Shown above, from left: Dan Houg, 2015 Engineering Award recipient Ralph Woods and Bruce Wahl of NPR. (Credit: Jim Peck, SCMS)
Dan Houg is the current president of the Association of Public Radio Engineers. He is also the chief engineer for Northern Community Radio with stations KAXE and KBXE in Minnesota. Houg participated this Q&A preview ahead of the 2016 PREC, which will take place April 14-15 in Las Vegas.
Radio magazine: You were elected president at last year's conference. What have you learned so far? And does your new experience inform your goals for 2016?
Dan Houg: First and foremost, I've learned what an incredible board of directors the Association of Public Radio Engineers has. It is truly a working board, they get things done and are a pleasure to work with. Being the president of a national organization but coming from a small rural station is both humbling and yet an opportunity to continue APRE in a direction that remains true to radio with a live person behind the microphone. Radio faces many challenges but the immediacy and accessibility of radio continues to be a strength.
Radio: The agenda looks full, as always. Are there any particular sessions that you're looking forward to or think will be especially interesting?
Houg: We have a great lineup of station case stories on station build out, remote control installs, and STLs. Additionally, manufacturers are bringing their expertise on SNMP control, remote codec optimization, virtualization, voice processing, and the latest from the Public Radio Satellite System and NPR.
Since many find the Q&A at the end of a presentation valuable, we've allotted more time for the audience to ask questions. This is a great opportunity to connect with the technical staff of manufacturers of broadcast equipment.
Radio: I've heard a rumor that there will be a live demonstration at the conference. Can you tell me about that?
Houg: Taking accurate spectrum analyzer measurements has personally challenged me. This year, Gray Haertig (Haertig and Associates) in cooperation with Nautel and Michael Leclair (WBUR) are doing a live demo taking harmonic measurements on an operating transmitter. This is important as FM stations are being challenged with claims of interference to the LTE/4G band.
Radio: The nominating period for the 2016 APRE Engineering Achievement Award has closed. When do you plan to announce the winner (and can you give us a hint)?
Houg: Ralph Hogan is this year's Engineer of the Year Award recipient!
We are selecting Ralph because he is the founding president of APRE and has recently rolled off the board due to term limits. It was his direction for many years that developed APRE into the established organization it is.
Ralph has held numerous positions during his more than three decades of service to public broadcasting, including assistant general manager, engineering services for Washington State University's Northwest Public Radio and Television and Academic Media Services; director of engineering for Boise State University Public Radio; chief communications engineer for KSLU(FM), in Hammond, La., where he installed public radio’s first touch-screen digitally controlled master control facility in 1986; and his current post as director of engineering for KJZZ(FM), KBAQ(FM) and Sun Sounds in Tempe, Ariz.
Additionally, Ralph has been at the forefront of broadcast engineering, serving as president and treasurer of the Society of Broadcast Engineers, a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, education chairman of the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society, and as a member the PBS Technology Advisory Committee.
Radio: Is there anything big on the agenda for the 2016 membership meeting?
Houg: The very last of the founding members of APRE will be rolling off the board. This is a key moment for any organization as the energy and talents of those founding people as passed onto the next generation.
Radio: The last scheduled event — a tour of the Atomic Museum — sounds really cool. It's billed as a night owl session — do engineers need to sign up ahead of time to participate, or can they decide last-minute if they're awake enough?
Houg: The Night Owl event is one of two opportunities for attendees to socialize, which given a room full of engineers and operations people is always a lively event despite portrayal in Gary Larson cartoons!
The Atomic Museum is within walking distance of the Tuscany Conference Center, and people can decide at the last minute to go, no reservations needed.
The Engineering Awards Dinner on Friday night is by reservation only (register at APRE.us) and really is not to be missed. This is an opportunity to share food and drink with your peers in the industry as well as broadcast equipment manufacturers. I've personally found the handshakes and laughed shared at the Awards Dinner can open direct lines of communication deep in the industry.
Radio: Any tips for attendees who want to maximize their first time at the PREC or in Las Vegas?
Houg: The PREC is a comfortable affair with dress anything from suits to jeans. Having a room full of key technical staff for station control and operation, it is one of those conferences where you won't be asked to turn off your cell phone! As everyone says, wear very comfortable shoes to the NAB Show floor, and may be the only place where wearing tennis shoes and suit together is normal.
My favorite thing to do in Vegas is rent a car and take a drive in the desert, Valley of Fire State Park being stunning.