inflation, we suggest the following rates for wraps and voicers:

  • Domestic Voicer: $63 - $80
  • Domestic Wrap:  $71 - $90
  • Foreign Voice: $71 - $90
  • Foreign Wrap:  $79 - $100

Additional Assets

  • Pre-existing Actualities: $47 - $60
  • Individual Photo: $39 - $50
  • Review  / Blog Post: $315 - $400
  • Commentary: $394 - $500
  • Two-way: $236 - $300
  • Additional  Writing for the Web (eg. a digital story above and beyond a basic transcript of the piece): $236 - $300 

Methodology

We worked with experienced radio freelancers to estimate the number of days they spent on stories at various depth levels. To estimate recommendations on spots and actualities, we compared the 2012 day rates to 2012 spot and actuality rates and updated the recommendations to reflect the increase in day rates that AIR recommends.

AIR's work on rates

AIR is actively developing a series of guides designed to help independent producers set fair and reasonable rates, and to help everyone create accurate and realistic budgets. We want to hear from you! Contact [email protected] if you have feedback on our rate recommendations.

This guide was posted in September 2019 and the numbers have not been updated since it was published. Our hope as an organization is that AIR can keep these rate guides up to date but if you're reading this and it is more than a year old, you should adjust the recommended rate to reflect changes in the cost of work and living.