• Telos Alliance
  • Telos
  • Omnia
  • Axia
  • Linear Acoustics
  • Twentyfive-Seven
  • Minnetonka Audio
Telos Alliance Blog Central

RSS header - this is hidden

SBE President, Joe Snelson

Posted by Kirk Harnack [TWiRT] on Aug 14, 2015 3:55:00 PM

Find me on:

TWiRT 269The Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) is the only organization devoted to the advancement of all levels and types of broadcast engineering. And for two consecutive terms, the SBE’s members have elected Joe Snelson as president of their organization. Joe joins us to discuss the terrific educational and career advancement opportunities from SBE, as well as some regulatory issues from the SBE’s perspective.



Watch the Video!

Read the Transcript!

Kirk Harnack: This Week in Radio Tech, Episode 269, is brought to you by Lawo and the crystalCLEAR virtual radio console. CrystalCLEAR is the console with a multi-touch touchscreen interface. By the family of Z/IPStream audio processors and stream encoders, including the astounding Z/IPStream 9X/2. And by Axia Audio consoles. Six console models with thousands of options. Join the largest AoIP console family on Earth.

The SBE is the only organization devoted to the advancement of all levels and types of broadcast engineering. And for two consecutive terms, the SBE's members have elected Joe Snelson as president of their organization. Joe joins us to discuss the terrific educational and career advancement opportunities from SBE, as well as some regulatory issues from SBE's perspective.

Hey, welcome in to This Week in Radio Tech. I'm Kirk Harnack, your host. I'm so glad you're here, and it's a delight to be doing this show today. I know you hear me say that almost every week. But this is great.

First of all, we've got, as usual, our terrific co-host from Manhattan, and I'll better introduce myself first for just a second. I'm Kirk, I'm the guy who kind of founded the show some years ago. We're up to episode 269 now. I work for the folks at Telos... Telos, Omnia, Axia, 25-Seven, and Linear Acoustic. Try not to let that bias me, but I am informed quite a bit by the technology that I'm familiar with from those companies.

And also I occasionally do TV weather, so I have a little bit of experience with that. And I'm part owner of some radio stations. I own the part that doesn't make any money, so that's why I work for the guys at Telos. So I'm coming to you from my studio here in Nashville, Tennessee by Skype to the GFQ studios. I haven't said all that in a while, so I thought I'd better get that out and kind of set the stage.

Now, let's go to the other stage that we almost always talk to, and that is Chris Tobin in Manhattan, the best-dressed engineer in radio and... Well, there's part of every engineer's good dress. "The Signal."

Chris Tobin: Oh, here we go. Look at that. I am in living color from Manhattan. Hello, everyone.

Kirk: Hey, man, it's good to see you.

Chris: It's good to see you. It's a great day here in Manhattan, and the weather is unbelievable. Who'd have thought?

Kirk: Yeah? Unbelievably good?

Chris: Unbelievably great. Low humidity, blue skies, the sun is very bright. Actually, the lighting I'm using right now is sunlight bouncing off the buildings across the way. They have white brick, so it's perfect.

Kirk: That's great. Good color temperature there. I'm in a studio with some fluorescents and try to get that adjusted, too. So Chris, you're the guy who, you've got years and years and decades and decades and millennia of radio engineering experience. You have taken that experience out of the grasp of a regular task master. And now you're on your own, doing IPCodecs.com. Tell me about what you do for people.

Chris: I just try to help people use the technology IP for the outside broadcast, studio design, things of that sort, even transmitters. ISDN is sunsetting slowly but surely across the nation. In larger cities, it's still around, but some of the smaller cities and medium-sized markets are starting to lose it.

I've been just helping folks out. It's been fun. And I've worked with a couple of Internet radio groups that are now starting to look to do broadcast-style programming. So even though radio folks may be thinking things are dying on their side, it's actually growing with IP. So now is the time to learn the technology.

Kirk: It sure is. I just heard from a guy we've never had on the show before, Tom Hansen. He's an engineer here in Nashville, works for Lightning 100. Actually, Tom was the first engineer in Nashville to install any Audio-over-IP gear in his studio at Lightning 100. That was almost 10 years ago. Tom is consulting and building a studio for an Internet-only radio station that is originating the programming right here in Nashville. So yep, this Internet's the coming thing, isn't it.

Chris: It's great. You can do a lot of stuff. I'm having a ball. I'm sure you are, too, with the Axia.

Kirk: Yeah, Axia streaming and even shows like this, trying to figure out more ways to use it.

Hey, let's bring in another engineer, a guy with a lot of experience as well. And that is, I'm very proud to say, my colleague at the Society of Broadcast Engineers. He is the president, elected president, so you, if you're an SBE member, you helped elect him as the president of the SBE. He's a television engineer, although he got started in both TV and radio. I'm talking about Joe Snelson, from Las Vegas. Hi, Joe, welcome in. Glad you're here.

Joe Snelson: Hi, Kirk, thank you very much. I was listening to you and Chris talk a little bit about the weather, at least Chris was talking about the weather in New York.

Kirk: He gives, yes, he gives a forecast, yes.

Joe: And I'm using natural light for myself . . .

Kirk: Yeah.

Joe: ...and it's coming in from my office window. However, it is very dark and cloudy outside here in sunny Las Vegas, not. And who knows, I could end up with a thunderstorm before this thing is over with.

Kirk: And they happen in Las Vegas, but certainly not every day, every week, or not even every month, right?

Joe: That is very true, but I have seen times when it's been, I guess what they would say in Texas, a toad strangler. I've seen them.

Kirk: I've seen radar, I've seen pictures. When Las Vegas does a thunderstorm, you guys tend to do it right, don't you.

Joe: Yes. In fact, I think I just saw lightning.

Kirk: So Joe, we're going to be talking about a lot of things SBE, but we're also going to be covering some technical subjects, especially those that SBE is involved with, and maybe a few other things that you might want to mention. Why don't you just take a moment and give us the elevator speech on Joe Snelson. What are you doing, you work with Meredith Corporation, big TV company, what do you do with those guys?

Joe: I am the vice president of engineering for the Meredith local media group. I've been with Meredith coming up on 35 years in December. Been in broadcasting for 45 years, and it's been a fun ride. So it's been very enjoyable, 35 of them with Meredith.

Kirk: Well, we're going to jump right into some conversation in just a minute with Joe Snelson and Chris Tobin along, too. A lot of it will center around SBE. We've got information coming up about handbooks that exist now and those that are coming out.

Plus I want to promote SBE vanity addresses that are available for email, Ennes Workshops, and webinars that are available to you. All kind of things like that, plus some regulatory matters that the SBE represents the concerns of engineers before the FCC with comments and filings and so forth. Plus we're going to get some good stories from Joe about some of the things he loves to do, toward the end of the show.

Our show, speaking of our show, is brought to you in part by our friends at Lawo. That's L-A-W-O, German company, so it's pronounced "Lavo." And they're the makers of this... well, they make big audio consoles. Great big consoles for TV stations, for big venues, symphony halls, for television trucks.

