— Marty Hadfield is director of engineering for the Seattle cluster
of Clear Channel Media & Entertainment, a position he’ll have
held three years come June.
works on site as trees that fell during a snowstorm in 2012 are
cleared from the road to the KKBW tower.
part of our expanded coverage of radio information technology as well
as traditional engineering management, Radio World contributor and
technical advisor Thomas R. McGinley conversed with Hadfield via
email about issues such as IT standards and requirements regarding
hardware and software purchases, updated skill sets, organizational
tools and cluster support.
a broadcast engineering career of more than 40 years, Hadfield has
had stints at Fisher, Qualcomm and Alpha, among other broadcast
groups. He’s perhaps best known from a 17-year stint as corporate
vice president of engineering for Entercom Communications.
like other group engineers these days, needs to keep up not only with
changes in RF needs but with IT issues as well.
Channel has seven stations — five FM and two AM — in the
Seattle-Tacoma market, which is ranked by Nielsen Audio as Radio
Market 13, with a Metro 12+ population of about 3.6 million people.
Many chief engineers or their designated staff people are
responsible for IT operations at their stations. That often includes
not only the audio delivery and automation systems but also the
office LAN with all of its servers, workstations and portable devices
used in the facility. How is IT support handled in your operation?
Craig Fleek is my local IT Manager here in Seattle. He hails from the
banking and real estate industries, with a degree in computer
security and digital forensics — a perfect fit to maintain, plan
and diagnose root cause problems. Mario Magana is our local NexGen/IT
assistant. Mario’s background includes having being a
producer/coordinator for the “Delilah” show and a remote
broadcast coordinator. My personal involvement with IT amounts to
about 20 percent of my time.
To what extent does your corporate office set IT standards and
requirements regarding hardware and software purchases as well as
Internet and WAN services? Does your company contract with outside IT
service and support providers and/or services?
With the best interests of WAN/LAN system security, reliability, QOS
and predictable functionality across our far-flung footprint, our
corporate IT managers do set well-founded and stringent system
specifications for hardware and for the many enterprise-level
software programs all CCM+E clusters use, but they do not generally
limit the loading of any specific software on local machines. Other
than specialty phone system configurations, locally we do not
generally contract for outside IT support services.
As IT has become so heavily integrated into broadcast operations, IT
skills for engineers are critical. What specific skill sets are you
looking for when hiring staff engineers?
First, I look at an individual’s personality, their ability to work
and relate well with our other technical, general staff and members
of the management team. This is really important under the sometimes
stressful conditions we face when equipment fails or something goes
sideways. My department is operated with a mindset that is
service-oriented, similar to a help desk, where our customers are the
station staff. Placing positive personality traits high on the list
helps assure a good, empathetic experience with our general staff,
without too much of the “… I can’t believe the user didn’t
know they needed to have Caps Lock off when entering their password”
type of attitude.
I focus on their technical capabilities relating to knowledge of the
typical studio and transmitter site electronics equipment and the
interconnectivity chain of the equipment. Familiar basic skills such
as following instructions, grasping basic signal flow paths,
soldering, connector crimping, schematic reading and a functional
understanding of TCP/IP connectivity abilities must pass muster. I
seek individuals who have industry certifications relating to their
field of expertise.
The industry has significantly downsized engineering staff sizes
since 2008. What staff positions are you maintaining and how much do
you rely on part-time and outside contractor help?
In addition to my IT team that I mentioned earlier, I am very
fortunate to have my Assistant DOE and Chief Operator Bill Major. His
background in broadcast engineering and commercial IT spans at least
as many decades as my experience and he’s a well-rounded technical
asset with strong WheatNet knowledge.
Remote Broadcast Coordinator Terry Ryan also shares a wide skill set
that includes just about all aspects of our technical operations, and
he has years of experience with national network event remote
broadcasting. Since my Seattle market AM/FM/microwave transmission
facilities are spread out over 12 separate sites in four counties, I
do have a few contract engineers available on call, and there are
occasions where we hire outside contract help for large-scale remote
broadcasts, special construction projects or when a snowcat is needed
to access one of the six mountaintop sites.
Chief engineers of multi-station market clusters need to balance
their responsibilities between administration chores and meetings
with hands-on time for equipment installation and repair. Give us a
snapshot look at your typical workday.
When I wake up, one of the first things I do is check my email for
urgent/semi-urgent matters. If something truly serious is going on,
we have an “ASAP” phone number assigned that that sends urgent
calls to me first, and if I miss the call, it rolls over to Bill
[Major] and the other team members in a sequence.
my drive into the studios, I make a few calls, hands-free through the
vehicle audio system, and listen to each station on analog, HD Radio,
and on iHeartRadio. I also dial around to see how the local
try to arrive at my office before 8 a.m., then walk through the
studio area to see if anyone is having problems. To help respond to
early morning challenges that seem to come up in the studios, I have
set up a staggered start schedule for my technical staff. Fortunately
for me, Bill arrives at about 5:30 a.m., and he has usually already
put out any “first-shift fires” by the time I arrive.
keeps notes and sketches in a composition book with five squares per
inch. To share info or save it in a different place, he snaps an
image with his smartphone and sends it to himself or others. This
sketch is related to data collection for a Method of Moments analysis
of the support structure for an FM antenna.
by Marty Hadfield
sign in and check my email, looking for Trouble Tickets [a CCM+E
proprietary service-call tracking system] and prioritize them for
work assignments. My management approach includes quite a bit of
“Management By Walking Around,” touching base with not just my
staff, but the sales, programming, production and talent. …
3 percent of my day is focused on invoice processing, and then the
balance of my day is coaching my team members, helping with trouble
shooting the more unusual challenges, going to tower sites for
inspections and projects, developing both near-term and long-range
plans to meet the needs of other departments. I strive to keep myself
and my staff on a routine eight-hour workday at the studios and
offices, which can be tough, but using good scheduling and IP remote
access really helps.
