Is it time for a new engineering position in the broadcast industry?

“The Broadcast IT Engineer”

The impact of the Information Technology world has certainly been felt in the ranks of traditional broadcast engineering for several years. Whether radio or TV, the systems we depend upon daily have become or will become more of an IT looking environment than the baseband audio and video world that has embraced broadcast engineering for years.

Is it time for a new engineering position in the broadcast industry? Will the “Broadcast IT Engineer” become the new job title for the broadcast technologist of 2013 and beyond? Or maybe this already is the new engineering position and we have simply not fully acknowledged in our industry and our own career progression.

How does someone entering the industry obtain the knowledge and skills of broadcast engineering and IT to successfully accomplish the demands of this position?  Is an experienced IT professional better suited for this role by learning the traditional diverse broadcast engineering skills? Is an experienced broadcast engineer better suited for this role by learning the necessary and diverse IT skills?

Who is best suited for the coming norm of the broadcast plant in the “IT Cloud”?

What are your thoughts?

Wayne M. Pecena, CPBE, CBNE

SBE Board Member, Chair – SBE Education Committee

 Wayne’s views do not reflect those of the SBE, or its Board of Directors.

3 thoughts on “Is it time for a new engineering position in the broadcast industry?

  1. You bring up an interesting point…and one that bears directly on my own developed career path, which started in broadcast (back in the days when people knew what a 1st Phone was) to today, where I spend my time, out of the industry, in the IT and Network Architecture arenas. Would I trade the experiences of either for the other? No, but it would be great for those of us with the technical bent to be able to leverage the IT skills we have gained over the last 27 years in moving back into the broadcast arena.

    Both need a well-developed sense of humor (no doubt) besides the basic technical skills. But both professions need an intense love of the unknown, a wonder at what you can accomplish when you meld two (or more…let’s face it, RF, Audio, VoIP, etc., in the end, are about transmission of information) seemingly disparate practices into one cohesive whole.

    I sometimes wonder if, in the final third of my career, I could make the jump back to my first love. And that, at least for me, is the big question as I continue to follow the advances in broadcast transmission, studio/audio systems design, as well as the more esoteric skills (information security/assurance, high-availability, real-time control in my full-time job) . It may not be answered in my own career as it winds out, but, for those contemplating entering the business…not having the necessary insight into all of the disciplines you’ll find in today’s broadcast facility will be certainly a career-limiting move.

  2. You bring up an interesting point…and one that bears directly on my own developed career path, which started in broadcast (back in the days when people knew what a 1st Phone was) to today, where I spend my time, out of the industry, in the IT and Network Architecture arenas. Would I trade the experiences of either for the other? No, but it would be great for those of us with the technical bent to be able to leverage the IT skills we have gained over the last 27 years in moving back into the broadcast arena.

    Both need a well-developed sense of humor (no doubt) besides the basic technical skills. But both professions need an intense love of the unknown, a wonder at what you can accomplish when you meld two (or more…let’s face it, RF, Audio, VoIP, etc., in the end, are about transmission of information) seemingly disparate practices into one cohesive whole.

    I sometimes wonder if, in the final third of my career, I could make the jump back to my first love. And that, at least for me, is the big question as I continue to follow the advances in broadcast transmission, studio/audio systems design, as well as the more esoteric skills (information security/assurance, high-availability, real-time control in my full-time job) . It may not be answered in my own career as it winds out, but, for those contemplating entering the business…not having the necessary insight into all of the disciplines you’ll find in today’s broadcast facility will be certainly a career-limiting move.

  3. Wayne, you have hit on one of the big questions facing all of us in the broadcast engineering industry.

    Those of us that are department heads and hiring managers are faced with this as our current staff retires. Who indeed do we get to replace the “traditional” broadcast engineer? This is a discussion I have had with an IT friend.

    On the surface, it might look like you could train a strong IT professional to be a broadcast engineer. And that is absolutely the case when you consider how we move files around the stations and even our STL paths are more of an extension of IT networks.

    Then I consider the other things that broadcast engineers have to know and understand. We still have studio cameras, audio systems, production switchers, sync timing of the plant AV routers and lets not forget the transmitter.

    There is a lot of what B/Es do that an IT pro can help with or even take over, but I don’t want anyone from IT getting anywhere near my transmitters – other than to connect the exciter to the network.

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