They also have a line of radio consoles. And the really interesting one that we're talking about for Lawo is the crystalCLEAR console. You saw a quick webpage... yeah, right there. That person who's touching something there, they're touching a multi-touch monitor screen.

The console itself is an app that runs on a Windows machine and it just takes over the whole machine, takes over the whole screen. You never see any vestiges of Windows there. It just looks like a beautifully well-designed audio console from Lawo.

So you can touch the screen, you can move faders up and down, you can turn things on and off. And the buttons are big, the faders are big, they're easy to hit with a fingertip. I've tried this myself at the Lawo booth at the NAB show, and it's interesting, it only takes you a few seconds to get used to this.

What's very cool about it is when you touch a button on this screen that is your audio console, it's contextual. It knows what it can do and it knows what it can't do, and it doesn't give you any options that are not applicable or that you can't do with that button right now. So everything that's presented to you or to the operator or to the engineer on that screen is entirely contextual.

Now, the console itself, the guts, the inputs, the outputs, the audio mixing engine, where it stores your setups, the power supplies, all that is contained in a one-RU rack unit that can sit anywhere. In your studio, in a rack room, or a tech center somewhere. It's just wherever it's convenient to bring all your audio ins and outs to. It also sits on the network, so this one-rack-unit box, this is the crystal console box, it has some mic inputs, analog inputs and outputs, AES inputs and outputs.

It also has a network connection. It does RAVENNA and it also does AES67. So if you're interested in Audio over IP, why, you can plug this console directly into any other brand of AoIP system that does AES67, and get that audio in and out by the AES67 standard, that everybody now is going to be building to. It has dual redundant power supplies available, and it's just a really awesome product.

Also, you can take this multi-touch touchscreen monitor... it's got the computer built in the back of it... and you can move it if you need to. If you need to vamoose out of Studio A and go to your office down the hall, plug it into the network and you're controlling your radio station once again. By the way, if you unplug it, if you reboot that computer that is the console for some reason, the mix engine doesn't quit. It just keeps on doing what it was doing, so you stay on the air, and it's just an amazing product.

I've always loved the idea of a touchscreen to run a radio station, and the folks at Lawo have taken a step forward to make that happen. You want to check it out? There's a video on the webpage for this. Mike Dosch, the Director of Virtual Radio Projects, explains how the crystalCLEAR console works in about an 8- or 10-minute video there. Check it out at Lawo, L-A-W-O.com, Lawo.com. Look for radio products and then look for the crystalCLEAR console. Thanks, Lawo, for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech.

All right. Joe, Chris and I are here to either pepper you with questions or just elicit some information. Let's chat about education. Education is important to me and I know it's important to Chris. We love to see materials available for engineers, not only for ourselves but for other colleagues as well. Me, in kind of the sales and marketing business with Telos, it's also very helpful when our customers are well-informed. Makes for a much better conversation about how some kind of technology works. Joe, talk to us about your feelings about SBE and the realm of broadcast engineering education.

Joe: Well Kirk, education is one of the key points for SBE, and through the years, we have stepped up our educational efforts. And we have a number of things that are going on. Certainly we have printed materials that many that have stopped by the booth and seen some of the printed publications we have available.

We also have a number of webinars, and hopefully everybody has had a chance to take advantage of those from time to time. And those webinars cover all kinds of material from IP to radio to television operations, maintenance, towers, and just a lot of material on there.

And if you get a chance, I would encourage everyone to go out to the website, check out the webinars that are available. And of course, our other educational efforts, Ennes Workshops that take place during the NAB. In fact, I mentioned earlier that the Ennes Workshop this year at the NAB in Las Vegas was so full they actually had to set up overflow.

Kirk: Ah, yeah.

Joe: And our education committee chair, Wayne Pecena, did that presentation on IP, very well attended, a great presentation. So we have number of things, our education keeps growing, we keep adding to it, and with the goal of our education committee to even get up to maybe one webinar a month. So we keep working on that and it's growing, and I'm very proud of the efforts that have been made into the education program through the years.

Kirk: Well, we'll get in to talk about some of the details on these... and by the way, in case you noticed, the video hasn't switched. Our technical director lost his Internet connection, so he'll be back here shortly, hopefully. So I'm sorry, those of you watching the webcast, you're going to have to just look at me for a minute or two. But we are hearing everybody, so those enjoying the audio version of the webcast are hearing everything just fine. All right.

So Joe, when we talked earlier today, you mentioned quite a bit about handbooks. And these are study and reference materials. You mentioned that there's a TV operator's handbook available... I know there's several handbooks available, you mentioned TV operators. But you said there's a couple more that are coming out soon that are really complete in their writing and scope, I believe a master control operator's handbook, and then a general SB engineering handbook. You want to tell us a bit about these handbooks?

Joe: Yeah. The TV operator's handbook just came out very recently. And in fact, if you read this month's edition of "The Signal," I mention that in my letter. That book was written by Fred Baumgartner and Nick Grbac and it's an excellent book for those that are looking at getting in TV operations.

Of course, I would assume that even many of your listeners on the program here maybe cross boundaries into both radio and television. So it is an excellent resource. It's a very comprehensive and detailed resource on television operations. And this is available now, you can go online and you can see it, and if you saw it or heard it, I just had lightning hit very close by here in Las Vegas.

Kirk: Well, I heard the thunder. I heard it. Wow.

Joe: Which may be why you're having Internet problems. I don't know. It's really going out there. But anyhow, but the book is out, and back when I wrote the Signal article, it was just about to. I had a chance to actually help edit the book and read through it, and very comprehensive and very detailed. So I would encourage those that, like I say, cross boundaries from radio over into television operations, to check that out.

Then the other book that I wanted to mention and that we were talking about earlier, and it's in the oven, so to speak, even now, is the "SBE Broadcast Engineering Handbook." And I think you had asked me earlier, well, kind of what's the difference between that and like the NAB engineering handbook.

Kirk: Yeah.

Joe: And this handbook, which we are hoping to be out somewhere near the first of the year, is a, I'll call it an in-the-trenches handbook. It covers subjects pertaining to both radio and television. So this handbook's going to be coming out, we hope, around the first of the year. As I mentioned in my letter this month, I would encourage everyone to check that out, get a copy, and put it on your reference shelf.

Kirk: Something that if you go to the SBE website, SBE.org, and you click on the education tab, something you can find is a page all about the different education programs. And in big categories, we have SBE University, and then we have webinars by SBE. What's the difference between SBE University and the webinars themselves?

Joe: Well, the webinars, of course, are usually just targeted at a single thing. It may be a single subject material, like we've had that on grounding and other subjects. The University would get more comprehensive into a subject. So that material is available, and again, if you want more detailed information, go to the University, you see the courses that are offered there, and certainly it's a good way to continue your education on a particular subject.

Then I've even done a webinar or two. I think I did one on wireless mic some years ago. So those are primarily targeted toward a particular subject for the duration of the webinar.

Kirk: You know, Joe, something I've always like about the webinars that are offered, I enjoy watching a webinar and listening and then asking questions, participating. There are so many subjects, so many webinars that are now "in the can," so to speak, that you can go to. A few of them are free, others are paid for, but they're all very worthwhile.

