The looming engineering shortage in radio

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The looming engineering shortage in radio

Postby kal » Fri Jul 15, 2016 9:30 am

This is from an American publication but may provoke some discussion on this side of the border as well.


There’s something we’ve been talking about in the industry for years – it’s the lack of new Engineering and Technical talent. We all know the problem is there. We know that it’s already a big problem. The issue is we keep waiting for someone to do something about it.


I know of two small market stations that were off the air for an entire day. One of them was repaired and put back on the air at full power. The other was patched up and ran at 20% power for almost two weeks. How do I know this? Because I’m the reason they were hobbled for so long. You see, I have a full time job managing the technical operations for six large market stations. Those are my primary responsibility. The two small stations have no Engineer. The only contract guy in the area retired several years ago. I got a call from the station owner one morning after one of them went off the air. He told me there was nobody else to call. I helped him out, and agreed to do what I could until he found a local Engineer. Two years later, he’s still looking.

End of excerpt.
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Re: The looming engineering shortage in radio

Postby radiofan » Fri Jul 15, 2016 9:36 pm

It's getting harder and harder to find engineers that know and understand AM transmitters.

FM sites are much easier to work with and much less maintenance.

Most radio engineering grads the past several are great at IT issues, but don't have a clue how to make an AM TX sound good.

Ever wonder why most AM stations now sound like mud?

A great engineer is now as vulnerable as a poor Morning Show host when it comes to budget cuts and belt tightening.

Like many other areas of radio today, there's no desire to train for a job that has no future.
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
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Re: The looming engineering shortage in radio

Postby skyvalleyradio » Sat Jul 16, 2016 2:52 pm

it's not just AM stations that sound like crap, radiofan. You're quite right that an AM operation is much more complicated, requires more maintenance and a competent engineer to achieve maximum performance. However, trying to set up and maintain an FM operation requires a skilled technician which some owners seem to ignore. The IT folks now expected to handle "engineering" have no idea how to set up an audio processor properly, nor own and use tools such as an oscilloscope, spectrum analyser & modulation monitor. IC (or whatever they're called) requires FM broadcasters to limit their modulation to 75%. Over-modulation can create sideband splatter plus interference and reduction of coverage by adjacent channel signals, possibly harmonics which could restrict aircraft VHF communication - a fact most IT types have no clue about or how to even achieve. Yet owners seem to think the IT folks can do technician work without proper training, skill & expertise. Why bother to train for positions some owners consider redundant & the first to get cut when the financial shit hits the fan?
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Re: The looming engineering shortage in radio

Postby jon » Sat Jul 16, 2016 7:41 pm

On the positive side, I was amazed and pleased to discover, just a few minutes ago, that SAIT in Calgary actually has a broadcast engineering 2 year diploma program. A friend and I recently had a discussion about the lack of broadcast engineering programs at UBC and UofA in our days there, and neither of us were aware of any program currently being offered. A quick check of BCIT in the last hour did not turn up anything either.

Here is what SAIT offers:
Broadcast Systems Technology

The Broadcast Systems Technology (BXST) program is a unique program and prepares you for employment installing and maintaining electronic and computer based equipment for the Broadcast industry. You will discover how to maintain and repair broadcast equipment as the electrical signal flows from the source through the audio and video mixing consoles to the station's link to the transmitter and then to your home. You may also be involved in the design of facilities. You will also acquire professional and business skills and learn comprehensive technical applications that will help you achieve a great career in the broadcast industry.

Your Career

Opportunities exist in many areas, including television and radio broadcast stations, systems and networks, post-production facilities, educational television and audiovisual systems, equipment manufacturers (technical field support) equipment sales and communications providers. Career progression may lead to employment as assistant chief and chief station engineers.

There is a major migration from analog systems to digital audio and video systems with the most prominent being High Definition Television (HDTV). It is common to have facilities that employ both analog and digital systems or just one or the other. The broadcast industry is now enhancing the delivery of content through streaming audio and video over the Internet.

Graduates of the Broadcast Systems Technology program have a 100% employment rate.

Student Success

Characteristics of a successful student in this program include:

Enjoy keeping up-to-date on new technological developments, continue to take training and enjoy learning new skills.
Are able to manage their time and work effectively while facing deadlines.
Able to work independently with little supervision but can also perform as a vital member of a team of professionals.
Pay attention to detail and take personal pride in their technical problem-solving skills.
A working knowledge of the MS Office Suite would be an asset.
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Re: The looming engineering shortage in radio

Postby Dave L » Mon Jul 18, 2016 9:47 am

skyvalleyradio wrote:The IT folks now expected to handle "engineering" have no idea how to set up an audio processor properly, nor own and use tools such as an oscilloscope, spectrum analyser & modulation monitor..... Why bother to train for positions some owners consider redundant & the first to get cut when the financial shit hits the fan?

I couldn't agree more. Things like a waveform monitor, scope, SWR meter, dummy load and even a Bird meter with the correct elements are expensive tools. I've had mine for eons, but remember them being considerable investments, even used. There's no way the average IT person can afford these tools, no less operate or maintain them properly. Owners certainly are not in the mood to buy them. I've gotten into protracted arguments over pennywise pound foolish owners over the simplest of equipment, like CD players, phone patches or multi-meters, no less proper analytical instruments. I was even refused light bulbs for a control board in one budget.

Tofino's transmitter went down after I was long gone, but the owner had the day man re-install the replacement out of the box. No SWR match, no pattern analysis, no ERP check. He couldn't tell me whether it was 1 watt or 100 watts. He didn't seem concerned other that what he was told to do. All this on a downgraded to mono line, running from one half of the compressor. "Sounds fine to me" is not an IC standard, but seems to be the norm nowadays.

Even IT people are falling by the wayside to volunteers or bean counters.

Anyway, it's always good to hear from venerables like yourself and others on this board.
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Re: The looming engineering shortage in radio

Postby the-real-deal » Mon Jul 18, 2016 11:17 pm

What this thread discussion does is expose the darker side of the commercial radio broadcasting business.

The reality is that the business is not for poor folk and certainly not for "cheap" rich people, either.

It takes eons of cash and deep pockets to start up even a modest radio station and such rich folk are getting harder to find.

Engineers with the "P ENG" designation charge upwards of $ 300.00 an hour for their work or more, and only the wealthiest of Canadians can afford them.

But, like them or not, all engineers need to get paid, because without engineers, your radio station is f*cked !

However, when you also factor in wages, rent, overhead, socan fees, accountant fees, and taxes, there isn't a hell of a lot, left, to pay that $ 300.00 an hour engineer who has the oscilliscope, the spectrometer, plus the $ 10,000 dollar computer software program that can give a proper spectrum analysis.

Little wonder that, in 10 years time, only five to seven large corporations will likely own all commercial Canadian radio and television.

Meanwhile, the rich and powerful, along with the CRTC, will continue to sleep in the same bed, together, as they have for decades ?
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