David Burke

This year’s Technology Leadership Award winners all cite the importance of building new technology cultures within TV companies to navigate the rapidly changing business. But the importance of melding traditional TV engineering skills with information technologies is particularly evident in the career of David Burke, Raycom Media’s top technologist.

After graduating from The Citadel in 1983, Burke went into the Air Force for nine years, where he honed his skills in information technologies. He moved back into the private sector, with IT posts for a defense contractor and then KinderCare before landing a job in the Montgomery, Ala., headquarters of Raycom Media in 1997 as director of management information systems. At the time, Burke knew little about broadcast or video technology and most TV companies maintained separate IT and broadcast engineering departments. But Burke’s mentor and Raycom’s top technologist Dave Folsom, a 2005 Tech Leadership Award winner, was an early proponent of bringing IT tech expertise into their operations.

“Dave Folsom was a visionary in putting IT under engineering so that all the synergies and evolution of IT and broadcast technology that we’ve seen in the last 10 years could happen,” Burke said. “Today, all these new services like OTT depend on connectivity. Even in the traditional engineering area everything has an IP address and some sort of connectivity, which has really changed even traditional engineering areas like master control and playout.”

Since taking the top tech job in 2015, Burke has continued to push that philosophy forward with a number of major projects. Raycom now has a private network connected to all its stations, of which have standard IP addressing. “It sounds very mundane, but it enables us to implement a new technologies or platforms fairly quickly,” Burke noted. With connectivity to important to all of its operations, Raycom has also established robust backup systems to maintain connectivity. “If you lose the internet circuit, the stations die,” he said.

Burke has also been working overtime to plan for the repack of 22 of Raycom’s stations, has been an active supporter of ATSC 3.0 and has helped the company’s stations start using drones for their news operations.

“He has not only kept Raycom Media ahead technologically [with] transmitters, cameras, editing equipment, software, studios, master control and traffic centers, but his ideas and insight have contributed to each and every department and the continued growth of Raycom Media,” Raycom Media president and CEO Pat LaPlantey said of Burke.

One example is news. Working with the Canadian company VideoShip, Raycom’s private network allowed its stations to take any other station live for breaking news coverage. It also uses Bitcentral’s Oasis platform to let stations easily exchange news stories. “David’s leadership on technology and workflow ideas have helped us meet our audience’s interest for continuous content across various screens,” Susana Schuler, executive VP of content and operations at Raycom Media, said.