Category Archives: Engineering

Engineering Spotlight: Gary Williams (WLNS/WLAJ-TV)

Nominate an engineer you know!  Email Dan Kelley at dkelley@michmab.com.
Gary Williams
Gary Williams

Gary Williams is an engineer for WLNS-TV and WLAJ-TV in Lansing. Gary was formerly Chief Engineer for WLAJ-TV, prior to the station entering into a shared-services agreement with WLNS-TV in 2013.

Q: Please share with us a brief engineering resume.
Gary:
I started at (the original) WWJ-TV (Detroit) as a vacation relief engineer back in 1967, while attending Michigan Tech. I worked my way up to engineering management (and was the highest ranking person to survive the transition of WWJ-TV to WDIV-TV).

After 17 years at WDIV-TV (WDIV-TV VP/Chief Engineer Marcus Williams, “my brother,” was going to be at the station forever), I moved into corporate video for 17 years for companies including
GM, Chrysler, VW, and more).

I then moved back to broadcasting, spending three years as Chief Engineer at WSYM-TV (Lansing).  When Journal bought WGBA-TV in Green Bay, Wisconsin, I became Chief there along with WACY-TV, also in Green Bay.

After three years in Green Bay, I moved back to Lansing as Chief Engineer at WLAJ-TV.

When I started in engineering, I made system engineering a priority. I figured, every manufacturer had a manual for their specific equipment, but nobody had information on how to get box A talking to box B.

Q: Tell us something about yourself that very few people know:
Gary:  
I still ride my unicycle occasionally, but never thought I’d occasionally be leading singing at church.

 

 

Engineering Spotlight: Gerry Heyn

Nominate an engineer you know!  Email Dan Kelley at dkelley@michmab.com.

wbup_700Gerald H. (Gerry) Heyn is Chief Engineer for Lake Superior Community Broadcasting Corporation stations, WBUP/WBKP-TV in Ishpeming.  He’s been there since 2005.

Gerry writes that “it’s been a very interesting and challenging job moving the studio from the Marquette Mall to the Miracle Mall in Ishpeming during the digital transition and most recently moving the antenna and transmitter from a rented tower to the new station owned tower in Humboldt.”

Q: Please share with us a brief engineering resume.
Gerry: I’ve had a long career in electronics and broadcasting. 23 years at WNMU-TV and Radio where I received most of my broadcast experience. Previous to that, I worked for Communications System Co. repairing CCTV cameras used for mining, paper and pulp industries and power companies and installing commercial sound systems including Muzak.

Before that, I served in the USAF for 21 years and with 15 of those years in electronics. The last 10 of those years in the Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory (PMEL) as calibration technician.

A lot of my training came from doing correspondence courses in radio and TV FCC licenses (GROL) prep courses during overseas tours. When I was stationed in North Dakota, my supervisor wanted some broadcast endorsements on his FCC license before he retired and went to a local radio station to work during his off-duty time. He became so busy, he asked me to fill in part of the time because they needed an engineer with first phone because it was a directional AM station so I worked at night part-time, sign-off at 1:00 AM for a few months. That was my first job in broadcasting back in 1968.

I’m also a CET (certified electronics technician) with the International Society of Certified Electronic Technicians (ISCET) and Certification Administrator and administered the CET and FCC exams from 1986 to 2005. However, there is not much call for it anymore.

Q:  Tell us something about yourself that very few people know.
Gerry:  Very few people know I sailed on the Great Lakes as a coal-passer for a few months before going into the U.S. Air Force. Knowing what I learned there kept me from enlisting in the Navy. Back then there was the draft and I had three older brothers drafted and I didn’t think I wanted that after hearing their stories.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Gerry:  I guess the best advice I ever got was being told, “get into electronics, that’s where the future is” and it worked for me.

