Recently, the SBE sent out a press release announcing the renewal of its contract with the National Football League to provide game-day frequency coordination services for the 2007/2008 football season. The one-year renewal marks the ninth year of the partnership.
Frequency coordination is critical to the smooth operation of any event that involves broadcasters, team communications and public safety. I should know; I worked for two years as the frequency coordinator of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
So it’s a good thing that SBE is involved in Game Day Coordination (GDC) for the NFL? From the surface it may seem so, but let’s take a closer look.
Share the wealth
The NFL is not a poverty-stricken entity. They receive $3.1 billion each year from network broadcasters for television rights. The television networks make hundreds of thousands of dollars for each commercial they air. Football players often get millions of dollars each year to play.
It would seem reasonable that SBE Game Day Coordinators, who play a critical role in the smooth operation of the event and broadcast, would be paid well too. But they aren’t. These individuals are virtually donating their services to the NFL and the broadcast networks.
Sure, they get a parking space, gas money and maybe a free hot dog, but they are not being paid a professional rate; and this is with the blessing of our professional organization, the SBE.
What about other professionals? Do the NFL team doctors work for free parking and hot dogs? NFL team lawyers? Accountants? How about the network TV directors, TDs, camera people, runners, etc?
No, they are all paid appropriately, as professionals should be. Why then does SBE subsidize the deep-pockets NFL?
A college engineering professor of mine once told me that an engineer does not give away his/her professional services. It is in the best interest of a profession that the professional be paid and paid well. It also is a core principal in the SBE Canon of Ethics, cited in Section 21:
“The Broadcast Engineer will uphold the appropriate and adequate compensation for those engaged in broadcast work … as being in the public interest and maintaining the standards of the profession.”
It seems that the SBE leaders who first implemented this policy hadn’t read the SBE code of ethics nor have any concern for the standards of the profession.
The SBE policy of volunteer coordination also takes work away from people who do it for a living. When I worked on the non-profit Olympics, I was paid well for something the SBE does for free. Why then does the SBE provide free professional services in competition with its own members?
Does the American Medical Association practice medicine? Does the American Bar Association practice law? Does the National Society of Professional Engineers offer engineering services in competition with their members?
No, because these organizations understand the scope of their organization and operate in the best interest of their membership.
The SBE should be the last organization to support the current policy of subsidizing the super-wealthy, for-profit NFL by offering free engineering services. It makes no business sense. It makes no ethical sense. It makes no professional sense.