Our friend Wayne Pecena, who's been on this show, by the way, did a six-part, or more than six-part series on IP networking. Oh my goodness, this was so complete, starting with the OSI model and layers and on through IP address management and routing and introduction to IP multicast. He really covers these subjects in depth. I'm always big on computers and IP, but man, we have HD Radio Advancement and Trends, AM Rule Changes, leadership development courses, which I would love to go take one of those courses, and Transmitter Maintenance Checklist, just a whole list of things. How did SBE get to the point where we have so much information available online? It's just a great resource.

Joe: Well first of all, Kirk, let me build on something you said about some of the webinars being free. That's free to SBE members. And typically, in all of our materials that are out there, there's two price structures, those for the non-members and those for the members. So we don't discriminate whether a person is a member or not, but it of course is a benefit to our members. They get to see it for a reduced price, or if the webinar was free, they get it for free.

In talking about building the, I'll call it the database of the webinars. Again, that has been a part of our educational thrust for probably the last, oh, I don't know, four or five years, ever since I first got on to the SBE board. So we have ramped up our efforts in education. So that's why you're seeing more out there, and we intend to put even more.

Kirk: Yeah, well, every time one gets done, obviously, it gets archived, and unless the information was ephemeral, that it was only applicable for a short time, it ought to be good for some years. Certainly the IP networking information is... because Wayne, just for example, doesn't go into specific models of equipment and how to configure them, but he goes into the concepts that are involved, that they apply to any equipment, they're not equipment-specific.

Joe: Yes.

Kirk: Hey, Chris Tobin, you still with us, buddy?

Chris: I certainly am still here. Chriss Scherer is in the chat room, by the way.

Kirk: Oh, okay. Hey, I wondered if you had any comment at this moment. I've been hogging the conversation as I so often do. I'm sorry.

Chris: No, no, the information, the manuals, the text, all that stuff is ideal and I'm looking forward to January with the "SBE Engineering Handbook." The NAB handbook has been very handy over the years, and so has actually the ARRL handbook as well. So if you have these . . .

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: ...three resources at your fingertips in the starting of the new year, that would be great.

Kirk: So Joe, we've talked about the SBE University and the webinars, and these are on the SBE.org website, and then this leadership development course. I haven't had a chance to go to that yet, Joe. What can you tell us about that leadership development course?

Joe: My company has sent several people to that course, and it is a very good course for those that maybe don't have a lot of management experience. And through that, they can learn how to manage people, how to be a leader. So I would encourage anybody that is looking at advancing their career beyond just maybe being a maintenance technician or something, but to move up into the ranks of management, they would definitely want to take that course, because a lot of the material in there certainly gets down to every day that we do on the job as managers.

Kirk: Yeah. Yeah. Again, if you're watching this, either... oh, Signal magazine, yes, Chris is holding that up right now. Of course, people communicate all the time on the Internet, but it seems like my attention span on the Internet is pretty limited. But I take that Signal magazine, sit down with it while I'm eating, having a break. There you go. And [inaudible 00:22:18] .

Chris: [Inaudible 00:22:17] I'm having some biscotti and an espresso while reading "The Signal." It's perfect.

Kirk: There you go. What could be finer than being in New York City on the whatever high floor you're on, biscotti, espresso, and a . . .

Joe: It's a very high [inaudible 00:22:29].

Kirk: ...and an engineering magazine.

Chris: Engineering magazine, biscotti, espresso in my SBE acrylic mug. Why not?

Kirk: Wow, you're prepared.

Joe: There you go.

Kirk: I'm sorry to say I didn't get so prepared. So we have all these tools. Now, we have another tool to talk about, and that's the Ennes Workshops. And I've got to tell you, Joe, for years I had no idea what E-N-N-E-S meant or how it was pronounced. So tell us about the Ennes Foundation a little bit, and as soon as you do, after you do, we're going to look at a quick interview I did with Fred Baumgartner.

Joe: Okay. The Ennes Foundation is a nonprofit organization. It is actually incorporated separately from the SBE. And contributions are made to that, and in fact, if you look typically in the back of "The Signal," they'll show those that have donated to the Ennes Foundation. And it's through those that we sponsor various workshops, tuitions, tuition aid to students, and there's a number of things like that that occur out of the Ennes Foundation.

Harold Ennes was an old-time broadcast engineer, and when I started in this business, interestingly enough, I purchased several of Harold's books and read them, and actually helped me develop my career. So he was rather well known for his educational efforts. The foundation was created after his passing, been very successful.

Of course, through that foundation we've sponsored the things such as the local Ennes Workshops that are held from time to time around the country, and then of course the big one typically on Saturdays during the NAB convention in Las Vegas.

Kirk: Well, I understand that our technical director is getting the problem solved. Also, Andrew Zarian, the owner of the GFQ network, is remoted in also. So we're going to play that video right now while we can. Let me set it up here. I got a chance yesterday, just yesterday, to attend the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters convention in Murfreesboro. And I'm always amazed that they include so much engineering, an engineering track, to go along with the sales and management track there at TAB, Tennessee Association of Broadcasters.

This year, they did it up even bigger by making it an official Ennes Workshop function. And SBE, when we had the idea to do it, SBE quickly responded. Kristen Owens with SBE got involved and got a program put together. And so here's a quick interview with me talking to Kristen and Fred Baumgartner. Let's roll it.

Hey, it's Kirk Harnack at the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters, and they're in the middle here of an Ennes Workshop put on by SBE and the Ennes Foundation, and I'm here with Kristen Owens. Hey, Kristen.

Kristen: Hello.

Kirk: And you're with SBE, right?

Kristen: Yes, I'm the Education Director with SBE.

Kirk: All righty. And also Fred Baumgartner, who helps put these things together.

Fred: I am one of the trustees of the Ennes Foundation.

Kirk: All right. Who wants to tell me what the Ennes Foundation is?

Fred: Oh, I'll start with that.

Kristen: Fred.

Kirk: Okay.

Fred: The Ennes Foundation goes back to Harold Ennes... can I hold the microphone?

Kirk: Sure.

Fred: And by the way, you've got to love the way this guy's energy level comes up when he hands the microphone off. Okay. The Ennes Foundation goes back to Harold Ennes, who wrote some of the instructional manuals at the very beginnings of television and just as radio was developing as an art and science. So a lot of people have Ennes books sitting on their shelves even to this day. But he started the whole ball rolling with the educational part, and the local Indianapolis chapter built a foundation around him, did a couple of scholarships, and eventually the national SBE, the local chapter offered them the opportunity to take over their 401(c)(3) and develop it.

We have over the years, so it's grown over the years. We've done four scholarships or thereabouts for the last handful of years. We often underwrite the publication of books, educational materials. We underwrite these sessions. We do all the things that are necessary mechanically in order to get the educational effort going.

The person we work with the most... remember, this is a volunteer organization, so we need a full-time person who's laser-focused on the topic of education, and that's Kristen. And Kristen's had a very good couple of years here. She's just coming up on her second . . .

Kristen: Yes.

Fred: ...second year, and as they say, her metrics are good. Webinar... well, tell me about it.

Kristen: Yes. Well, actually, I was telling Fred . . .

