Earl Arbuckle

Military background helps Fox vet keep stations in line

When Fox Television Stations VP of Engineering Earl Arbuckle isn't working on getting the 27 Fox-owned stations fully ready for the analog shutoff or equipping them for local high-definition programming, he likes to unwind with some decidedly low-fidelity technology: tinkering with amateur radio equipment and communicating with ham radio operators across the globe via Morse code.

Arbuckle.jpgArbuckle's Morse code dialogues have reached users as far away as Japan and Russia. “Many of them don't speak English, but they can communicate via Morse code,” he says.

Technology's ability to bring people together has long been a focus of Arbuckle's, dating back to his days in the Navy. Arbuckle not only got hands-on experience as an electronics officer, but credits the military for solid management lessons. Among them: Respect goes up and down the chain of command, and persuasion is a much better motivator than simply barking out orders. “It helps to persuade people that what you want done is in their best interest, too,” he says. “You can't just tell them what to do.”

Those management skills have been essential in getting all the Fox stations ready for full DTV—a project he started late in 1998 and completed well before the original February deadline—and pushing to get the stations built out for local HD. The latter is half-done, Arbuckle says, and is essential to keep the Fox stations, such as WNYW New York and KTTV Los Angeles, competitive in their markets. “HD is not a novelty but an expectation [with viewers],” he says. “People migrate to the stations that have good newscasts, but also to those with good technical presentation.”

Fox Television Stations VP of Engineering and Systems Bob Murch, who's known Arbuckle for more than 30 years, says the group's technology couldn't be in better hands. “Earl is a brilliant engineer with innovative solutions and a great understanding of the technology of the business,” says Murch, who gives Arbuckle extra credit for pulling off DTV overhauls in major markets like New York. “He gets the most out of everybody, which makes for very successful projects.”