Engineering Spotlight: Ken Selvig

Nominate an engineer you know!  Email Dan Kelley at dkelley@michmab.com.

kenselvig_275aKen Selvig is Chief Engineer of WOOD-TV and its associated stations WOTV, WXSP, WOLP, WOKZ, WOBC, WOHO, WOGC, WOMS in Grand Rapids.  He’s been there for 43.5 years!

Q: Please share with us a brief engineering resume.
Ken: Ferris State College (yes it used to be a College, not a University). Started working for WUHQ-TV as a transmitter engineer on weekends before I graduated. Also worked several years in Radio TV repair and was a co-owner of a TV Sales and Service shop.

Q: How did you get started in broadcast engineering?
Ken:  I enjoyed electronics and electricity. After graduation from college, I had offers from 2-way radio shops and television broadcasting. I chose the fabulous star-studded world of broadcasting!

Q:  Tell us something about yourself that very few people know.
Ken:  I started school in a one room school house. I have jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. I was a Scoutmaster for many years.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Ken:  Honesty is the best policy.

National EAS Test Wednesday – Reporting Information Preview

A national test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) is scheduled for 2:20 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time this Wednesday, September 28, 2016.  A secondary test date is October 5, 2016, “if necessary.”

All EAS participants are required to participate in this nationwide test.  This test will use the National Periodic Test (NPT) code, the location code for “All of United States.” FIPS number: 000000; and will be issued via FEMA Open IPAWS.  The FCC encourages EAS Participants to take steps to prepare for the test. The public notice is available here.

IMPORTANT NATIONAL TEST REPORTING DEADLINES

1) EAS participants shall file the “day of test” information sought by ETRS Form Two before 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on September 28, 2016.  This is the same day as the national test.

Form Two will be available online immediately after the test concludes.

The following information was presented at the NAB Radio Show on September 21, 2016:

To get to ETRS Form Two, stations should go to the ETRS home page and login.  Once logged in, click on the records tab at the top of the page: 

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On the next screen, click on EAS Test Records:

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On the next screen, click on the EAS Test Record corresponding to the September 28 test:

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On the next screen,  click on Submit Form 2 at the top of the screen:

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Form Two just has two questions: 

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That’s it.  Repeat again for all facilities you have registered with ERTS.

2) ETRS Form Three must be filed on or before November 14, 2016.

Use the same procedure as above, but navigate to Form Three instead of Form Two.

Form Three has three pages asking for more detailed information.  Most importantly if you received the EAS message, from what source, and from which source you first received the EAS message:

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More information requested on the second page regarding the first message:

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Finally, on page three, some questions regarding quality and/or difficulties.

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Repeat as necessary for all facilities registered with ETRS.

The FCC is available to answer your questions regarding this reporting.  Contact Austin Randazzo at the FCC: (202) 418-1462 or via email: Austin.Randazzo@fcc.gov or ETRS@fcc.gov.

Visit: https://www.fcc.gov/ general/eas-test-reporting-system/

EAS National Test Next Week!

eas-logo_300The next national test of the Emergency Alert System is scheduled for 2:20 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on September 28, 2016.  (A secondary test date is October 5, 2016, “if necessary”). EAS participants must be prepared to take part in a test on both the primary and alternate test dates. All EAS participants are required to participate in this nationwide test.  This test will use the National Periodic Test (NPT) code, the location code for “All of United States.” FIPS number: 000000; and will be issued via FEMA Open IPAWS.

The results of the nationwide EAS test will be captured and analyzed using the new EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS).  The FCC encourages EAS Participants to take steps to prepare for the test.   The public notice is available here.

Important National Test Reporting Deadlines

1) EAS participants shall file the “day of test” information sought by ETRS Form Two before 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on September 28, 2016.  This is the same day as the national test.

2) EAS participants shall file the detailed post-test data sought by ETRS Form Three on or before November 14, 2016.

The FCC’s ETRS page is here.  The Broadcasters Desktop Reference website has a resource for broadcasters “Meet the ETRS.”  (Visit that site here.)

All EAS participants were required to register with ETRS and complete the filing on ETRS Form One on or before August 26, 2016.

