All posts by Gary Stigall

What We Said About You in Denver

This year’s SBE national meetings took place in Denver October 23rd and 24th. I took a gamble with the weather and won, arriving three days early, taking in a weekend of 72° blue skies and bright orange and yellow aspens in Boulder, my wife and my first trip after having both of our kids now away in college.

I got down to business Tuesday with the other SBE officers and board of directors at a hotel at the outskirts of Denver. Besides simply the aura of being around a group of wise, dedicated 50 and 60-something year-olds coming to help the Society, here’s what impressed me about the board meeting:

The SBE Remains Solvent

National dues income is up and certification fees are down. The Finance Committee studied expenses and income and came to the conclusion that a small forecast deficit will be offset next year with an increase in dues. That’s too bad, but our dues remain well below those of other professional societies like the IEEE. From my seat, expenses for the society appear very conservatively spent, and the committee came to same conclusion, largely leaving spending alone. Our Indianapolis headquarters management has extensive experience operating non-profit organizations, and it shows.

Leaders are Concerned about Future Relevance

I don’t need to tell you much about the revolution in broadcasting that has brought us to an IT-centric world for both program delivery and station administration. And when we conduct meetings about transmitters, audio consoles, and processing appliances, guess what? The IT guys aren’t there. Unlike the old days where one guy worked on everything from the mic to the antenna, today’s broadcast techs are specialists. They have to know so much—security, automation, administration, and networking software and hardware—that many brains overload or lose interest at transmitters, antennas, and even audio best practices.

There is talk about rebranding the SBE to meet the new realities in an IT-centric world. Should the Society change its name? I haven’t been convinced yet. In my book, the guy restriping a playout server is just as much a broadcast engineer as the guy changing out a power amplifier module in the transmitter.

I believe the new certifications in computer networking address this revolution, as do certifications in digital video modulation and directional AM antennas. We need to sell the importance of these certifications to broadcast managers.

Membership is Strong. Chapters?…Not so Much

The new reality is that staffs have been reduced to the bone and no one knows if he can get away for an extended lunch once a month. And at the end of a long day, the last thing many engineers want to do is extend that day to go talk shop with other engineers in listen to what might be a boring speech.

We’re hearing about chapters in relatively large markets like Salt Lake City and Las Vegas barely hanging on. The more successful chapters like San Francisco, Denver, and Portland get together because they like each other and they make the time for it. Some chapters, like Hawaii, are geographically challenged and exist mostly on paper when they exist at all.

Savvy engineers have discovered that they can keep current with new technologies by watching educational YouTube presentations and following online blogs and newsletters.

The need for live, local educational opportunities continues. We have proven in San Diego that well prepared and publicized presentations and seminars draw plenty of participants. Chapters like ours need to make sure we have highly relevant, accurately described presentations that address real station problems or new technologies and not allow presenters out to present meeting-length commercials. Whether this is enough to keep people coming to meet remains an open question.

Interestingly, certification remains strong or steady across the country regardless of chapter health.

So while we tabled big decisions about rebranding, name changing and other jerky moves, your leadership is aware that we cannot ignore changes in the way our business is getting done.

October 2012 Member News

KSDS Chief Engineer Larry Quick joined SBE recently.

Chapter 36 has its first Certified Broadcast Network Engineer. Mina Zaki of KFMB got his in August. Congratulations!

Note that TV Magic has changed location. The systems integrator has moved from Kearny Mesa to 9240 Mira Este Ct. San Diego, CA 92126, with a new phone number, 858-800-5000.

Election of the Local Kind

November is the month by charter that our SBE chapter has its annual election for leaders.

Yes, we know you think you are too busy, especially with all the corporate consolidation and fewer employees to take the workload.

But that’s a cop out. You still have an idle moment here and there, and most of the work is in just showing up for the meetings, most time of which is taken in eating, like you do every day at lunchtime. Most of the leadership jobs take an average of less than an hour a month outside of the meetings.

What’s in it for you?

Hopefully, you want more of what you have gotten from the SBE. The way to assure that is to make it happen through your leadership. Yes, your leadership. More insightful, educational meetings. More networking opportunities. More certification exams given. Make it happen. It’s barely any more work than just watching it happen.

