As broadcast technology keeps changing, the Society of Broadcast Engineers is keeping pace. In addition to recently-added certifications in areas such as AM directional arrays and 8VSB digital television transmission, SBE is preparing to introduce its newest certification program: Digital Radio Broadcast (DRB) Specialist.
“We’d been talking about it for a little while,” said Ralph Hogan, chairman of the SBE’s DRB Specialist Certification Committee and assistant general manager, engineering services, Washington State University/Northwest Public Radio. “But we decided not to act on it until just recently, because no formal FCC rulemaking had been made. Once the FCC put into place the rulemaking proceeding, we decided to go forward with it.”
The new specialty certification officially will be introduced at the SBE national convention in Pittsburgh, Oct. 10–11, but Hogan and SBE President Chriss Scherer will present information about it at the SBE Engineering Forum at The NAB Radio Show, Wednesday, Sept. 26.
“We’ll be going into some of the areas we’ll be covering in the exam, including some of the FCC rules, now that there are rules,” Hogan said.
Hogan notes that the timing of the announcement is nearly ideal, since the FCC’s new digital radio rules were published in the Federal Register on Aug. 15, to take effect Sept. 14. He says many stations have been waiting for the rules to be formalized before adopting HD Radio, and he expects the pace of converts to the digital radio system to speed up now that it’s official.
“It’s always hard to tell, but there are more and more stations getting interested in digital radio,” Hogan said.
While an official rollout schedule for the certification program has yet to be announced, Hogan said examinations for the specialty certification will likely be offered beginning with the January 2008 exam cycle offered through local SBE chapters. The examination will also be made available during the exam cycle at the NAB2008 show in Las Vegas. The exam will include 50 multiple-choice questions and one essay question, which will be covered in an updated version of SBE’s CertPreview practice-test software to be released later this fall.
“The exam is going to include 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,” Hogan said.
“It fits right in with the other specialists,” he added. “It builds upon the existing certification program, allowing those interested in a certain area to have specialty endorsements be added to their certifications.”
Hogan believes the new DRB specialty certification, which will be available to SBE members holding certification at the Broadcast Engineer, Senior Broadcast Engineer or Professional Broadcast Engineer certification level, will be valuable both to engineers and their employers, as they contemplate the expensive and somewhat risk-fraught move from analog radio into the digital world.
“There are a number of different ways you can put together a digital radio system, and it’s important to know the pitfalls,” Hogan said. “Having someone who’s gotten the specialist certification gives management the knowledge that that person is well trained in the field.”
While SBE shied away from specifying iBiquity’s HD Radio digital system by name in its initial announcements of the new specialist certification, Hogan says the FCC’s subsequent official endorsement of the system will be reflected in the questions on the exam.
“At this point, it’s just strictly HD Radio,” he said.