Early career in sound
In 1979 David joined the BBC as a technical operator in audio. “It was ideal,” he said. “I’d spent loads of time in recording studios, but I soon discovered that I enjoyed being behind the glass more than playing.
“The BBC was a fantastic employer and I learned a lot during the next 10 years. My main base was White City Television Centre. I did a lot of music recording, sitcoms and dramas, and outside broadcasts for sport. But the organisational structure was very flat; career progression in sound would have taken me away from my craft and into management, so I decided to move on.”
Global satellite broadcasting
David joined BSB as Head of Sound for the BSB Sports Channel in 1989, just as the satellite broadcasting industry was starting to take shape.
“We built a small TV station in Hammersmith and ran that for18 months,” he said. “In 1990, Sky and BSB merged to form BSkyB. Most of the staff moved to Sky’s Osterley site, but three of us stayed on to reconfigure the TV station as a post-production house for four current shows.”
Geostationary satellites enabled live broadcasting around the world. In 1995, when Premier League Football first started, David had a very hands-on role: “I had to organise how we would take the clean feed signals and add the graphics and commentary in modified studio control rooms.
“I was also responsible for arranging the satellite distribution of those signals worldwide – and for providing technical services at the football grounds to facilitate pre- and post-match interviews by overseas commentators.”
Technical and logistical expertise
In 2007 David joined his current employer: IMG[International Management Group], the world’s biggest independent producer of sport.
Five years later he managed the US $55 million fit-out of Stockley Park, which remains IMG’s main base in the UK. “I applied the flexible open office working’ idea to television post-production,” he said. “We also positioned the data centre in the middle of the building – it was very innovative at the time.”
Meanwhile, the arrangements for Premier League broadcasting were becoming increasingly complex. “To get to the point where we are now, with the season’s 380 matches all available, we had to build an entire contributions network. Hosting a channel full of Premier League content is a very, very big operation.”
The European Golf Tour is another massive logistical operation that falls within David’s remit. “We have a dozen vehicles on location, taking all the equipment onto the golf course, including 20 cameras, buggies, scaffolding and miles of cable. Sometimes the team broadcasts three matches simultaneously.”
Quest for excellence
In his SVP Global Director role, David has a 115-strong team, including three direct reports: Director of Engineering (engineering at StockleyPark and outside broadcasts); Director of Operations (studio and post-production); and Director of Technical Services (content distribution and contribution).
He continues to use his engineering knowledge and expertise to make sure that standards of excellence are upheld: “In broadcasting we say that if everything is 100% right, that’s just good enough. We’re looking for 99.999% uptime in all that we do, so we design everything in a highly resilient way.”
Continuing professional development
David recognises the value of continuous professional development (CPD). It’s why he went the extra mile to become an IEE member.
“Back in 1985 I was doing an Open University degree,” he said. “It wasn’t an accredited course, so I deliberately chose course modules that were relevant to electronics, to give myself the best chance of joining the IEE.
“For my honours I completed an extensive project on using time code to synchronise video and sound effects. I talked about it at length during my IEE interview – it must have done the trick because I was accepted as a member!”
David emphasises the importance of CPD to his staff and recommends IET membership as the ideal conduit. “The skill sets needed by broadcast engineers are changing all the time,” he said. “Keeping engineers abreast of the changes and suitably qualified is a constant challenge. IET membership provides a good way to make sure their personal development keeps moving in the right direction.”
IET Fellowship achievement
Having read about Fellowship on the IET website, David felt sure that his knowledge, experience and responsibilities in broadcast engineering would meet the eligibility criteria. He had a conversation with an ITF Fellow (a former IMG supplier) who offered to support his application. David applied in February 2021 and became an IET Fellow two weeks later.
“Achieving IET Fellowship gave me a feeling of elation,” he said. “It was similar to how I felt as part of the team that won a Bafta award for the 2012 Paralympic Games coverage. But it was also very different. Because this was something I had gained entirely through my own efforts.
“IET Fellowship gives me tangible benefits in terms of recognition. I remember the sense of achievement I had when I was first able to add MIEE and CEng to my business card. Those letters really mean something when I exchange business cards with other professionals. Knowing that I have an engineering background helps me to earn their respect and trust.
“Having FIET after my name really is the icing on the cake!”