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Society of Broadcast Engineers turns 40 with a celebration in Las Vegas

The Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) will celebrate its 40th birthday during the National Association of Broadcasters convention this year.

What started as a gathering of about 100 broadcast engineers at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago during the 1964 NAB convention, has grown to more than 5,500 members in 107 chapters today.

That first official meeting, April 5, 1964, came after several years of discontent over a merger between the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) and the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (now the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers or IEEE). Some felt the merged organizations would not serve the needs of the broadcast engineer well.

John Battison, the editor of Broadcast Engineering at the time, wrote an editorial suggesting the time had come to organize a new organization for broadcast engineers. The editorial received a favorable response but no one came forward offering to organize the new group.

Finally, Battison decided to do it himself, running an application form in his magazine. With help from his family, Battison wrote letters to more than 5,000 television and radio engineers in the United States and Canada. His efforts led to an informal meeting in Binghamton, N.Y., in the latter part of 1963, which led to the first official meeting of the Institute of Broadcast Engineers (IBE) at the NAB convention the following April.

The first official business of the organization was to change its name. Those in attendance felt there would be confusion between the new IBE and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and they didn't want their new professional organization to be confused with the union.

They voted at that very first meeting to change the name to the Society of Broadcast Engineers. Battison became the organization's first president. He is still active as a broadcast engineering consultant and writes a regular column that appears in Radio magazine, sister publication to Broadcast Engineering.

On the occasion of SBE's 40th anniversary, Battison reminisced, "The Society of Broadcast Engineers was conceived in my office in Washington, D.C., in 1961. It was born in 1964 in The Willard Room 'C' in the Chicago Hilton, courtesy of NAB, and today, on its 40th birthday, it is a strong and hearty force in broadcast engineering thanks to the members who followed after me."

"Since those small beginnings, SBE has grown in size and stature,” said current SBE president Raymond Benedict. “In response to industry needs, it has developed the most recognized and accepted certification program for broadcast engineers in the industry, quietly carried on an important volunteer frequency coordination service for the industry and has represented the interests of broadcast engineers with the FCC and other federal agencies.“

SBE members attending the NAB convention in Las Vegas this spring are invited to celebrate the SBE's 40th birthday during the SBE membership meeting at 5 p.m. April 20 in Room N110 of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

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