In addition, the FCC has released an updated EAS Handbook available for download to print locally here.  A copy of the Handbook must be located at normal duty positions or EAS equipment locations when an operator is required to be on duty and be immediately available to staff responsible for administering EAS tests.  Please note that the new EAS Handbook requires licensees to “fill-in” information on various pages throughout the handbook and that stations should review the Handbook before placing it in a normal duty position.

There is also a Microsoft Word version of the EAS Handbook available here that may aid some stations in customizing the handbook for their operations.

Engineering Spotlight: Craig Bowman

Nominate an engineer you know!  Email Dan Kelley at dkelley@michmab.com.

bowman_275Craig was nominated for the Engineering Spotlight by Caleb Gordon, Assistant Engineer and Radio Journalist at MacDonald Broadcasting.

Q: Please share with us a brief engineering resume.
Craig:
I sort of live multiple lives as a contract engineer for Krol Communications (WRSR, WJSZ, WMLM), Liggett Communications (WPHM, WSAQ, WHLS, WHLX, WBTI), and Synergy Media (WWKR, WKLA A/F, WKZC, WMLQ, WLDN), where I am an owner. In addition to these Michigan stations, I also serve as SVP of Technology for Futuri Media and Futuri Canada Corp (FCC).

Q: How did you get started in broadcast engineering?
Craig:  I began my radio journey along the banks of the French Broad river in Marshall, NC while in High School. My best friend was working in radio and his older brother (Jobie Sprinkle, former APRE President) was an engineer at a local station and had a lot of contract clients in Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee and I was more than willing to help do whatever unskilled thing he would let me do. Jobie mentored me and he led me to my first engineering endeavors. We built AM’s, studios; you name it. While getting my start, I worked as a land surveyor, at the National Forest Service, at a Mobile Home Supply company driving a truck, and even as a USDA inspector in the apple packing houses of WNC. All this to support my radio hobby.

Eventually I landed a full time On-air (afternoons) and Chief Engineer position in Waynesville, NC. From there I moved to Greenville, SC to build WMYI, a move-in from Hendersonville, NC. At WMYI, I worked closely with Bob Herman of Herman and Associates, who was our consulting engineer. When Bob decided to take on partners and expand his consulting business, re-branding it as RF Projects Corporation, and, he recruited me to join the new company as Director of Special Projects. RF Projects allowed me to learn more than I ever knew existed about FM antennas and how the mounting arrangement changes (usually not for the better) the actual pattern of the antenna. We had clients all over the country and even the government of Morocco. Our biggest challenge was to add WYNY to the master antenna system at the World Trade Center in NY. There is nothing quite like the pressure of taking 10 NYC radio stations off-the-air on a Sunday night and holding your breath at 5A when they all come back on. We worked closely with ERI, Tom Silliman and Robert Rose in particular, to manufacture the hardware to modify the RCA combiner.

In 1990, I got a call from Dan Stewart at WHNN (Saginaw). They were unhappy with the signal they had in Flint after building a new 1,000 ft. tower in Quanicassee, MI.  So, off I went to test the range of a full scale model of the new antenna. Before the FCC approved the new antenna, I traveled to Saginaw to do some studio work for Dan.  I also went on another trip to Lansing to help WFMK with a pesky Harris FM-25K transmitter problem. It was this trip that I got to know Jim Jensen of Liggett Broadcast Group.  Soon, Jim convinced me to move from Raleigh to Lansing. Since being a Director of Engineering was clearly missing from my resume I figured I would move to Michigan, live here for a couple years, then go off to work for Westwood One, AM-FM, or one of the other big groups I had worked with while at RF Projects. Well, that was August 5, 1991 and I am still here!

I did leave Liggett to work for Scott Studios, helping Dave Scott design and install automation systems, which allowed me to stay in Michigan while traveling for them.

