Television, Bailouts, Greed and Corruption. What gives? What's next?


My Name is Steven Brant.

I am a professional broadcast engineer and very proud of it and my accomplishments. I have over 30 years of engineering in broadcasting. I started in broadcasting at around age 13 working at a local radio station.

Have been in broadcasting all my life and still working. 

Went to college to study engineering and then returned to broadcasting. I received my First Class license while in college and received my ham radio license K8VII at age 10.

I grew up in the shadows of the Heath company and was mentored by several great men at Heath company in the ways of electronics. I went on to proof build all of the ham kits that Heath developed and gave reports to them on all the issues I found. I learned very early on how to be a troubleshooter and to identify problems AND to propose several solutions to the problem.

I started my professional career when I started working for Sarkes-Tarzian television now there was a great man. We really made television then.

I have been on both sides of the desk in broadcasting, in engineering as a Chief, a buyer and user and as a designer, developer and sales person to the broadcast industry. I know both sides very well.

Broadcasting started to make a turn for the worse when accountants and attorneys started to purchase and operate broadcasting systems.  I lived through several such buy outs. And one always knew when one was in the works, as budgets went away and parts for failing systems were not purchased.

All in an attempt to make the books look better. A false bottom if you will.

Then came the promise of High Def television. When actually the Japanese showed their analog hi def at NAB and got the computer guys all upset. This was when there was a huge demand for memory chips. While at one company, they were sending guys with empty luggage to far away places to purchase memory chips and bring them back to the U.S. And there were people here that viewed an all digital television system as requiring great masses of memory chips and wanted to build facilities in the U.S. and dominate the memory chip market.

At the same time with broadcast again on the ropes, the broadcasters were listening to a man named Gates who was promising them a better and more profitable future if you only put your content on the thing called the internet.

What was that?  More revenue? No extra expense? New found viewers?

Everyone believed Bill, after all, he had more money than us, and off we went in that new direction. (There’s gold in them there hills!, Note that most that went looking for gold in California died on the way and the one’s that arrived, never found their dream and died broke).

No one realized or even thought that Gates’ personal agenda was to boost software sales at MS and if it at the expense of broadcasting, oh well, more for me.

In the mean time these guys saw the analog hi def system as a threat and started to make plans to have an all American hi-def system. One that was a digital system, one that requires lots of chips and lots of software.

So how do they convince the broadcaster to move to such a system? They get congress and the FCC to believe they can make a lot of money from spectrum space by killing off broadcasting, after all we now have cable.

Remember, the trend at the time was to eliminate outside antennas and go with cable. Whole communities were passing zoning against outside antennas. Just the sight of a twin lead would send neighbors into a frenzy with phone calls to the local political person in charge and an investigation would be launched. And cable was lining the pockets of the city with franchise fees.

So cable became king and tv was being pulled behind, now broadcasting was going to be moved to a system that from the very start was being defined as a system requiring a 30 foot outside antenna for reception, and the FCC also decided to not regulate cable as they are not a broadcaster.

So the law was given and the dates assigned. The spectrum went up for sale. TV said we have never before paid for spectrum and want our channel space for free. (Bailout?) The FCC said ok, if you want it for free, you must agree to these terms (trap). The moment was at hand for broadcasting to once and for all actually OWN their own channel space and to be able to do anything they wanted with it. But no, the accountants wanted to spend not a dime.  As expected.

So flash to present day. We have put our content on the internet and have not made any money from that. It has cost us our position in the communities, our income from sponsors and even our government leaders who once flocked to the TV station to broadcast their message. 

Remember Christmas time? When was the last time your Mayor, Governor, Senator came to your station to wish your community a Merry Christmas?

The GM used to be a person of high ranking in the community, was a member of many community events and boards and was respected by all. 

The news folks were highly regarded, highly paid and respected in the community. They provided the truth as it should be known and were the watchdogs of business and government, greed and corruption. They provided a required balance, “What if the press gets a hint of this?”.

Engineers were the backbone of the station. These guys were up at all hours and made the impossible happen. Video from where? Yep got it covered.

TV sales people were viewed as a business solution provider.

Today news operations are shuttered, engineering standards eliminated, TV sales is a commodity item that is often put in as a value add to a tray liner or just overlooked. Or you have to add an expense paid vacation to the package to get a sponsor to sign up.

So here we are. After  hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars  invested in transmission systems, microwave, towers, antennas, transmitters, land, studios, cameras, air conditioning, power conditioning, emergency power systems, tape, servers, networks, satellites, trucks, cars, helicopters, airplanes, offices, furniture, payroll, computer systems, graphics systems, editing systems, set design, set construction, remote trucks,  fly away packages, buildings, security, telephone systems, traffic systems, sales promotions, local promotions, lighting systems, training and education, travel expenses, Olympic events, sports, special effects,  wells, bells and what the hell.

We now have a system that we want to put on the ‘net’ for free?

And at the same time we are seeing mass layoffs in the business, merging of facilities and operations, news, production, promotion, engineering and Gm’s being let go and a system that to be viewed you must have an antenna, when people do not want to put that up, and a competition that dictates to us the rules of the game and enforces those rules, and other competition that we ourselves have funded and developed, and we as broadcasters, just stood there unwilling to defend what we had, unwilling to defend what was ours and we allowed others to rate and value our (your) business without a fight, and allow others who have not invested one ounce of blood into our business tell us how we should run and operate our business. For the good of all.

We, you, listened to the fear mongers and believed it.

We believed our own press.

We lost our vision and bought another with hidden agendas and personal investments. My God, even our own professional political group, the NAB abandoned us in favor of our own competition.

We now stand before the destruction that we ourselves allowed to happen and wonder why and where is our business?

You tell me, is it too late to recover?  Fold the tents?

Or take back what was once yours.

Can be done,   takes guts,   drive and investment.

Should be nothing new to the broadcast community.

And the broadcast professionals who made it the great business it was are still there, are available, believe in the product and want to rebuild.
My name is Steven Brant.
I am an Engineer.
I grew up with this business.
I breathed, ate and slept this business.
I love this business.
I hate what we have done and allowed to be done to it.

M.A.S.H. is on at 6pm , Film at 11……

Steven Brant
[email protected]