Watch where you step: At a past clinic, Leonard Charles gave a presentation titled “From Cow Pies to Contours: Building an AM Directional Array.” Colleague Gary Mach presented him and audience members with Cow Pies — the chocolate versions — to enjoy. In September of 1956, a group of 23 Wisconsin-based engineers decided to meet to discuss prevalent issues. Rain and cold forced them to conduct this meeting around a fire while cooking T-bone steaks, but they agreed that they should meet again the next year. And so they did — and have continued to do for another 58 years in what became known as the Broadcasters Clinic.
The 60th event in that series takes place this October. Run now by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association and presented in conjunction Wisconsin’s local SBE chapters, the event has come a long way since those humble beginnings — though we’re told that a group did reenact the first meeting, T-bones and all, this month. However, the goal remains to provide an opportunity for engineers to get together and share new and relevant information.
BEER & BRATS
“Our main focus with the clinic is to provide the information that engineers need, because they’ve faced so many challenges over the years with new technology,” said Linda Baun, WBA vice president.
Michelle Vetterkind, the association’s president and CEO, said, “We really see the engineering community as an integral part of broadcasting, to say the least … If you don’t have a thriving engineering community, what do you have?”
That is exactly what the three-day clinic — divided into radio, radio/television and television days — plans to continue this year.
(As of early September)
AJA Video Systems
Alpha Video & Audio Inc.
Belden Grass Valley
Broadcasters General Store
Cobalt Digital Inc.
Davicom Remote Control Systems
DJB Radio/Digital JukeBox
ENCO Systems Inc.
Electronics Research Inc.
FOR-A Corp. of America
Gorman-Redlich Mfg. Co.
Heartland Video Systems
Hitachi Kokusai Electric America
IHSE USA LLC
Jampro Antennas Inc.
Kathrein USA Inc.
Rohde & Schwarz
Sabre Industries Inc.
Society of Broadcast Engineers
Superior Broadcast LLC
Radio-related tech talks from manufacturers include discussions about liquid-cooled FM digital transmitters; network FM stereo composite connectivity; the FCC’s AM rejuvenation efforts; why distortion doesn’t always matter; optimizing combined AM antenna systems; adaptive multi-rate audio streaming; building IP audio networks; the impact of TV repack on radio; remote control and SNMP; engineering microwave links; and advantages of aluminum transmission line.
Kelly Williams, NAB’s senior director of engineering and technology policy, will lead a session titled “Technical Regulatory Update and Cyber Security for Broadcasters.” ATSC Committee member Jerry Whitaker is scheduled to speak on ATSC 3.0 status. A number of other sessions explore TV/video tech issues.
The clinic embraces its Wisconsin heritage and so it will have its traditional Beer & Brats networking session on the opening night of conference. (Expect much discussion of cheese curds.) Baun also hints at a number of surprises to help celebrate the 60th anniversary, but didn’t want to spoil the surprise.
Though this is thought of as a regional event — the Society of Broadcast Engineers feted it as the Best Regional Convention or Conference of 2015 — Baun says that the clinic’s reputation has grown in its six decades and it now draws from around the country. The agenda includes discussion of how issues affect Wisconsin broadcasters, but Baun said they don’t pigeonhole topics.
“It is all states. They are all going to face the repack, they’re all going to face the technical, the FCC updates, the cybersecurity. It’s everything that an engineer might want, from audio streaming to doing audio networking for radio and microwave links. Those aren’t just specific to engineers in Wisconsin; they’re specific to all engineers in broadcasting.” One frequent visitor comes all the way from Alaska, she said.
IF YOU GO
What: 2016 Broadcasters Clinic and Upper Midwest SBE Regional Meeting
When: Oct. 11–13, 2016
Where: Madison Marriott West, Middleton, Wis.
How Much: Three days $150, two days $130
Baun expects potential attendees will continue to sign up until opening day, but estimates that somewhere between 200 and 300 people will attend. She said the clinic was on track to fill up on exhibitors.
What keeps engineers coming back or experiencing the clinic for the first time in an age where information can be shared so easily over the internet? Baun was able to sum it up in two words: “In person.” The ability to be in the same room and discuss with your colleagues the trends and issues affecting the industry is “worth its weight in gold,” said Vetterkind. That is something that the WBA and its Broadcasters Clinic take pride in providing.