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Letter: Wait, Hold That Shovel

IT is great but it's still the RF signal that matters most

Dear RW:

Frank McCoy wrote about the problem of finding or developing chief engineers (“Solutions for the CE Recruitment Problem”). 

Yes, broadcasting is turning more into an IT-based business every year and more IT people are needed. But right now, in 2023, radio stations are making money on the RF signal, not the internet stream. And the guys who maintain the RF signal are going away faster than the transition to totally IP based radio. 

IP guys are like television repairmen in the early days of television. There was one on every street corner but only about 20% of them could do more than change tubes. 

Of the IT people I’ve known, it seems that about 50% really know what they’re doing; the others just poke around until the system starts to work. 

I’ve been in radio and TV engineering nonstop since 1966 and have retired three times since 2015. No matter how hard I try, I am still working. When I am called to do work, it is almost always a transmitter failure, an antenna issue, a directional AM issue, an audio problem or some other “classic” radio broadcast problem. 

There’s still a lot of transmitters and analog gear running, and there will be for some time to come. The guys who maintain that kind of equipment is what is needed right now — a guy who can swap out a 4CX20,000 and retune the rig back to specs … a guy who can deal with a 12 kV power supply … a guy who can find a hum or distortion in an analog audio chain. Those are the guys who are needed much more than IT people right now. 

I just know that when my day comes and they’re lowering my box into the six-foot-deep hole, some GM is going to run up to the gravesite and say, “Pull him back up quick, our Continental 816 is off!”