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Engineers Gather at SBE National

New Freedom Award aims to recognize an individual or group who has performed extraordinary service to the US through media technology

COLUMBUS, OHIO — The Society of Broadcast Engineers scheduled its 2016 National Meeting to coincide with the Ohio Association of Broadcasters’ yearly engineering conference and, according to organizers of the combined events, the results were gratifying.

Jerry Massey Credit: James O’Neal

“The events of the SBE National Meeting and the Ohio Broadcast Engineering Conference presented by the Ohio Association of Broadcasters combined to make an excellent educational and recognition event for SBE members,” said SBE President Jerry Massey, who was elected to a second term.

“The attendance at the sessions and trade show was good, and the OAB event provided an excellent backdrop for the live webcast of the SBE Annual Membership Meeting and the awards dinner that followed.”

Some 180 radio and television engineers — many of them SBE members — journeyed to this central Ohio city of 850,000 from as far as Florida, California and Canada for two days of technical presentations, FCC policy updates, equipment displays, SBE business meetings and door prizes at the Greater Columbus Convention Center and the nearby Crowne Plaza Hotel.

While first day’s activities were limited to SBE Certification Committee and Board of Directors meetings, the following was filled with events beginning with a 7:45 a.m. SBE Fellows’ breakfast and wrapping up with an 8 p.m. awards banquet.

Richard Dyer Credit: James O’Neal

Thursday engineering conference sessions got underway with welcoming remarks from Richard Dyer, chairman of the OAB board of directors and president and general manager of Cincinnati’s WLWT(TV).

Dyer began his presentation with praise for the men and women in the broadcast engineering profession.

“We would be lost without our engineers,” he said. “You bring the broadcast magic to life. You are there doing everything that needs to be done to get the show on the road. You are like the EMS first responders at our radio and television stations.”


Next up was an hour-long update on FCC policies, directives and initiatives by Stephen Hartzell from the legal firm of Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard; Chris Imlay, who is a partner in the law firm of Booth, Freret & Imlay and the SBE’s general counsel; and Blake Thompson, chief engineer at WQKT(FM)/WKVX(AM), moderator for the discussion.

Near the top of the lengthy list of commission-related items was the recent nationwide EAS test. Hartzell noted that the FCC takes EAS-related matters very seriously and has been quick to issue notices of violation to broadcasters and cable system operators alike.

“It’s very important to file Form Three in a timely fashion,” said Hartzell. That form was due Nov. 14. “You have to file even if you had no problems in receiving and transmitting the national test. The FCC can issue a fine for not filing even if the test went fine.”

The panel also discussed the impact of the reduction of staff at the FCC, AM revitalization, pirate broadcasters and the continuing incursion into spectrum previously set aside for broadcasters, with Imlay commenting that “just about every allocation is threatened.”

Staff Sgt. Norman Portillo


The joint event saw the first presentation of an SBE award created to recognize an individual or group who has performed extraordinary service to the United States through the use of media technology.

Its 2016 recipient was Army Staff Sgt. Norman Portillo, recognized for his work in establishing an SBE chapter at his Ft. Bragg, N.C. post and for assisting individuals there in connection with SBE broadcast training and certification programs.

Portillo previously won the organization’s Educator of the Year Award. He was presented with the Freedom Award during the Oct. 27 wrap-up dinner event at which a number of SBE members and chapters were recognized for their contributions to the organization.

Society President Jerry Massey has a separate effort to promote employment in broadcast engineering for those leaving the military.

Michael Hendrickson was recognized with the Robert W. Flanders SBE Engineer of the Year Award, and Cheryl Lustenberger of the Performance & Production Center Television Studios at Emerson College received the James C. Wulliman SBE Educator of the Year honor. The dinner finale included a ceremony in which SBE members Jay Adrick, Wayne Pecena and Joseph Snelson were elevated to the grade of SBE Fellow.


Wayne Pecena explains the finer points of troubleshooting broadcast IP networks. Credit: James O’NeaL

Other activities at the joint SBE/OAB event included a day of simultaneous engineering presentations in the areas of radio, IT and video. The three tracks featured such industry experts as GatesAir’s Tim Anderson, Nautel’s Fred Baumgartner, the Telos Alliance’s Frank Foti, Broadcast Electronics’ Brian Lindemann and Dielectric’s Christine Zuba. Wayne Pecena, director of engineering of broadcast technical services at Texas A&M University, hosted the final technical session, “Troubleshooting the Broadcast IP Network,” which played to a nearly standing room-only audience.

The event also featured an equipment exposition, with more than 50 vendors including familiar names like Broadcast Electronics, Broadcasters General Store, Comrex, ENCO Systems, ERI, GatesAir, Jampro, Logitek, Nautel, NPR Satellite Services, RCS, SCMS, the Telos Alliance, Tieline and WideOrbit on site to display their products.

The 2016 meeting marked the SBE’s second time to partner with the Ohio Association of Broadcasters; the first was more than 10 years ago. SBE National Meetings have also been held with other state broadcasters’ associations during the past two decades. Next year’s will take place in Denver and will be held Oct. 25–26 concurrently with the Rocky Mountain Audio Video Expo at the Denver International Airport Crowne Plaza Hotel.