About six years ago, a kid named Daniel Anstandig called me with this crazy idea of placing a voting window on a radio stations web page that would allow listeners to vote for songs to play on-the-air and have it connect to the automation system. At first I thought this was the craziest idea ever, but Daniel’s contagious enthusiasm quickly spread to me and a partnership with Listener Driven Radio (now Futuri Media) was born. I, along with Daniel and Brian Seeders, am named on several patents surrounding the technology we developed, so it was a natural progression for me to focus more and more on our products.

In November of 2015, Futuri purchased Stream-On, a Canadian company based in Edmonton, AB. Stream-On is the only broadcast streaming company using HLS streaming technology and integrates with AdsWiz for commercial replacement. We wanted to create a new four station Streaming Transmitter made with commercial grade motherboards, processors, audio cards, etc. I pivoted from my role as the head of development in Cleveland to overseeing the operations in Edmonton and growing the product line. Responding to the cry for easy podcasting (I do hate that term, btw) or on demand audio on social media, I began development of Futuri Post. Post captures the station like a logger but via now playing and mic logic cuts the entire broadcast up into easy to find elements. A new feature of Post is a very quick and easy audio editing system that displays only the stations talk breaks, has a built in editor, pre-licensed images from ShutterStock that will simultaneously push to all of your social media, RSS feed, etc. and posts to a widget embedded in a stations webpage to allow for immediate sharing of content.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Craig:  When I worked in Greenville, SC at WMYI, the station owner was George R. Francis, Jr.  George was a bigger than life character that truly had a “nothing is impossible” attitude. One day very early in the station’s history, during a staff meeting, George gave us his typical pep talk assuring us we were the best and brightest in the business and then paused and sincerely asked us to enjoy ourselves and emphasized that life is too short to work a job you do not like. Please, he said, don’t stay around out of some strange sense of loyalty.  You’re not going to hurt my feelings by pursuing your dream. Out of the countless times in my life I had heard the “Life’s too short” speech, I think this was the first time someone actually meant it; and I try to live up to that standard each and every day. You can probably tell by everything I have written above that I clearly love what I am doing!

“Because I know it’s There”

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

ChrisTarr2_300
Chris Tarr

By: Chris Tarr, CSRE, DRB, CBNE

There’s a Steve Jobs story that gets passed around quite a bit. It goes back to the days when the Steves (Jobs and Woz) were designing one of the early Apple computers. Steve Jobs kept changing the arrangement of the chips on the motherboard because they didn’t look appealing to him. When asked why he cared so much for something that nobody would ever see, Steve said “Because I know it’s there.”

There is absolutely something to be said for that level of attention to detail. It shows that you don’t want to just get something done, instead you want to get something done right.

In fact, that kind of thinking can extend to relationships as well. Sure, you can ask how a project is going, or you can actually engage and deep-dive into what’s going on in an effort to truly understand how a project is coming along.

In my professional life, I “live that quote.”  I operate several unmanned broadcast sites that most people will never see. Yet, they’re clean, well built and well maintained. Why? Because I know they’re there. When I build relationships with my team, I try to truly understand what their challenges are, because I want to really know what’s there. Even when it comes to my supervisors, I want to understand what their goals are, for the same reasons. It’s only by approaching everything with a high attention to detail that we truly understand what it is we’re dealing with.

Yes, some of that detail is superfluous. Some of that detail won’t move the needle in the grand scheme of things. However, I don’t think those Apple computers would have sold as well had Steve not cared about the layout of the chips. Why? Because that would have meant that he probably didn’t pay attention to the many other “little things” that made the entire experience of owning one of those computers great.

It’s not about the one little thing. It’s about the entire collection of little things as a whole.

Little things make a big difference.

Chris Tarr, CSRE, DRB, CBNE is the Director of Technical Operations for Entercom’s Wisconsin stations. He is one of the industry’s biggest evangelists and dedicates himself to helping create great radio.

Reprinted with permission of the author.  