Fred: I'm stealing your mic.

Kirk: That's fine.

Kristen: I'll let you hold it there. We actually have four Ennes Workshops this year, so we've doubled what we did last year previously, as well as our webinars. Right now, I think where we stand, we are all set to meet our goal for the end of the year, so we're ahead of schedule, which is great. We're trying to offer at least one per month, and we've done at least six this year. So we're kind of moving forward with that.

Kirk: So the workshops you've had, El Paso has been this year.

Kristen: Yes, we've had El Paso, we had New York Broadcast Association, we worked with them in June. Then we have this one, and we have one coming up in October at the end in Boston.

Kirk: Okay.

Kristen: So yeah, [inaudible 00:27:48] .

Fred: Anything else?

Kristen: That will be our four Ennes Workshops, and then we have [inaudible 00:27:52] .

Fred: We could secretly talk about Tucson, maybe? I don't know. Maybe?

Kristen: Yeah, we've had some talks, yeah, of one in Arizona for next year, as well as some talks about possibly in Missouri. So that just came up this week, so . . .

Fred: And maybe somebody out there . . .

Kristen: Yeah.

Fred: ...is thinking about . . .

Kristen: Call me.

Fred: ...doing it. They answer the phone and everything right there.

Kirk: Any chance of an Ennes Workshop in, say, oh, Hawaii anytime soon?

Fred: We would . . .

Kristen: That I would love.

Fred: That is so much on our bucket list.

Kristen: Yeah. If you're out there, call me for sure.

Kirk: Now, plenty of engineers can't even make it to one of the four workshops you've done this year, but you said you have a lot of webinars.

Kristen: Yeah.

Kirk: And I've joined in, I mean I've not been a presenter, but I've watched some of those, been very helpful. Tell me about how people who are either in SBE or not in SBE can find out about webinars.

Kristen: Yeah. If you go to our website, you can list... we do live webinars and we also record those webinars, so you can view them afterwards. Because as you guys know, broadcasters, you guys get called away and things like that. So they're archived and they're on there.

The one that we did in July was actually with David Brender, and he is a common person that you will see on the Ennes Workshops. So if you can't, have never made one of his presentations, we now have an archived version of his presentation under our webinars.


Kirk: I think . . .

Fred: Presenters, too.

Kirk: Yeah?

Fred: Let me put a pitch in for that. Because like yourself, we bring a very educational program. It's not a sales pitch. It tells engineers how to make things run and get things done.

Kirk: Yeah.

Fred: We do address that audience that doesn't make it to NAB every year or maybe not every decade. And the reason we move the Ennes Workshops around is we're hoping to get all those engineers within that 500-mile circle and make it. If you can't make that, then obviously we have all sorts of web efforts out there also, as you do, to help educate the industry.

Kirk: Cool. Fred, anything else you'd like to add about the Ennes Workshop or the Foundation?

Fred: I have to add that we're all real people in real life.

Kirk: Yeah.

Fred: And I'm wearing my SBE hat right now, but full time, I do television products for Nautel.

Kirk: Okay.

Fred: So I hope to see you doing that along the line here, too.

Kirk: All right. Kristen, thanks so much for joining us, appreciate it.

Kristen: Thank you for having us.

Kirk: And for people who want to know more about joining SBE, the website would be . . .

Kristen: www.SBE.org

Kirk: That was easy. And they'll find information about the Ennes Foundation there?

Fred: Yes, hit the tab that says education and it'll open a whole new world.

Kristen: Yep.

Kirk: Good deal. Thank you so much, Fred, for joining us, and you too, Kristen. I'm Kirk Harnack at the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

They needed to get that guy a better microphone, don't they.

Hey, it's Kirk Harnack at the Tennessee Association of . . .

Stop, stop, stop. I don't want to see it again.

All right. Hey, everybody, we're in the middle of This Week in Radio Tech, Episode 269, with Joe Snelson, who's the president of the SBE. Also Chris Tobin is with us from New York City. And tell you what. Now seems like a good time to take a break unless... you know what, I should ask Joe. Anything that you want to add about what Kristen and Fred Baumgartner had to say there about Ennes Workshops and the Foundation?

Joe: Yeah, real quick, Kirk. Earlier I used the word tuition. I didn't really mean tuition, I meant scholarship. The Ennes Foundation does do scholarships for students. So that's one thing I wanted to mention. Then the last thing, I was talking about some of Harold Ennes's books. I still keep this one up on my shelf, though I do not use it any more. It's called "Television Tape Fundamentals," and on the back of it it has Harold Ennes's picture. And by the way, I also want to say, before I close out here, about Fred.

Fred does an excellent job putting together the Ennes Workshops, particularly the one in Las Vegas. He's done that for several years, does a great job at it. So anyhow, again, SBE is very proud to be part of the whole Ennes Foundation and the educational efforts there.

Kirk: Well, it felt really well put together, especially with Kristen's help, too. It was only a couple of months ago that the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters thought hey, maybe we should work with SBE on our technical program and make this an Ennes event. And it quickly became that.

Hey, you're watching This Week in Radio Tech, Episode 269. I'm Kirk Harnack along with Chris Tobin and Joe Snelson. And coming up, we're going to be talking about some regulatory matters that Joe will fill us in on, AM improvement, the television band repack. Even if you're in radio, this is interesting stuff.

I hear this term and I don't really understand all that's going on, so maybe Joe can help us out. Also, wireless mics, something that's of concern to everyone in the audio business. We'll be talking about that coming up.

Our show is brought to you in part by my friends at Telos. There's a new brand name within the Telos Alliance that's floating around, a name that you should begin to get familiar with. It's Z/IPStream. You may remember the original name of ProSTREAM. Well, we've changed it to the name of Z/IPStream and added more products to the lineup. And this will be the name for all of our products that have to do with encoding audio for either a professional back-and-forth use like with the Z/IP One, and then other products, some of which are new.

The original ProSTREAM is now called the Z/IPStream R/1, "R" as in rack mount, and 1, the first unit. So the Z/IPStream R/1... I've got one of those right over here. Mine still says ProSTREAM on it, but now it's called the Z/IPStream R/1. Then there's other products, software products. You may have remembered a product called Omnia A/XE. Well, now it's been improved a bunch. Well, actually, there's still the Z/IPStream A/XE.

They've got a new product that I'm using at my radio stations and loving it. It does audio processing and stream encoding as a software package, it runs as a service in Windows, so it's very, very reliable, it's not an application that stays up. It'll just run in the background, start automatically with Windows. And it's called the Z/IPStream X/2. There's another version called the Z/IPStream 9X/2. What's the difference? Well, the 9X/2 has Leif Claesson's Omnia.9 processing in it, and that's a big advantage for those of you who want the Undo technology and the fabulous declipping that Leif has got built into his audio processing.

There's even more products, though. There is something called the Z/IPStream F/XE, that's a file-based audio processor. So if you're a podcast producer, maybe you produce commercials or commercials for insertion, and you want everything to be processed nicely, evenly, and come out at the right volume. Well, Z/IPStream F/XE will do that.

