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.