Oxenford: Rural Towers Under 200 Feet May Need To Have Lights Under New FAA Authorization Law

David Oxenford - ColorBy: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP
www.broadcastlawblog.com

My law firm has long provided legal advice to companies that operate communications towers, and the lawyers involved in that practice area have alerted me to the following development which will require the marking and lighting of many towers not currently covered by such rules.

Broadcasters and tower companies have long relied on FAA rules that generally don’t require the lighting of towers under 200 feet in height except when these shorter towers may interfere with the flight path of an airport. So the vast majority of these short towers used by broadcasters (sometimes simply for mounting auxiliary antennas) and by other wireless users have not been lit. That apparently will change under the FAA Extension, Safety and Security Act of 2016, passed by Congress earlier this summer and signed into law on July 15. Under provisions of this act, the FAA is required to adopt rules to require the marking and lighting of freestanding structures with heights of between 50 and 200 feet which are located in rural, undeveloped areas. The act refers to towers that will need to be marked and lit as “covered towers.” The new marking and lighting requirements will apply not just to new towers, but also to existing towers (after a one-year phase in period after the FAA’s new rules become effective).

So what is a “covered tower”? Essentially, the Act sets out the following definitions:

  • Size.  The Act defines “covered towers” as self-standing or guy wire-supported structures:
    • 10 feet or less in diameter;
    • More than 50 and less than 200 feet tall; and
    • With “accessory facilities” mounted with antennas, sensors, cameras, meteorological instruments or other equipment.
  • Location.
    • To be a “covered tower,” the structure must be located:  (i) outside the boundaries of an incorporated city or town; (ii) on undeveloped land; or (iii) on land used for agricultural purposes.
    • “Undeveloped land” means “a defined geographic area where the [FAA] Administrator determines low-flying aircraft are operated on a routine basis.”
  • Exceptions.  The following are not “covered towers”:
    • Structurers adjacent to a house, barn, electric utility station or other building;
    • Structures within the curtilage of a farmstead (for those not familiar with land-use terminology, a “curtilage” is the developed area of a farm immediately surrounding a house or other dwelling where residents have an expectation of privacy – it does not include surrounding fields);
    • Structures that support electric utility transmission or distribution lines;
    • Wind-powered electrical generators with rotor blade radius exceeding 6 feet; or
    • Street lights erected by government entities.

The new law was apparently adopted at the urging of rural flying groups, including those involved in crop dusting, members of which apparently have high rates of accidents. That is why there is the emphasis on rural towers – and the exclusions for those in developed areas where such planes are unlikely to be flying.

The FAA will be adopting rules implementing the act, setting out the specific requirements for marking and lighting and further detailing the requirements for compliance with the act. From the effective date of the new rules, existing covered towers will have one-year to come into compliance.

As these new requirements may affect many broadcasters with tower facilities in rural areas, watch the developments with respect to these obligations carefully and start making your plans now for compliance.

David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline.  Access information here. (Members only access).

There are no additional costs for the call; the advice is free as part of your membership.

Engineering Spotlight: Robert Johns

Nominate an engineer you know!  Email Dan Kelley at dkelley@michmab.com.

RobertJohns_275Robert Johns is a Contract Engineer at the facilities of the School of Broadcast and Cinematic Arts at Central Michigan University WMHW-FM HD1 and HD2 and Moore Hall Television (MHTV) PEG channel 34 on campus, 189 in Mt. Pleasant and outside communities.

Robert was nominated for the Engineering Spotlight by Dr. Peter Orlik, Director, CMU Broadcast & Cinematic Arts, who comments “Robert’s position is a bit unconventional, but I think it indicates the level of expertise and commitment we all look for in engineers. After many years at Dow, Robert set up his own engineering consulting firm. Since 2010, he has worked as contract engineer for the School of Broadcast & Cinematic Arts here at CMU. In this capacity, he is responsible for the facilities of two FM radio stations, a cable television station, an audio recording studio that services its own record label, two television studios and a multitude of labs and production suites. This is clearly a wide and unusual span of responsibilities and is critical to the operations of the School of BCA, its 340 undergraduates, 60 graduate students and 17 faculty. I think this is the type of dynamic engineering that deserves recognition.

