What’s Top of Mind for APRE in 2016?

The new president tells Radio magazine about the organization's plans and goals
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ALEXANDRIA, Va.�At its annual conference in Las Vegas, the Association of Public Radio Engineers elected a new president and new members to its board of directors. �

The full board now consists of: Dan Houg, president; Jobie Sprinkle, immediate past president;�David Antoine, vice president; Victoria St. John, treasurer; Robert Carroll, secretary; Mike Starling, counsel; Shane Toven; Jonathan Clark; Alice Goldfarb; Daniel Mansergh; Pierre Lonewolf; Steve Johnston; John George; Rob Byers. � � � � � � � �

Radio recently caught up on the organization�s happenings with the new APRE president. Houg answered this Q&A via email; answers were edited for clarity. �

What were some of the highlights from this year's recent events?�

This year�s Public Radio Engineering Conference had a great roster of speakers and content that the included legal and technical aspects of LTE interference, updates from the Public Radio Satellite System and NPR, automation and traffic best practices, virtualization, software defined radios, codecs, disaster recovery, transmitter efficiency and more. We had an excellent Night Owl session arranged by Rob Byer from American Public Media where several manufacturers of loudness tools conducted an organized demonstration using public radio content to allow comparison between systems. The conference ends, as it does every year, with our APRE Awards Dinner. This is a fun cap to two days of sessions where station engineers and operations people, manufacturers, consultants, and sales representatives mingle over drinks and dinner prior to the awards ceremony.

This year, our APRE Engineering Achievement Award was presented to Ralph Woods, former NPR deputy director of Operations. For over 30 years, Ralph oversaw the daily activities of the Network Operations Center and worked on numerous projects to modernize the PRSS.

I'm also excited to welcome new board members John George (WUSC and RF Specialties), Steve Johnston (Wisconsin Public Radio), Pierre Lonewolf (Kotzebue Broadcasting) and Rob Byers (American Public Media) that were voted in during our annual meeting. Each of these individuals brings a wealth of experience, connections and talent to APRE that I'm proud to be part of.

What are the organization's goals for 2015-16? Do you have any specific goals as president?

The primary product APRE produces is the Public Radio Engineering Conference. Work has already begun on lining up course content for 2016, we are returning again to the Tuscany Suites April 14-15. In addition to the PREC, APRE is also involved with input to policy direction with the SBE, FCC and others. We have a fantastic working board of directors with diverse experience that works hard to produce the PREC.

My specific goals for the upcoming year are to put in place a scholarship mechanism to assist people in attending PREC whose station may not be able to afford to send someone. Additionally, I want to see our conference content lined up as early as possible so that technical staff can approach management early for budgetary approval to attend. As radio and broadcast engineering evolve, our board is keenly aware of the challenges facing technical staff with keeping existing plants going but also embracing future directions and technology, so we have a goal of balance between these two for our conference content.

The organization's motto/tagline is "Advancing the art and science of public radio engineering through research, education and public service."�How has this evolved and changed over the group's lifetime?�

Our mission statement is still current and remains unchanged. What has changed in a relatively few short years is how public radio engineering is defined. No longer is it just RF and studio, though RF has not diminished in importance while the studio evolves with more connectivity. Keeping abreast of how people consume media, including radio, is a topic of discussion at nearly every board meeting and is one of the determinants of PREC topics. Fortunately, the board is keenly aware of the evolution of media and the engineer� and as a small organization, we are good at adapting with these changes.

What are some pressing concerns for APRE? How is the organization working to address it?

As stations and radio itself evolves, we want to make sure that we are reaching all the technical people at the station. We not a group of �just engineers,� as operations people are also programming automation systems, digging into the Content Depot satellite system, using remote access, etc. Everyone involved with the technical operations of a station must have a skill set that includes some IT, programming and security. At the same time, there is a need for training on RF principles, microwave links, antenna issues, safety and construction, as I don't see anyone shutting off their radio station and going to another medium exclusively.

Our charge is to have a voice in policy as new rules are promulgated and spectrum changes are made while offering educational conferences that are pertinent and useful. Much is made of the cry �Where are the next engineers going to come from?�� but I see bright, sharp men and women already working within their respective stations and elsewhere. I think APRE can help stimulate and educate those same people to stretch their skill set to take on some of those classic engineering duties.