The Society of Broadcast Engineers or SBE is an organization that is supposed to further the art of broadcast engineering. Once upon a time I was a member, I attended meetings, got my Certified Senior Radio Engineer badge, I kept track of my professional development, and so on. As the decay advanced, I realized that the SBE looks and sounds good, but actually does little.
What are the issues facing Broadcast Engineers these days:
- Too much work. As consolidation changed the radio business, the engineering department was not immune to staff cuts. Add to this the increasing dependence on automation and computers to program and run entire radio stations from studio to transmitter as additional responsibilities.
- Lack of maintenance budgets. Particularly in this recession, money that should be spent on preventative maintenance is gone. The result, more reactive maintenance, off air incidents and the like.
- Lack of pay for increased hours. Goes with the above, more stations, more responsibilities, same or less pay and benefits.
- Lack of new talent in the radio engineering field. There is money to be made if you are a technical person, just don’t go into broadcasting.
- Lack of personal life. Being on call 24/7 for 20 years has taken it’s toll.
So what has the SBE done to alleviate these problems? Granted, most of them are management issues with the radio station staff, but has the SBE even tried to educate station owners and management. How about helping engineers learn how to negotiate pay raises? A better support network? Perhaps, (gasp!) some type of organized labor?
I know the more work for same or less pay is almost universal and is a contentious issue among fellow engineers, so much so that many have left to pursue other careers.
Then again, perhaps the radio engineer is a dying breed. Eventually, everything in a broadcast studio will be run by computers and distributed over the internet, so some type of computer guy could do the job. Broadcast engineers will have to re-invent themselves to stay in the field because I think terrestrial radio’s days are numbered. Eventually RF guys like myself could go work for the cellphone company, or go do something else.