Q: Please share with us a brief engineering resume.
Robert:  
Not a “typical” broadcast engineer, I spent almost all of my career in industrial video. I attended Delta College Broadcasting, WUCM-TV 19 and was a student employee. Started at the “new” Gerity Cablevision system (now Charter) headend operations in Bay City. Then on to Dow Chemical Corporate Communications internal studios for 35+ years as a freelancer, then employee, then contractor; built 3 video production facilities, built a 4.5m Andrew uplink dish and ran an 80-site BTV satellite network with downlinks from Van Nuys, CA to Athens, Greece. Began working at CMU’s School of Broadcast and Cinematic Arts as a contract engineer in 2010. I’ve seen 1” and 2” B&W Ampex, SONY 1” color, ¾” U-Matic and BVU, BetaCam and DVcam, and now SD card.

Someday, I’m going to really retire. It’s been a great ride.

Q: How did you get started in broadcast engineering?
Robert:  “Being in the right place at the right time,” and having great mentors. At Delta they couldn’t keep me out of Master Control and I asked a lot of questions. Cliff Saladine, Chief Engineer, was very patient and we spent a lot of time together in MCR. Gerity Cablevision asked Delta Broadcasting if they knew someone who could assist them in headend operations. I was Stage Managing an industrial show for Dow Chemical at the Midland Center for the Arts when Dow was looking for someone for their new industrial video production facility. I built the Dow facility with Pete Petroski, and renovated it years later with John Israel. At Central Michigan BCA, I work with support from Wayne Henderson, Pat Hanlon, Mark Brown and others at WCMU PBS.

Q: Tell us something about yourself that very few people know…
Robert:  I asked for a Swiffer WetJet for my birthday.  I thought it would come in handy cleaning up spills on my new ceramic tile floor in front of my newly remodeled basement bar.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Robert:  A good friend said “Why don’t you ask Sue out on a date?”… Our first date was October 6, I proposed December 10 and were married the following July 11. That was 35 years ago!

Editorial: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

ChrisTarr2_300
Chris Tarr

By: Chris Tarr, CSRE, DRB, CBNE

Broadcast companies are standing on the train tracks, watching a train from a mile away making its way towards them. “Boy, that thing’s going to kill us! Should we jump? Should we run? Well, I’m pretty busy…I sure hope someone pushes us out of the way before the train hits us!”

And that’s how the end will be. The surprise? The train isn’t “new media” or the internet.

The train is our inability to act.

There’s something we’ve been talking about in the industry for years – it’s the lack of new Engineering and Technical talent. We all know the problem is there. We know that it’s already a big problem. The issue is we keep waiting for someone to do something about it.

We need to act. We need to do it now.

I know of two small market stations that were off the air for an entire day. One of them was repaired and put back on the air at full power. The other was patched up and ran at 20% power for almost two weeks. How do I know this? Because I’m the reason they were hobbled for so long. You see, I have a full time job managing the technical operations for six large market stations. Those are my primary responsibility. The two small stations have no engineer. The only contract guy in the area retired several years ago. I got a call from the station owner one morning after one of them went off the air. He told me there was nobody else to call. I helped him out, and agreed to do what I could until he found a local engineer. Two years later, he’s still looking. So, when those stations recently went down, they had to sit until I was done with my primary responsibilities and could get them back together. It killed me knowing that this small business owner was losing money and that he had to wait until I could get there.

That story is not unusual. I turn down all but dire emergency work these days. I tell people that I have more money than time. They’re always willing to pay whatever I’d demand, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that I only have so many hours in the day.

So how did we get here? It’s pretty simple, really. Before deregulation, each station (or market AM/FM) had their own engineer. Many of them were radio operators in the military and received excellent training. They came back home and settled in to radio careers. They lived in the back office, fixing cart machines and unclogging toilets. Engineers needed to be licensed, so there were technical schools with training programs turning out newly-minted license holders. Things were good. Then, consolidation and deregulation. Stations no longer needed to have an FCC licensed, full-time engineer on staff. It was left to them to decide what worked best. Soon you had one or two engineers for half the stations in a market. Many engineers used that “opportunity” to retire. Others tried it and simply burned out.