And then there's another line of products that we've been coming out with that are amazing. They're designed by our friends in France at SOUND4. They're called the Z/IPStream.S4. And these are PC cards that do amazing processing and streaming built-in. I haven't learned all about them yet. There's so much to find out, and so much that they will do. You can go to the Telos Alliance website and then look for streaming and processing products and you'll find all these things.

I just can't say enough good things about the Z/IPStream 9X/2 software. That's what I'm using at all of my radio stations in Samoa. And in Mississippi we've got, gee, I guess a total of almost eight that are streaming now. This is just amazing software with the processing. We've got videos about these, too. I should mention that, before we close out our spot for Telos, if you will go to YouTube and then look for Telos Alliance, you can find videos on so many of our products.

Plenty of tips, plenty of how to do things. Our support guys record some of the videos. Frank Foti's recorded some, I have. Also, Tim Carroll has recorded some for the Linear Acoustic brand. And just amazing stuff. You find out a lot of education right there at YouTube at the Telos Alliance YouTube channel. Thanks a lot to Z/IPStream for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech.

All right. We're back with Chris Tobin and Joe Snelson. Joe, let's go into the regulatory realm. We talked about AM improvement. What's the SBE concerned with on that front?

Joe: Now Kirk, I don't know what happened to my Internet connection, but I lost you there, but hopefully I'm going to pick up where you left off there.

Kirk: I hear you.

Joe: Okay, good. The SBE filed, back some months ago, a filing regarding AM improvements. And of course, we've been watching a lot on the regulatory front. On the AM improvement side, there were four major points that we supported on that, and the first one was the elimination of the so-called ratchet rule. The second one was the adoption of modulation-dependent carrier level, MDCL, for transmitters. The other one for AM antenna standards was replacing minimum efficiency specifications for AM antennas with minimum radiation in millivolts per meter. And then the last one, which probably is the big elephant in the room, and that is the commencement of an initiative to reduce the noise in the AM band.

Probably of those three, number four is the big elephant. And so that's going to be one, and I think when we were chatting earlier, you'd asked a question, well, gee, why would we even want to mess with this? But the way I look at it is, we keep chipping away at the rock. If we stay silent on it, it will just be assumed that everything is fine, when everything is not fine. So I think it's important to continue to hammer that. Hopefully maybe someday it will make some headway. But anyhow, of course, none of has seen anything yet on AM improvements, and I think I saw in one of the trades today that Wheeler may have mentioned the word, Chairman Wheeler from the FCC. But again, we're still waiting to see.

Kirk: It sure will be interesting to see what the AM landscape looks like in 20 years or 50 years. It's been around a long time. Maybe Chris Tobin can have a thought on this. Sometimes we pontificate a bit here on the show. It seems to me that the noise picture in the AM band is not likely to get any better. We may be able to hold it at bay, although to me that kind of seems unlikely. But the service provided by AM broadcasters is important, is significant. The wide area coverage is great, although you only get a ratings credit for stuff that's in your area, and that's where you really sell to.

But I guess in the long run, I would love to see AM broadcasters just afforded easily another place to go. I may be wrongheaded about that, don't know that I've thought it all the way through. There may be a place, for a long, long time, for 50 kilowatt stations to broadcast and overcome the noise for a long time.

I listen, for example, to WLW out of Cincinnati. I used to listen to them over the air, for years, when I lived in Kentucky. And now I listen to them streaming all the time. And I really enjoy their programming. Chris Tobin, you have any pontificatory thoughts about where AM broadcasting is going to go?

Chris: Well, I think currently, probably in 5 to 10 years we'll still see it in some form or shape. I still am a firm believer the only way things will improve, at least for AM, is twofold. One, content that has to be compelling and perishable, that people can't live without, they'll find a way to listen to the station. Two, need to push for better receiver design. The environment, the electronic noise, the electromagnetic noise field, whatever you want to call it, I don't think is going to improve any. We can try our best to try and ask for enforcement in that area, but I doubt we'll see much. We'll see. Who knows, things could change.

But I think if we had better receiver design specs and a push for that, then you have an opportunity to maybe improve things. HD radio receivers are very good, they work very well, they're DSP-based, but they're great for FM. Their AM quotient as far as portable and stuff is still, I think, a ways off, at least what I've heard. So these are the things we need to think about. But the biggest concern I have is just the content.

I miss the days of listening to CHML Hamilton, Canada, 900 kilohertz, and some of the programming that used to come out of there. Now it's just syndicated shows that really don't have anything compelling. And the same is true for many other stations that are heard way beyond their signal coverage area. Even for local FMs, the same thing. So I think that's where a lot of it needs to be focused.

With the engineering side of things, with SBE, background noise, yes, you've got to keep chipping away at that rock, without a doubt, because that'll force the hand of what do we need to do. And second, receiver design. We've just got to get better receivers out there. Because I've had some AM radios over the years where the quality of the signal reception was unbelievable. But there was only 1 out of 12 radios that could do it.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: Maybe you remember the GE Superadio Series?

Kirk: Sure, yeah.

Chris: Yeah, well, there you go. That had a great AM section, it worked great in many noisy environments, and yet that thinking didn't translate to other product lines along the AM side of stuff. [inaudible 00:41:37] my opinion.

Kirk: Joe, I don't know how much of AM improvement is really in your wheelhouse, but as president of SBE, what do you feel like your role is in moving something along for AM improvement?

Joe: Well, certainly, and like I'm sure earlier with you, I've done some radio in my years. And in fact, our company owned a small AM up in the Saginaw, Michigan area at one time. Of course, Meredith was very big into radio back into the '80s and everything.

Certainly as president of the SBE, I have an appreciation of both radio and television. And I think anything that the SBE can do that betters AM and also benefits our members, and I'd say that when we look at any of our filings that we make, we try to look at what cuts across the majority of our members and the benefit to all.

Because there are some issues you get into that you may have some members that could be on one side of the fence and some that would be on the other side of the fence. Certainly the four points that we laid out were embraced by the executive committee and the board, for that matter, of the SBE, the four points that we laid out here. And thinking of the comment on compelling program, whether it be radio, television, AM/FM, or regardless of what it is, compelling programming definitely makes a difference.

I often use the example of a video, an unfortunate video, that all of us have seen through the years, and that is of the Rodney King beating. That was shot on VHS, a VHS format, at night, and if you look at the technical quality, golf ball-size noise going through it. But yet that was a very highly viewed piece of video. Why? Because people wanted to watch it, they wanted to see what was going on. So again, I think programming makes a difference.

I will say on noise, I still listen to AM, in my car, even going home. But when I would back out of my house in the morning, I have a post lamp out in the front yard that has CFLs in it, and every time the car would line up with that post lamp . . .

Kirk: Yeah.

Joe: ...yeah, yeah, you know the story. Horrible buzz. So certainly I am... and even on the TV side, back when we owned some low-band VHF stations, before the digital transition, noise would just eat some of us up, depending upon the shape of the power grid infrastructure. So certainly some help is needed in that area to clean up some of these issues for both AM as well as those that elect to broadcast in the low band via television.