If you are more interested in getting than in giving back, let us count the ways:

  • Win points toward certification renewal. You need points. This is an easy way to get them.
  • Put some leadership on your resume. When you show leadership experience, you are taken more seriously before your next interview or customer sales experience.
  • Kick your networking into high gear. The more people who know you, the easier it is getting your next job, even if you are self-employed. Especially if you are self-employed, because you are being interviewed every time you sell a new client.

What Positions are Available?

  • Chair – The person who leads the meeting. Occasionally you have to make a decision about funding or lead an executive meeting, usually over lunch. Figure on attending the meetings plus perhaps an hour or less per month.
  • Vice-chair – The person who leads the meeting when the Chair doesn’t show up. Figure on attending every meeting. Not a position for someone who travels a lot. Do not volunteer for this if you are a regional sales account manager.
  • Secretary-Treasurer – The person who keeps the checking account and turns in a meeting report after every meeting. About an hour a month more than attending a meeting. Again, this isn’t a position for someone who spends a lot of time out of town.
  • Program Chair – The person who sets up the upcoming meetings. This is usually the most important role, and sets the agenda for the success of the chapter. You must fish for good speakers, using other chapters’ or national ideas, or inquiries as leads. Again, very little time, but some communication is required and the secret to success is lining up the meetings many months in advance. This is a position OK for someone who travels, especially if you do a lot of networking.
  • Webmaster – Not an elective position, but an important one. If you like writing, the rest is easy because WordPress is all set up.

How We Plan to Conduct the Election

This year we’re trying something different. Chapter 36 will use BallotBin.com to actually conduct the election electronically. We like the website because it’s free, they have a  public service charter, absolute privacy (no spam use of email), and a simple interface. Can’t stuff the ballot box and that sort of thing.

How Do You Sign-up?

Please send an email message to the current Chair Doug Alman through this contact form. Tell him what position you are interested in. We need this information before our October 17 meeting. Thank you.

KPBS-FM Lights Up on Soledad

After two decades of talk and planning, KPBS-FM finally completed its move to Mt. Soledad, beginning transmissions at 10:30 AM on Monday, October 1, 2012. The new coverage area better matches its listener profile of college-educated, relatively affluent coastal and north county residents.

Leon Messenie, Director of Engineering, said they are using the shared Dielectric make FM antenna known as “Quadzilla” along with host KFMB-FM 100.7 MHz, KIFM 98.1, and KBZT 94.9. The antenna, originally designed to carry 105.3 MHz, had to be replaced by KPBS to handle the lower channel. KFMB’s RF supervisor Rick Bosscher said that they were able to tune one of the combiner ports from 105.3 to 89.5, but came close to losing a tuning slug into the cavity doing so.

Besides the new antenna, KPBS RF Engineer Rockley Curless oversaw the installation of a new Nautel NV-20 transmitter outputting 9.4kW with an accompanying Ibiquity HD signal combined at low level. The station’s new ERP is 26kW non-directional. The station will lose some coverage in the shadows of east county hills, but gain much more coverage in the north county and La Jolla. The west-facing slopes of east county will continue to receive excellent signals.

One of the changes loyal listeners are likely to notice is full-time stereo. Yes, KPBS-FM used daypart scheduling to broadcast a monaural signal during talk programming. This extended their effective coverage area by hundreds of square miles when they eliminated that pesky little 19kHz pilot and L-R 38kHz subcarrier that fools a radio into demodulating it even when too weak, making for a noisy listener experience. For the time being, Messenie says they will keep the stereo pilot on full-time.

Messenie says the quest for a Soledad location began with an application in 1994 that was issued in 1997, but it was to be at the US Navy radio site and the person who granted permission to use the site was not authorized to do so, and permission was withdrawn. XETV in Tijuana fought other efforts to move KPBS, concerned that the FM signal would overwhelm its channel 6 TV signal in San Diego. That fight became moot in 2007 when the FCC ruled in favor of KSDS upgrading to 20kW 88.3 MHz signal at its Mesa College site, saying that there were no specific rules protecting US coverage of Mexican TV channel 6 broadcasters.

Will KPBS-FM will use its old site, where KPBS-TV continues to operate, as an aux standby location? Messenie says they plan to, but will have to install a directional antenna to keep its coverage within the new area.

They don’t have backup power on Soledad, but will work toward that end. The Soledad site has long been served by two electric feeds that switch automatically in the event of an outage on one side of the hill.

Project partners included Wireless Infrastructures for tower work, Juice Electric for electrical wiring, and Hammett and Edison for the RFR study.