As a former station manager and programmer I consider every day to be “Chief Engineer Day.” Specifically I am salute the engineers who are a “one man band” – the only tech at a station. The Chief Engineer (CE) is a vital part of your management and programming teams. If people can’t hear you, nothing else matters.
Unlike commercial radio, many public radio stations still have an engineer on staff, and I am glad they do.
The responsibilities of the job continue to expand.
Not only is the CE in charge of “RF” – the transmission of signals, today the CE is also working on streaming audio, reaching mobile devices and digital techniques for audio and video production.
Mike Starling, former VP of Engineering at NPR and now CEO of the Public Data Consortium and GM of WHCP radio in Cambridge, Maryland, put it this was in an interview a couple of years ago:
"We have deep respect for scientific accuracy and rigor. We don't put our name on a report to the FCC unless we are convinced it's rock-solid. We believe inculcating a process of critical engineering analysis is both a means and an end, that it helps to spot inflection points in the marketplace.”
But, Starling knows the job still entails mundane tasks such as rebooting the manager’s hard drive and fixing a glitch in a microphone cable.
According to the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE), annual salaries for radio a radio Chief Engineers (with 10 years experience) range from $38,000 to the low $100,000s. The national average is around $59,500.
PUBLIC MEDIA ENGINEERS STICK TOGETHER
Another advantage of being an engineer in public radio is the robust support provided fellow techs from around the country. APRE [link], the Association of Public Radio Engineers provides networking opportunities, access to upgrading technical skills and resource sharing. http://www.apre.us/
APRE is holding the 2018 Public Radio Engineering Conference (PREC) at the Tuscany Suites in Las Vegas on April 5th and 6th, immediately preceding the annual NAB Show. More info about the PREC is available here.
JOIN THE PUBLIC RADIO ENGINEERING FAMILY IN WICHITA
If you, or someone you know is qualified to be a Chief Engineer, consider this gig at KMUW, Wichita, Kansas. We’ve written about KMUW [link] previously. It is an up-and-coming public media shop with solid management, a new facility and a real sense of purpose.
KMUW is currently searching for a new Director of Engineering. The current CE, Jon Cyphers, was recently hired by NPR. The person who is chosen will work closely with KMUW’s GM and Director of Content to plan the future of the station.
Primary duties include overseeing daily broadcasting and IT operations, keeping KMUW in the loop about changing technology and maintenance of the station’s newly built facilities. The salary is “commensurate with experience.”
KMUW broadcasts at 89.1 FM with 100,000-watts and antenna height over 900-feet above average terrain from an antenna farm northwest of Wichita. Given the relatively flat terrain, this signal is truly awesome.
For more information and application specs click here.