Kirk: Joe, you mentioned CFL, compact fluorescent bulbs, and those have been such a pain for our quest to have reduced noise. They make so much noise. I guess the good news is, at least from my perspective, CFLs are beginning to become passé, and LED bulbs are becoming more and more and more affordable. I swear, every time I go to Costco or Sam's, they got a new line of LED bulbs at a lower price than before. I just put LED floodlights around the house here, and I don't keep them on 24/7, but I could, because the cost to run them is next to nothing. And they actually look really good. So LEDs are coming along. My question is I don't know. Joe or Chris, do typical LED bulb technologies create much noise in the AM band? I don't know.

Joe: I don't know. Yeah, I don't know. I've never tested them to see. Now, I will tell you I put some LEDs in the same post lamp. I took out the CFLs and put the LEDs in there, and to this day I haven't figured out why, but unfortunately, I did not get the life out of them like I expected to get out of them. Now . . .

Kirk: Interesting.

Joe: ...and you replaced them once, so I don't know what's going on there.

Kirk: Chris, any opinion on that? Are you with us?

Chris: I'm here, I'm here. I have not heard too much noise from a couple of the LED lights I have here at the house. There's a little background noise, but it's much less than that of a CFL, and I'm glad to see CFLs are going anyway, because the mercury in them is annoying to get disposed of.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: So I'd like to see that go.

Kirk: Here in my office, I've had really mixed results. I don't know, I have this fetish. I buy cheap Chinese LED bulbs just to see how well they'll do. And some of them do great. And others... I had some here in the office that were replacements for some halogen bulbs, and they lasted about three months. And all of them failed the same way. They had a little transformer in there, because this particular fixture is 110 volt circuit. And the little transformer in there, tiny, puny little thing, wound around a little iron core, a ferrite bead, if you will. And they didn't last. And I don't think the LEDs fail, I think it was the step-down power supply that failed them.

But I have other LEDs here at the house that have been going for years. We've left them on. Not a post light, but we have a light, front porch and back porch, that I just tell the family leave them on. I'd rather have it on, it costs two and a half cents a month to run each one of these things. So let's leave it on. They're getting better, but it's going to be interesting. I'd love to get rid of CFLs overall, so, well.

Hey Joe, there's something that hopefully you can educate us on now, and that is this TV repack thing. When it went from analog television to digital television, including HD television, we had a lot of shuffling of channels around there now. I'm aware that what I think here in Nashville is Channel 2, the ABC affiliate, isn't necessarily on the old analog Channel 2.

In fact, I happen to know, I think it's on Channel 27 here in Nashville, even though they still brand the Channel 2. Same for just about every other TV station. I think I understand that process. What's this new TV repack thing? What's going on with that and what's the end goal and how's it affecting people?

Joe: Well, the end goal is to make money for the U.S. Treasury.

Kirk: Yeah, yeah.

Joe: That's one of the main goals. There are some others that have been brought out, but primarily it's to provide more spectrum for broadband and so that they can deliver more services via broadband. So right now, the UHF TV band goes from UHF Channel 14 up to 51, with of course Channel 37 excluded, that's reserved for Radio Astronomy and has been for a long, long time, there's never been a TV channel on it to my knowledge.

Anyhow, so what they want to do is start at Channel 51, and the repacking consists of two phases, the first phase being what they call a reverse auction. This is to find out how many broadcasters would be willing to sell their channel to get money for it in what's called a reverse auction. Depending on the number of TV operators that decide to participate in the reverse auction and sell their channel, that will determine how much spectrum is available for them to forward auction to the broadband people.

Then, so you have two phases to it. You have a reverse auction, that's to get the spectrum, and then the second phase is the forward auction, to sell it off. Of course, depending on how much spectrum is sold and how many broadcasters still want to stay in the television business in the UHF band, they will need to repack that.

So depending upon how the scenario plays, the number of UHF stations will be concentrated to the lower end of the UHF band, so rather than going from 14 to 51, it may go from 14 to 30, as an example. Now that again is not where it's going to necessarily be, because that will be determined upon the outcome of the reverse auction, to know how many people are going to participate.

Kirk: Wow, okay. So they've got to do one first to see what can be cleaned up around the edges and in the middle and various spots, and then auction them back off. Wow. So . . .

Joe: Kirk?

Kirk: Yeah.

Joe: Kirk, if I can add one thing, though. Some of your listeners may be wondering, well, how in the world does this affect radio? Well, here's how. As many people know, the UHF television band has been used through the years for more than just UHF television broadcasting. The words that come to mind is wireless microphones.

Kirk: Yeah.

Joe: So for folks that use wireless microphones in that band, the concern is is where are they going to operate and go, depending on the outcome of the auction. There have been some recent rules that have come out regarding licensed microphones, even to the point where they're looking at one of the rules is to open up other bands. Now, before you say gee, that's wonderful, you might want to also listen to the other side of the story, and that is that those two bands are the 900 megahertz band, as well as the 6 gigahertz band.

Both of those bands that I'm talking about are used for broadcast auxiliary. Of course, 900 MHz, classically oral [sounds like 00:52:40] STLs, intercity relays, and in the basically in the 6 GHz, 7 GHz band, starting at 6.8 GHz, that has been classically television, STLs, and TSLs. And I would certainly assume that an operator would have some concern if somebody fired up a microphone that just happened to be right in line or right in their direct path, with maybe only being a few hundred feet away from your receive site.

Kirk: Yeah.

Joe: So that's going to be interesting to see how that plays out. The rules are out, and you can go out and see those on the FCC website. But it'll be interesting to see how that unfolds. They are requiring, by the way, frequency coordination for operation in those two particular bands. Again, that's for licensed operations, but as I think everyone knows, licensed is not only just wireless microphones for broadcasters, but also motion picture producers and like that. But at least the scope is narrowed a little bit to licensed broadcasters. Unlicensed, that's another issue.

Kirk: Yeah. Yeah. Chris, in New York City, what are you hearing from your friends who maybe do film production or football games with 65 wireless mics at a time? What do you hear about either what we've been through so far with wireless mic frequencies and having to move here or there, and what scary things may be ahead?

Chris: Well, I know talking with some of the folks from the sporting events and SBE coordinators, coordination that's been done here in New York City at the ballparks, both in the city itself and across the river in New Jersey, a lot of the production companies, when it come to wireless, they're concerned. They've been talking about it. They're not sure which way to go, because I'm not sure if a 6 Gig wireless mic is something that will work very well in many environments. But then again, I'm not sure if there's anybody making one.

Then the other problem is just the number of channels that you need to satisfy, say, a New York City production area, or, say, Chicago or Los Angeles or even Nashville. The Grand Old Opera. I'm sure you could have a lot of wireless needs . . .

Kirk: Sure.

Chris: ...depending on the event. So it's going to be a tough one. The New York State Broadcasters Association conference this past June, SBE was there. We talked about wireless mics and the regulatory climate, and the discussion was quite heated. Everybody was concerned, and the questions were basically well, what do you mean, 900 MHz, what do you mean, 6 GHz, what if that doesn't work, where do we go?

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: And there's really no answer.

