Opinion: SBE’s DRB Is OK

When you hear the word “importer,” do you conjure a trans-national corporation that traffics in foreign cars, beers and cheap watches?
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When you hear the word “importer,” do you conjure a trans-national corporation that traffics in foreign cars, beers and cheap watches?

If so you’re probably not yet a candidate for the newest specialist certification of the SBE. If however you hear the word “importer” and picture a device in the HD Radio air chain that contains hardware and software that deliver Advanced Application Service data to an Exporter/Exciter, you may be qualified to put the initials DRB after your name.

The SBE has moved quickly to create a Digital Radio Broadcast certification “following recent changes in the FCC rules recognizing the viability of digital radio and the official endorsement of multicasting,” as it stated in April.

We commend the engineering society’s National Certification Committee for this move, which recognizes the skill sets required to manage our industry’s quickly changing technical infrastructure. There are those in the community of radio engineers who resist change of any kind and particularly any change that implies acceptance of digital radio as it is being adopted in the United States. They will find something to criticize in SBE’s move. But the rest of us — unsentimental pragmatists as well as digital optimists — will acknowledge this move as a valuable one.

No doubt sensitive to the politics among its membership, SBE does not mention HD Radio by name in its announcement: “Digital audio broadcasting (DAB) enhances a broadcast licensee’s ability to not only better serve the public, but to provide means of additional revenue in this highly competitive industry. ... With this specialist certification, the engineer or technician carries the credentials needed for successful installation of digital radio transmission systems. The specialist certification will focus on the current in-band, on-channel transmission system being deployed in the U.S., and will be called the SBE Digital Radio Broadcasting Specialist.”

That wording leaves the door open to certifying engineers in any digital radio format, should trends change. However it’s clear that this step was taken in direct response to the radio industry’s ongoing adoption of HD Radio. We interpret this as SBE’s tacit acknowledgement that the HD Radio format is the most important technical shift happening in the industry and that — whether you are a huge HD Radio fan or somewhat of a reluctant participant — the transition cannot be ignored.

SBE will introduce the certification officially at its national meeting in October in Monroeville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. Specialists will have “knowledge of importers, exporters, the various methods of combining analog and digital transmitters to antenna systems, delivery of digital audio signals and data to transmitter sites, transmitter emission mask measurements, AM and FM FCC rules, monitoring of digital signals and bandwidth requirements for AM antenna systems.”

The society correctly states that digital audio broadcasting is different than traditional analog services. “An individual’s ability to certify his or her knowledge of the entire system rather than just a single part will bring confidence to both the individual and station management.” We commend the certification committee for this decision.

— RW

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