W3BE'S BE Informed!
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BE Informed No. 3.6

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No Broadcasting!

Not On Our Ham Bands

  John B. Johnston W3BE 

Q. I have been under the impression that we were allowed to engage in only two-way communications. We all know, however, there are broadcasting operations on our most popular ham bands. Is it now permissible for an amateur station to broadcast?

A. Nope, no broadcasting on our ham bands. Section 97.113(b) says: An amateur station shall not engage in any form of broadcasting, nor may an amateur station transmit one-way communications except as specifically provided in these rules; nor shall an amateur station engage in any activity related to program production or news gathering for broadcasting purposes, except that communications directly related to the immediate safety of human life or the protection of property may be provided by amateur stations to broadcasters for dissemination to the public where no other means of communication is reasonably available before or at the time of the event.

   Section 97.3(a)(10) defines the term broadcasting in the context of our amateur service as transmissions intended for reception by the general public, either direct or delayed.  Part 73 contains the rules that apply to all AM, FM and TV broadcast services, commercial and noncommercial. Part 15, moreover, sets out the regulations under which certain intentional radiators - such as the ubiquitous garage door opener - may be operated without an individual license. It also contains the technical specifications, administrative requirements and other conditions relating to the marketing of such devices. Countless consumer electronic short-range intentional radiating devices - such as nursery-room monitors and wireless microphones - are available to us because of Part 15.  

   What you are probably hearing are our amateur service one-way communications. Section 97.111(b) authorizes an amateur station to transmit certain types of one-way communications. Paragraph (6) therein expressly authorizes one-way transmissions necessary to disseminate information bulletins and Section 97.3(a)(26) defines an information bulletin as a message directed only to amateur operators consisting solely of subject matter of direct interest to the amateur service.

Q. In their 2014-2018 question Element 2 pool question T1D12, our VEs assert that Section 97.111(b)(4, 5, and 6) authorizes an amateur station to engage in broadcasting when transmitting code practice, information bulletins, or transmissions necessary to provide emergency communications. So, the VEs insist broadcasting is allowed. 

A.  Nope. No broadcasting means no broadcasting. This section, in fact, says:


   (b) In addition to one-way transmissions specifically authorized elsewhere in this part, an amateur station may transmit the following types of one-way communications:


      (4) Transmissions necessary to providing emergency communications;

      (5) Transmissions necessary to assisting persons learning, or improving proficiency in, the international Morse code; and

      (6) Transmissions necessary to disseminate information bulletins.


   The above, therefore, is a defective answer to a misleading question. The applicable rule is Section 97.113(b). It says, in pertinent part: An amateur shall not engage in any form of broadcasting. Section 97.3(a)(10) defines the term broadcasting as: Transmissions intended for reception by the general public, either direct or relayed. VEs are advised to refrain from administering defective questions or accepting incorrect answers such as this lest it help perpetuate misunderstanding.

   If you are a frustrated broadcaster wanna-bee, consult Low Power Broadcast Radio Stations. It contains an assemblage of general information to answer some of the more commonly received questions received at the FCC on the subject of starting a "low power" or "micro power" radio station for local AM or FM broadcasts. 

Q. Is it true that club stations can employ professional communicators for their hamcasting?

A. To some extent, yes. Section 97.113(a)(3) prohibits generally the transmission of communications in which the station licensee or control operator has a pecuniary interest, including communications on behalf of an employer, with the certain exceptions.  Among these, paragraph (iv) says: The control operator of a club station may accept compensation for the periods of time when the station is transmitting telegraphy practice or information bulletins, provided that the station transmits such telegraphy practice and bulletins for at least 40 hours per week; schedules operations on at least six amateur service MF and HF bands using reasonable measures to maximize coverage; where the schedule of normal operating times and frequencies is published at least 30 days in advance of the actual transmissions; and where the control operator does not accept any direct or indirect compensation for any other service as a control operator.

   By accepting compensation, these control operators obviously forego their status as an amateur, i.e., a duly authorized person interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest. They also forego all rights to accept any direct or indirect compensation for any other service as an amateur station control operator.

Q. May an amateur station transmit music?

A. Not in compliance with Section 97.113(a). It says No amateur station shall transmit: (4) Music using a phone emission except as specifically provided elsewhere in this section. It is referring to Section 97.113(c) which says: No station shall retransmit programs or signals emanating from any type of radio station other than an amateur station, except propagation and weather forecast information intended for use by the general public and originated from United States Government stations, and communications, including incidental music, originating on United States Government frequencies between a manned spacecraft and its associated Earth stations. Prior approval for manned spacecraft communications retransmissions must be obtained from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Such retransmissions must be for the exclusive use of amateur radio operators. Propagation, weather forecasts, and manned spacecraft communications retransmissions may not be conducted on a regular basis, but only occasionally, as an incident of normal amateur radio communications.

Q. Section 97.113(b) says: An amateur station shall not engage in any form of broadcasting. Yet some repeaters have the capability to automatically rebroadcast weather alert transmissions from the U.S. Weather Bureau 162.MHz channels. Where that is authorized in Part 97?

A. There is the exception in Section 97.113(c). Note that such retransmissions must be for the exclusive use of amateur radio operators. They may not be conducted on a regular basis, but only occasionally, as an incident of normal Section 97.3(a)(4) amateur radio communications. An example might be to alert Section 97.103 station licensees of severe oncoming weather in time so they can take action to protect their antenna structures.

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February 23, 2016

Supersedes all prior editions