Kirk: It's a tough problem, and interesting, those frequencies that are in the UHF band are usable for a lot of things. I guess decades ago, Joe, we weren't very good at making compact gear that could use those kind of frequencies. But nowadays it's pretty simple. Just stripline antennas and chips and we build stuff that works well. But man, those frequencies are desirable for a hell of a lot of stuff. Cell phones and all kinds of wireless data.

Chris: They propagate very well.

Kirk: Yeah, yeah, they do.

Chris: That's why they want them.

Kirk: Well . . .

Joe: You're exactly right, and I'll say it when I started in this business, a low-band VHF was beach-front property.

Chris: Yes, yes.

Joe: A high-band VHF was, that was okay property. UHF was no-man's land. Nobody wanted it.

Kirk: Didn't want to be there.

Joe: And now, yeah, and now everything has just flipped topsy-turvy and it's the other way around.

Kirk: Yep, yeah.

Joe: But Chris did bring up a point that I want to also emphasize, is a concern that SBE has. And if you've read any of our general counsel Chris Imlay's articles in "The Signal" certainly the concern regarding the quantity of spectrum that's going to be available. I mean, even before when the FCC allowed two dedicated wireless mic channels either side of Channel 37, that was okay. But certainly even there, that is not enough to cover large venues when you get into Super Bowls and things where you have hundreds of mics going and on at the same time. So yeah, that's a problem.

Kirk: Yeah. Wow. Wow. We could talk about this for quite a while, and we're going to talk about a couple, we're going to wrap it up with a few things here from Joe at the end of the show in just a minute. I want to tell you that you're watching or listening to This Week in Radio Tech, Episode 269. Our guest is the president of the SBE, the elected president, you elected him if you're an SBE member, Joe Snelson. And so he's been guiding very well the efforts of the board of directors at the SBE and interfacing with all manner of people and getting things done at the Society of Broadcast Engineers.

Our show is brought to you in part by my friends at Axia. And I want to tell you about something a little bit different this time. And that is at Axia, the entire range of networked audio consoles, they all use Audio over IP. And no matter what size broadcaster you are or whether you have big, important control rooms with... need a lot of faders... or you have more modest needs, medium-sized needs, or whether you just need some little 6-fader consoles on desks to do some dubbing, to do news production, to do interviews, that kind of thing, well, Axia's got all that, from big to little.

There is actually, in France, there's a studio that has a two-fader Axia console. I've seen it, I took pictures of it, I've been there. It's amazing. It's a cool little two-fader Element console, and they go up from there to as many as 40 faders. And actually, I think that in the same room, in France, at NRJ, there is the largest console, the largest Axia console in the world. And they're available in sizes all in between.

Hey, I've been to a big operation in Dallas, Texas, where the broadcaster there has, I don't know, six or eight control rooms that are just gorgeous, with big, impressive Axia consoles. And then they have some news work stations where they're using much smaller consoles. But they can full-function, produce anything.

Because it's Audio over IP, because it's networked, you can bring in any source you need to. And if you can talk back to that source, whether it's a talent on a mic and headphones or an IP codec or an ISDN codec, or whether it's a telephone hybrid, these consoles from Axia will receive it and talk back to it really easily and seamlessly, and the operator doesn't even have to think about how to set up a Mix-minus. It's just there.

So the newest console from Axia that folks are really interested in, and I just talked to one of our sales people at Axia yesterday. He said these things are just flying out the door. That's the Fusion console. It's a little bit more expensive, it's a little bit of an upgrade from an Element console, because it has beautiful, bright, OLED displays on it for everything.

So you can see the confidence monitors coming in, the backfeed audio going out, the name of the channel, all kinds of things about the channel. And they're just gorgeous consoles, with the way that all the markings are laser-etched, double-anodized. It'll never look old, it can't, because you can't mark it up, you can't peel anything off, you can't wear the paint out. It's just absolutely amazing.

Go to the website for Axia. You can go to AxiaAudio.com, or you can go to the new TelosAlliance.com website. And go to Axia and look at the consoles. There's a brief look at them right there, from the Fusion through the Element and then on down to the iQ console, the Radius... which is, by the way, what this very show is being produced on, from an audio point of view, a Radius console... and the DESQ, which is a compact 6-fader console, and the RAQ, R-A-Q.

I've got one of these at our news work station in American Samoa. Our news lady uses this console all day long, dubbing and recording and to produce our newscasts. That's the RAQ console, 6 faders in a rack mount.

Plus there's different ways to get the mixing done, with our mix engines, the PowerStation or the smaller studio mix engine, or the QOR, the Q-O-R.32, or the smaller QOR.16. Some of these mix engines, the QORs and the PowerStation, contain their own in-built Ethernet switch, which is already configured for Audio over IP.

Just great stuff, check it out if you will, at TelosAlliance.com, under the Axia banner. You're going to love it. If you haven't gotten into AoIP yet, boy, you need to. And I sure have enjoyed having these consoles at our stations for, I guess, about the last six years now for me personally. Thanks to Axia for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech.

All right, Joe, let's see. Do we have time? We might have time for a story. You told me a little fire-and-smoke story that was pretty interesting about you jumping into the fire yourself in terms of getting into broadcast engineering. Would you like to regale us with a little bit of information about that?

Joe: Okay, I'll try real quick here. When I became assistant chief engineer in Kansas City, we had both radio and television properties at the time. Some years earlier, before I joined the company, they had had a fire with one of the particular brand of transmitter that I won't name, but anyhow, it melted the transmitter and they had to replace it. And I'd heard the story. So a couple years later, I became the assistant chief there, and one of my responsibilities, basically, was acting chief for the radio station. And I had not done a lot of AM work up to then. I'd done some FM.

But I was at home one night when the phone rang and the operator said, "Joe, we've got a problem. The transmitter, we're at almost no power, and I tried the backup and it's not working, and so I don't know what to do." And I said, "Well, let me get out there." So a thunderstorm had moved through Kansas City at the time, but it had blown through.

So I hopped in my car, and it was about a 30-minute drive out to the transmitter site. Got there, and when I stopped the engine of the car and I opened the car door, I heard the thing that no chief engineer wants to hear, and that's a fire horn going off. And of course, what flashed through my mind is oh no, déjà vu. Well, at least not for me, but for the company . . .

Kirk: Yeah, yeah.

Joe: ...all over again. And of course I did all the, at least I think, the correct steps. I went up to the door, I did not see any visible smoke from the outside, it was night, I looked around, didn't see anything or smell anything. I felt the door and it was totally cool. Put my key in the lock, I unlocked the door and just gently began to open it, just to see what was going on inside. Just in case there was a bunch of flames, I wasn't going to provide a bunch of oxygen for it. There wasn't anything, just a little bit of smoke leaked out.

So anyhow, when I went in, I discovered that when the storm moved through, lightning hit one of the towers. One of the lines, one of the five feed lines coming into the building, which was like inch-and-seven-eighths, I believe, something like that, of course, wrapped in a polyethylene jacket, but it had a splice on it. The line had been spliced.

Well, evidently the arc-over took place at the splice, and it was enough to cause the polyethylene jacket to begin to ignite, and of course it just kind of spread down the lines for about three feet in both directions. So that was my baptism in fire, so to speak . . .

Kirk: In fire, yeah.

