Wayne Pecena, president of the Society of Broadcast Engineers, has announced that long-time general counsel for the SBE, Chris Imlay, has shared his plans to retire from that position at the end of 2021. Chris has worked with the SBE since 1980, and has been the SBE’s general counsel since 1993.
While his legal career began in 1975, Chris began practicing communications law in 1979 when he joined the firm Booth and Freret. His first SBE project in 1980 was the SBE’s effort to administratively appeal the FCC decision to eliminate the First Class Radiotelephone License. SBE President Bob Jones retained Chris’ mentor, Bob Booth, for the work, and Booth assigned the task to Chris. After that, between 1981 and 1984, he was invited to attend SBE board meetings and provided reports when asked about pending FCC regulatory issues. In 1984, SBE President Roger Johnson retained him as SBE communications counsel. In 1993, SBE President Rick Farquhar arranged for the Board to confer on Chris the general counsel title.
On making the announcement, SBE President Wayne M. Pecena said, “Chris Imlay has been a valuable resource for and asset to the SBE over the past 41 years. He has also been a staunch advocate for the SBE’s goals and objectives. He is a tough act to follow.”
Chris was a partner with Booth, Freret and Imlay from 1981 to 1995, president of Booth, Freret, Imlay & Tepper, P.C., from 1995 to 2014, and managing member, Booth, Freret & Imlay, LLC, 2014 to present. His practice has been limited to federal communications law. He has represented licensees and associations of communications users, especially technical and electronic communications associations, electronic equipment manufacturers, colleges and universities. In addition to the SBE, his clients include JVCKenwood USA Corporation; the National Football League; NASCAR; Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company; Robert Bosch, GmbH; Broadcast Sports International; numerous television and radio broadcast, common carrier, and private wireless licensees of the FCC; video production companies, automobile racing event sponsors and motor speedways; and manufacturers of communications and electronic equipment. From 1981 through 2018 he served as general counsel for ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio.
During his time with the SBE, Chris has worked with 22 SBE presidents. He was elected a Fellow of the SBE in 1997. Chris says that this remains the most important honor he has been given during his professional career. He has served as president of the Foundation for Amateur Radio, and in 2021 was inducted into the CQ magazine Hall of Fame for his work for the ARRL.
While Chris is relinquishing his SBE responsibilities, he will continue to work part-time for long-term clients as he winds his practice down. Reflecting on his career, Chris said, “I have, generally speaking, been a down in the trenches communications lawyer. I have valued my work with the SBE, as it has allowed me to do what I do best: defending spectrum allocations of clients and participating in technical regulatory proceedings. I have always been most comfortable working with broadcast engineers.”
The SBE will begin the process to find a replacement communications counsel. The SBE plans to retain an Indianapolis attorney for association business matters. It has already been decided that the duties performed by Imlay will be split.