Broadcast’s Bread and Butter

I’ve often joked that you practically have to be a historian to be a broadcast engineer, at least in North America. May 12, 2017

I’ve often joked that you practically have to be a historian to be a broadcast engineer, at least in North America.

Every day, I deal with technical anachronisms that would leave many shaking their heads in the second decade of the 21st century. Digital modulation schemes are ubiquitous, and “amplitude modulation” and “frequency modulation” are not well known to those just getting in to radio (excuse me — wireless transmission) today.

From a practical standpoint, with so much of this older technology in everyday use, there remains a need for people who know it well enough to keep it going, and thus we do our best to provide resources for those who find it interesting, and those who are just learning now.

One often hears that there are few ways for disc jockeys to get trained and to build on successes and experience, since many small and medium markets rely heavily on satellite-based programs or voice tracks from larger-market stations. There’s a parallel inside the engineering community, as well; with consolidation has come reductions in the overall numbers of radio engineers needed — at least, that’s the paradigm we’ve been working with for the last 20 years.

Perhaps the real problem, though, is that radio certainly lacks glamour, at least compared to the dot-com world. Interestingly, I still find quite a few younger people who like the business and who want to advance in it and build careers.

For those reasons, Radio magazine is doing our best to present information that is interesting and useful for all readers, including those just starting out in the business. This “old” technology remains our bread and butter, even as we spend more and more space on digital systems. To that end, we have articles this month that should prove useful to beginners. Veterans will find them interesting, as well.

Jeremy Ruck discusses the bane of many a radio engineer: a bad monitor point for an AM directional. Just what approach do you take when one of your monitor points stubbornly remains above its limit? Mr. Ruck describes, point by point, the way to handle it. I’ve been doing this a long time, and I found this article especially enlightening.

In Tech Tips, we finish out our series on troubleshooting. This is becoming a lost art, but we’re doing our best to keep it alive.

And in Sign Off, the Wandering Engineer discusses yet another lost art — the composition of technical manuals. “Years ago,” technical manuals not only described what the gear did, but why and how. There was a lot to be learned. To a large extent, that content is missing today.

Growing up on the West Coast, and driving at night (home from work no doubt), I remember hearing what was practically a beacon on the AM band — KTNN blasting in on 660 kHz. The Navajo Nation has expanded their broadcasting facilities over the years, having added a couple of FMs, and recently, they built a beautiful new facility. This month we’ll tell you all about it in our Facility Showcase.

We’re not all about technical history, as many readers know; we’re also about keeping you up to date on the latest radio technology. This month, we did some research in to the many, many IP codecs that are available now, and we’re sharing what we learned with you. This article will give you a good reason to hang on to this month’s issue. May I suggest you put it on the shelf when you’re done reading it?

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