Joe: ...within just a few weeks after I became the AM chief there. By the way, we did get it temporarily back on the air, and within about a week, once the new line arrived and I was able to get it spliced... measured carefully and checked out to make sure that we had the right lengths and everything and got it installed and we were back up to normal operation.

Kirk: Well, this was for an AM, right? This was an AM handling [inaudible 01:05:39] ?

Joe: Yeah, it was an AM.

Kirk: Yeah, yeah. See, with AM, you do have some options that you can bypass. Car jumper cables in a real pinch, but if it was FM or something at a higher frequency, you've really got it, you don't have much choices there.

Joe: That's very true, and I share with you, I also had to rebuild an FM that the cavity burned up in it, and that was kind of a mess. The foam around the blower had broken away from the sidewall of the blower cabinet and it went right up into the screen that basically protects the input to the cavity, just a little . . .

Kirk: Yeah.

Joe: ...mesh screen. Anyhow, it clogged up, and the cavity overheated, and it got very hot. So I spent the night rebuilding one of those, too. So yes, I've had my FM and AM stories.

Kirk: Hey, the first station I ever worked at, a public station, actually was on 10 watts power when I came to work for them because their transmitter, of the same design that you're talking about, had done exactly the same thing. So yeah, my first job in radio started at 10 watts. Chris Tobin, you don't have a fire story for us, do you?

Chris: If you'd like, I could give you a fire story. Yeah, sure. I've got one for you. Many years ago . . .

Kirk: Sure.

Chris: ...at an AM station, a directional AM station on Long Island, I was covering the engineer while he visited his daughter who was getting married in Florida. So he went away for the weekend. I usually covered for him on holiday and whatnot.

So I received a phone call on this Friday evening of the weekend from the general manager. And he's in panic, you could tell he was like crying, because the tone of his voice, the cadence of his delivery of the voice was just such that you could tell something was really, really wrong. And all I could hear is, "It's gone. It's all gone." And I was like, "What are you talking about? Which part of the facility is gone? You haven't had bad weather." "Chris, you've just got to get out to the transmitter. That's all I can say. I got to go." Click. So it's a Friday night, 11:00 at night, the weather is fair and there's no reason to be panicked, and I'm thinking how bad can it be?

I drive out to the site. Now, mind you, it's a, I think it was a four-tower directional, so it's a lot of property. As I'm driving up the road to the transmitter building, several dozen fire engines are passing me by, going in the same direction as I'm going. As I'm turning, you're coming around a curve, approaching the property and coming up the hill, there's something like an orange glow on the horizon. Eleven o'clock at night, clear skies, orange glow in a place that's normally pitch black. I'm looking for the flashing red lights, the beacons on the top of the towers, figuring maybe I'm in the wrong place. No, I'm not. I pull up to a fully engulfed, flaming transmitter building. Firefighters are doing their best to put out the fire as the walls are collapsing, the roof has collapsed. I'm watching this happen. The tower lights are out, of course, because there's no power, everything is burned down, literally. And it was arson, they discovered later on.

But I had never seen anything like it. Next morning, we're walking through the rubble, and I must say, I have never seen the inside of a Harris MW-1A and the aluminum RF modules just a mound of aluminum. That's it. You couldn't even make out the fact that those were heat sinks . . .

Kirk: Heat sinks.

Chris: ...with five transistors on each. Because I used to maintain MW-1As, so I know. For those of you in the audience who are familiar with that transmitter, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Just melted. The good thing, the only saving grace was the antenna to the phasor cabinet was outside of the base of one of the towers.

So we were actually able to get an AM transmitter flown in, and we got them back up on the air in a timely fashion the following morning, and things came together. But it was... boy, I'll tell you, that's one sight that... a fire to transmitter sight, there's just something, it's never the same in every location, but it definitely makes you appreciate Mother Nature, makes you appreciate many things. But it was just literally, the building was just to the ground. That was it.

Kirk: Joe, I have the next webinar idea. What to do when the unthinkable happens. Because I've heard so many stories of an engineer driving to a tower site and like the tower's not there any more, because it fell down. Or, as Chris just mentioned, the building's not there any more. Or as you mentioned, the unthinkable happened, you got this big chunk of coax that's gone. That could be interesting. What to do when the unthinkable happens.

Joe: Yes. Absolutely. The problem is they were never the same.

Kirk: Well, that's true, yeah. So I was thinking more of a psychology class . . .

Joe: Oh, well, absolutely, yeah.

Kirk: ...not a technical class. Hey, it's been great to have you on, Joe. We've gone past our time limit, but I'm glad we did and I'm glad that you've been with us. It's so great for you to take an hour-plus out of your day in Las Vegas. Is the thunderstorm still going on, or has it passed over?

Joe: Yes, it's still going on. There's still flashes of lightning going on here.

Kirk: Well, as an engineer, I know that's got to make you at least a little bit nervous. You probably have people to take care of that, but let's hope you don't get a call immediately.

Joe: This is true, yeah.

Kirk: Chris Tobin, thank you for being with us from Manhattan on This Week in Radio Tech. If folks want to reach you for a little consulting advice, they would reach you at where?

Chris: You could try support@IPcodecs.com. Hey, just on a note, Chriss Scherer was in the chat room for us. I just want to remind everybody that SBE has presenting leadership development courses since 1997, and there's some new ones, I guess, going up on the website. Recently there was something that was held at Atlanta. So for those of you in the audience, check that out.

Since we're talking education on this particular episode, partly education, on our next War Stories, you'll have to ask me about a small paint bucket full of water from Long Island Sound, a 66 block, an 8451 going in and going out to prove that even dissimilar metals in salt water will not affect the audio. I learned that from a young engineer who was starting out early in his career, and he and I reminisced about it just recently at the NAB. That young engineer is . . .

Kirk: Interesting.

Chris: ...somebody you might be familiar with. Yeah, well, you know what. He's someone you may know.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: Next time you see Chriss Scherer . . .

Kirk: I got to . . .

Chris: ...ask him about it.

Kirk: Okay. Okay.

Chris: Right now, he's laughing.

Kirk: I've got to hear the science behind that one, yeah.

Chris: Oh, it's a great story. It's fun. But for those of you learning stuff or just wanted to try something different to prove a point, there's many ways of doing this, and this bucket idea was one of them, and it was a great one, for someone starting out young and early on in his career.

Kirk: Great, and Chris, thank you for keeping track of Chriss Scherer, who has been in the chat room, and I'm sorry that we weren't able to be in there. Joe Snelson, thank you again for being here. I appreciate it. I hope to see you again real soon, I guess in, what, Madison, Wisconsin?

Joe: Yes, right, at our national meeting there, and so anyhow, if anyone is listening and is there, be sure to come up and say hello.

Kirk: All righty. Will do. All right. This has been Episode 269 of This Week in Radio Tech. Joe Snelson, president of the SBE, has been our guest, along with Chris Tobin, as usual. I'm Kirk Harnack in Nashville, Tennessee. We'll see you next week on This Week in Radio Tech. Bye-bye.

Topics: Broadcast Engineering


If you love broadcast audio, you'll love Direct Current! Get it delivered to your inbox weekly!

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all