Harris' Broadcast Division Divestiture—Some Corporate History

The announcement by Harris in its Fiscal 2012 Third Quarter Results that it had approved a plan to divest its Broadcast Communications business has already been widely reported. I thought it worth mentioning here, due to the critical role that Harris has served as a major, if not dominant, player in the U.S. TV transmitter and Mobile DTV areas.

Harris has yet to name a buyer of its broadcast business, although it did state, "Following the close of the quarter, the company approved a plan to divest Broadcast Communications. As a result, current and prior period financial results for Broadcast Communications will be reported as discontinued operations beginning with the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012."

This language indicates the divestiture will happen sooner rather than later. The Harris Broadcast division will join the many transmitter companies that have seen a change of ownership. Comark went through several changes, ending up as Thomson Broadcast. Another transmitter company, Axcera, was started by ex-RCA engineers under the name ITS. It was purchased by ADC and operated under their name until it was sold to an investment group and adopted the Axcera name. The transmitter business is difficult. Even some well established companies (RCA and Townsend are two that I remember) don't survive.

Harris Intertype purchased its transmitter division from Gates Radio in 1957 and used the Gates logo until 1975. A reprint of a Broadcasting article from Nov. 10, 1969 (the first link on the Gates Harris History Web page), says that Gates Radio was founded in 1922 by Parker Gates' father, Henry C. Gates, so his only son, a "wireless bug," would have a career in the field he liked most. The Broadcast Archive covers the history of Gates Radio, including its acquisition by Harris and criticism of Harris' effort to cut costs at the Quincy plant. There are also photos of the Gates and Harris transmitters--mostly radio.

Perhaps the new owners of Harris Broadcast will decide to return the Gates name to the venerable Quincy Illinois transmitter manufacturer.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.