W3BE'S BE Informed!
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BE Informed No. 4.6

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What Is So Special About a

Special Event Station?

John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. What is so special about a special event station?

A. A Section 97.3(a)(11)(iii) special event station is a Section 97.5(a) amateur station transmitting during an over-the-air celebration of an event having exceptional meaning to our amateur service community. Such special events might include a wide variety of festivities such as conventions, festivals, dedications, anniversaries, and local happenings. During the event, the special event station conducts two-way radio exchanges with other amateur stations. Typically, some form of record-of-contact confirmation – often a novel postcard size QSL document – is subsequently furnished to those stations with which radio exchanges took place.

   In places where the FCC is our regulator, an easily recognized special event station call sign can be obtained temporarily for substitution in the Section 97.119(a) station identification announcement in place of the FCC-assigned call sign. Section 97.119(a) says: Each amateur station, except a space station or tele-command station, must transmit its assigned call sign on its transmitting channel at the end of each communication, and at least every 10 minutes during a communication, for the purpose of clearly making the source of the transmissions from the station known to those receiving the transmissions.

   A special event call sign, therefore, is a tool than can be used to call attention "on-air" to the station’s participation in the event as well as helping to bring more notice to the event. It has a unique 1-by-1 format that alerts listeners to fact that it is a special event station seeking contacts with other stations. There are only 750 such call signs. Each one consists of a single prefix letter (K, N, or W), the region number (0 to 9), and a single suffix letter (A to Z, except the letter X). Its 3-character composition sets it apart from all other FCC-assigned amateur station call signs which consist of 4, 5, or 6 characters.

Q. How can I obtain a special event call sign?

A. As a Section 97.5(b)(1) primary station licensee or a Section 97.5(b)(2) club station license trustee, you may make application to one of our Section 97.119(d)  special event call sign data base coordinators. They add to their common database - that they coordinate, maintain and disseminate - a listing of your station’s call sign and special event call sign for the period of time of the special event. During the period of time so shown, your station simply substitutes - in its Section 97.119(a) station identification announcements – the special event call sign for its FCC-assigned call sign. It must also transmit its FCC-assigned call sign at least once per hour during such transmissions.

Q. During special event station transmissions, is it our club station call sign or is it the control operators’ call signs that must be transmitted additionally at least once per hour?

A. It is the club or primary station call sign shown on the Section 97.119(d) common database coordinated, maintained and disseminated by our special event call sign database coordinators for which the special event call sign is being substituted.

Q. Can our club station transmit as a Special Event Station with a 1-by-1 call sign using more than one transmitter at the same time?

A. Yes. The rules do not limit an FCC-licensed amateur station to transmitting on just one channel at a time. Amateur stations comprised of apparatus under the physical control of just one Section 97.5(b) station licensee, for example, may simultaneously transmit on multiple Section 97.301 frequency bands, with various Section 97.305 emission types from multiple places wherein the FCC does its regulating. All of these stations transmit the same call sign in their Section 97.119 station identification announcements.

   There is, however, Section 97.103(a). It says The station licensee is responsible for the proper operation of the station in accordance with the FCC Rules. So, it is the Section 97.103(a) station licensee who must decide how much concurrent oversight responsibility he/she is willing to accept. Just because the station may be substituting a special event call sign in the station identification announcement under the provisions of Section 97.119(d) is of no consequence here.

Q. In reading Section 97.103(a), it looks as though a station's control operator can allow as many folks to operate simultaneously as he or she feels comfortable overseeing, since the licensee is responsible for what goes on during the station's operation.
No. Today’s e-cfr still says The station licensee is responsible for the proper operation of the station in accordance with the FCC Rules. So, there has been no recent changes in Section 97.103(a).  It is the Section 97.103 station licensee who must decide that matter – not the Section 97.105 control operator. Section 97. 103(b), moreover, says: The station licensee must designate the station control operator.

Q. While using a special-event call, does that oversight responsibility then fall to the trustee of the club call sign for which the 1-by-1 is substituted? If so, it's up to the station licensee to determine how many cats he or she wants to herd for the special-event call sign.

A. Yes. A Section 97.5(b)(2) club station license is granted to the license trustee shown on the ULS.  That club station license trustee, therefore, is the Section 97. 103 station licensee.

   In the case of a Section 97.119(d) special event station 1-by-1 call sign: When transmitting in conjunction with an event of special significance, a station may substitute for its assigned call sign a special event call sign as shown for that station for that period of time on the common data base coordinated, maintained and disseminated by the special event call sign database coordinators. Additionally, the station must transmit its assigned call sign at least once per hour during such transmissions.

Q. That seems as the way it should be. The station licensee is in the best position to gauge the station apparatus, the available operators, etc., and make all the decisions that are necessary to producing an enjoyable, compliant and orderly celebratory activity. How, then, should our club station licensee trustee go about designating control operators?

A. Get in writing. If it isn’t in the station records, it didn’t happen. Section 97. 103(b) says: The FCC will presume that the station licensee is also the control operator, unless documentation to the contrary is in the station records.

   Note also, Section 97. 103(a) says: When the control operator is a different amateur operator than the station licensee, both persons are equally responsible for proper operation of the station. Thusly, all station licensee-designated control operators have an additional inducement to carry out their duties properly.

Q. During a multi-transmitter special event station celebration, what are the transmitting frequency privileges?

A. As with any amateur station transmission from a place where our amateur service is regulated by the FCC, the frequency privileges are those authorized to the class of operator license granted to the designated Section 97.105 control operator. In a multi-operator station, the frequency privileges are those of the on-duty Section 97.105 control operator at the instant of transmission.

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March 30, 2017

Supersedes all prior editions