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The SBE: A Year in Review

A busy schedule watching out for the interests of broadcast engineers

It was just over a year ago that I took the reins as president of the Society of Broadcast Engineers. Past President Barry Thomas, CPBE, CBNT, tried to prepare me for what was to come, and did his best. Let me tell you, it is indeed a busy job being the SBE president.

Vinny Lopez Shortly after the SBE National Meeting last year, Executive Director John Poray, CAE, General Counsel Chris Imlay and I traveled to Washington to talk to the Federal Communications Commission about two topics: Clarity Media, also known as “trucker TV,” and TV white spaces.

We spent two days meeting with staffs of each commissioner’s office and got some mixed responses. We knew the white spaces issue was going to be a long shot and indeed a ruling has come down on that. Clarity Media is still out there, with its fate unknown at this point.

Staff support

In early 2010, we were contacted by a staff member in Sen. Olympia Snowe’s office requesting support of a bill that the senator was authoring, S.2881, “The FCC Commissioners’ Technical Resource Enhancement Act.”

The bill would authorize each FCC commissioner to add an engineer or computer scientist to their staffs. Since this has been an SBE legislative agenda item for 20 or so years, we quickly agreed to support it and help out by garnering further congressional support.

Imlay and Thomas, now chair of the SBE Government Relations Committee, visited Capitol Hill, trying to drum up a sponsor of a companion bill on the House side.

Barry and Chris visited the offices of several representatives and met with their staff members. We received news shortly thereafter that a companion bill, H.R.4809, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Jerry McNerney, D-Calif. The society began a campaign asking our members to contact their representatives and senators to encourage their support for the bills.

Unfortunately, the House bill stalled, due exclusively to unfortunate infighting between Democrats and the Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Even though neither party apparently has any problems with the provisions of the bill, the delay probably will doom it for this term. If the bills do not get to a floor vote, we plan on working with Sen. Snowe and Rep. McNerney to get the legislation reintroduced in the next session of Congress.

Forum? What forum?

In mid-June, we learned that the FCC was convening a Broadcast Engineering Forum to discuss broadcast engineering issues related to the commission’s Broadband Plan. We were dismayed to find that the SBE had not been included on the invitation list to the forum.

We submitted an open letter to Julius Genachowski, chairman of the FCC, expressing our concern that the commission would convene a “broadcast engineering forum” and not invite the singular organization that represents broadcast engineers with more than 5,500 members and a long and positive history of working with the FCC.

SBE University is an expanding initiative of the society. The day after receiving our letter, we were contacted by the FCC, which invited our participation. SBE Vice President Ralph Hogan, CPBE, DRB, CBNT, and board member Joe Snelson, CPBE, 8-VSB, participated in the forum as representatives of the society.

Besides being involved in legislative matters, SBE has increased its educational activities and programs in the past year. More than 200 people registered and have taken at least one online SBE University course. We added the course “Computer Networking for Broadcast Engineers” and it has been very successful, with 83 enrolled thus far.

Ennes Workshops were held in south Florida; Las Vegas; El Paso, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.; Dallas; and San Diego, with cumulative attendance of more than 400. As I write, the final workshop of the year, in Worcester, Mass., is pending.

Another big change occurred in August, when the SBE Leadership Development Course was presented in Atlanta. New instructor Rodney Vandeveer of Purdue University led a class of 25 participants, the largest since SBE began presenting the program in 1997.

SBE also presented many online webinars, including the Leadership Development Webinar Series, Event Frequency Coordination, Human Factors in Broadcasting, Maximizing HD and 1080p/60 Cable Performance, EAS Update for Broadcasters and ATSC Mobile DTV. More than 275 people participated in the EAS webinar, which was free to attend.

In retrospect, we at SBE have had a very busy and productive year. The SBE staff, board of directors and officers have really gone above and beyond in service to our members. It is our passion, our dedication to broadcast engineering and our spirit that drives us. So, how can the SBE help you in the future?

Vinny Lopez, CEV, CBNT, is president of the Society of Broadcast Engineers. Radio World welcomes other points of view.