Remember the days when the transmitter site was staffed around the clock by an entire crew of engineers, often wearing suits and ties as they rode gain on the audio and built their own parts to keep the station on the air?
(click thumbnail)John BissetNeither do most engineers these days, says John Bisset, northeast regional sales manager for Broadcast Electronics and Workbench columnist for Radio World newspaper.
“As the computer really becomes the radio station, you’re looking at the IT guy who basically runs things now,” Bisset said.
To help those IT-based engineers learn more about the RF side of their transmitter plants, Bisset is reviving the “AM/FM Transmitter Workshop & Breakfast” at the NAB Radio Show on Sept. 28, from 8 a.m.–noon. The workshop used to be a regular Radio Show feature but hasn’t been held in several years.
“NAB has received a number of requests to have something like this again,” he said. “This is focused for people who want a good refresher,” Bisset said, “or for studio engineers who are, frankly, scared of the transmitter site.” There are plenty of reasons to be wary if you don’t go there often — including high voltage that can be deadly around the wrong hands. One goal of the session, he said, “is to make sure they don’t touch anything they shouldn’t.”
The workshop will include a basic overview of how AM and FM transmitters operate, as well as common troubleshooting techniques and a checklist of steps to follow when heading out to a transmitter site during a crisis, which, too often, is the only time many engineers these days find themselves out there.
The session will include representatives from several major transmitter manufacturers offering overviews of their products. They’ll take part in a roundtable discussion and will be available to answer real-world questions from engineers attending the workshop.
Whether it’s a BE, a Harris or an old Collins sitting out in the transmitter shack, Bisset says one common mistake inexperienced engineers make is to fail to take advantage of the field support that transmitter companies provide. He says the sales price of a transmitter includes the cost of providing phone and even occasional in-person support over the life of the product, so when an engineer calls the transmitter company for help, “you’ve already paid for it.”
Bisset says the workshop will also include some basic discussion of the newer technology of HD Radio.
“There’ll be a little HD,” he says, “basically just some things to think about if you’re planning to go HD.”
But the meat of the morning’s session will be focused on good old analog radio, which still represents the majority of transmitter installations around the country.
All attendees will also receive a workbook to take back to their stations. Bisset says he hopes the workbook, which is sponsored, along with the breakfast, by Broadcast Electronics, will be a useful reference tool for engineers as they troubleshoot problems.