Time marched on and technology improved. Now with today’s tech, it’s not so hard to juggle multiple stations. Sure, we added computers to the mix, but we also added IT staff. The balance shifted – it was no longer enough to know electronics and RF. You needed to know computers and IT. More engineers took this “opportunity” to retire, while many others took on the challenge and learned and grew their skills. Meanwhile, since there was no longer a requirement for engineers to be licensed, the smart schools did a pivot and changed their curriculum from Engineering and Electronics to IT. There was (and is) a huge demand for IT staff, so they followed the money.

For a while, nobody noticed. Many of the retired engineers moved into contract positions, becoming “firemen” who came by whenever things broke. The smaller stations enjoyed the savings, at the expense of the routine maintenance that a full-time engineer provided.

Then, the wheels started to fall off.

A significant portion of those original engineers have either passed on or are well into their 80’s. The younger ones who were still doing contract work are now retiring in staggering numbers. Meanwhile, nobody has been turning out new engineers. The younger guys who were mentored by these original professionals are now getting snapped up by the larger broadcasting companies and are being well compensated in an effort to keep them.

This still leaves a few significant problems. First, the smaller stations can’t afford an experienced engineer. The salary competition can be fierce. Second, the “younger guys” aren’t that young any more. I fall into that category, and I’m 46!

So what do we do?

It’s a multi-faceted problem, but here are the broad strokes. First off, it’s a discipline that few are aware of. You’d be surprised how many people have no clue that there are technical people making the transmitter work. It’s very much “out of sight, out of mind”. So there is a definite “marketing” problem.

Second, and this is a biggie, we compete with just about everyone for talent. Ask yourself – why would you take a job in radio, with 24/7 on-call requirements, lower pay, requests to fix plumbing, etc., when you can be a 9 to 5 desk jockey?

Third is training. How do we teach the next generation the skills that they’ll need? Transmitter and RF basics, radio automation, management…the list goes on. There isn’t much in the way of broadcast engineering training out there.

Finally, there’s the baggage. You likely know what I’m talking about. Broadcast engineers have historically had a (in some cases well deserved) reputation for being the odd guy who works strange hours and acts like a mad scientist. They are often looked at as one notch above the janitor, instead of the technology professional that they are. Look at the companies that “get it” – Emmis’s Paul Brenner who developed NextRadio and iHeartMedia’s Jeff Littlejohn who perfected iHeartRadio. These are engineering professionals who were given a seat at the management table and did big things for their employers. They work for companies that recognize and reward their technical staff the same way they do their sales and programming staff. That’s something that’s very attractive for a young technical professional who is thinking about career paths.

So I’ve laid out some of the issues. Now it’s time to start solving the problem. This isn’t a one person, one organization solution. It’s going to take all of broadcast media’s stakeholders working together to make it happen. I envision manufacturers teaching courses (I got a lot out of Harris’s “Broadcast Technology Training Center” back in the day), organizations like SBE, NAB and state broadcast associations recruiting and promoting, broadcast companies taking a hard look at how they handle their technical staff and we as engineers making sure that we continue to do our best to bring value to the table for our employers. We all need to put our heads together and come up with a coordinated effort, working in concert to open up the pipeline to recruit and retain technical talent.

Otherwise the next time a station goes off the air, it may be forever.

Have a suggestion or an idea to help raise awareness within the industry? You can contact me at chris@tarr.cc.

Chris Tarr, CSRE, DRB, CBNE is the Director of Technical Operations for Entercom’s Wisconsin stations. He is one of the industry’s biggest evangelists, and dedicates himself to helping create great radio.

The piece originally appeared on RadioInsight.com and has been reprinted with permission of the author.