Digital assets like streaming, video and websites are rapidly
becoming important components of station operations. To what extent
do you and/or members of your staff support these?
CCM+E Seattle has a digital department that manages the daily
operations of these assets, but my IT team and I support their inside
equipment and the outbound streaming encoder systems. Once the
various streams leave Seattle, their provisioning is handled by
RF support and transmitter site operations require specialized skill
sets. How much are you personally involved with your cluster’s
transmitter sites and do you assign a staff engineer to handle these
duties and/or do you use any outside the market or contract help?
Under non-emergency conditions, my assistant and I usually alternate
site visits to make it to all of our AM and FM transmitter sites on
an average of about once every two months for routine inspections,
but certainly more often if indicated by remote control monitoring. I
usually keep contract-type engineers in a standby mode for
emergencies and occasional site inspections.
The need for afterhours and emergency engineering support can be
challenging, especially for small staffs. How do you handle this
critical function at your stations?
I strive to eliminate or reduce the drive time it takes us to support
our equipment when we are not in the office. I believe in maximizing
the remote monitoring and control of as many of our technical systems
as possible, via a secure, localized version of the “Internet of
Things” concept, which includes the use of inexpensive
IP-controlled outlets to cold-boot some types of equipment. This
approach helps me manage some of my own stress factors, as well those
of my technical support team members.
Beyond a smartphone, what hardware and software tools do you rely on
most to stay organized and efficient while performing your duties?
Most importantly for me, I keep my daily activity notes in a graph
ruled “composition book” with five squares per inch. This allows
me to make quick sketches, jot down phone notes, make references to
someone’s requests, and local weather conditions that may impact
some aspect of operations. To share the info or store it in a
different place, I snap an image with my smartphone and send it to
myself or others.
using the video/audio capture feature of my smartphone a lot. One
good use I found when performing a generator test is to start rolling
video of the control panel before you first start the engine. If it
coughs and sputters, clanks, shows wild voltage variations or
whatever, you can share the AV clip with your generator service
company and they may be able to trouble shoot the condition remotely
and then be able to bring exactly what service items are needed when
use Gantt charts and Outlook calendars to help plan and track
projects. CCM+E Corporate offers access to many efficiency tools,
including an internal Wiki that is fed by the experiences of all of
our engineering and IT members.
How do you see the role of chief or market engineer changing? To
what extent can contractors or corporate based engineering services
and regional personnel replace local engineers to support stations’
Hadfield: I think most companies have already seen the duties of their
CE/market engineer mature to a point where there are very few aspects
of a radio station’s operations that are not already touched by
them. When the operating budget demands a reduction of local
engineering staff, the station general management must face the fact
that response and recovery times will be increased and their menu of
options for remote broadcasts, studio change requests and other tasks
that require physical involvement, will be reduced, too.
order to efficiently use any form of engineering services, if it
hasn’t happened already, the chief engineer needs to develop a
thorough set of current, descriptive and pictorial plans of the
signal paths that exist within their facilities. This guide must
include IP, analog and control signal paths, with equipment models
(another good place to insert an image of a device) and the I/O
wiring connection descriptions — numbers and a brief to/from
description are what I appreciate the most when I look at cables
spilling out of an IP switch or and EAS box.
and documenting network user drive paths and IP address or machine
names will minimize confusion when a PC/server hiccups. This
collection becomes a living resource guide to assist in accelerating
trouble shooting of the facilities when the CE is unavailable and
contractors or other help will have to step in.
The ranks of senior engineers are dwindling daily as more of us are
retiring or choosing to pursue other opportunities. How are preparing
your stations for the eventual transition to a new cluster chief?
I am an advocate and practitioner of cross-training. Both of my
IT team members are starting to take basic electronics courses to
bridge and broaden their knowledge base to become familiarized with
transmitter site equipment operation and maintenance. This method
certainly does not bear fruit overnight, but coupled with their
on-the-job knowledge of the overall facilities, they will have
improved their likelihood of being primary candidates when the
position is eventually open.
the corporate side, earlier this year CCM+E announced the completion
of its inaugural Market Engineering Manager Development Program, and
we are in the third year of the Electrical Engineering Co-op Program.
In addition to looking within my staff and the CCM+E engineering
talent pool across the nation, I feel the pulse of potential
applicants by staying in touch with smaller market engineers and with
students at university and local vocational schools.
How did you get into radio?
I have lived and worked in Seattle and the great Pacific Northwest my
whole career. My first paying job in radio was working at a tower
site, logging transmitter readings every hour. It was around 1973 and
the DC remote control lines had failed. I held a third Class Operator
Permit, so my friend Ernie Opel, chief engineer at KBLE(FM), Seattle
— now one of my Seattle stations, KUBE — asked if I could take on
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