W3BE'S BE Informed!
CLUB STATIONS
 
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BE Informed No. 6.1

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What Is A

Radio Club?

John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. What exactly is a ham radio club?

A. It is most often a social group of persons sharing interests in radio, somewhere between an informal lunch bunch and a highly energized association. Many have unique pursuits. Some sponsor hamfests, offer educational scholarships, follow technological specialties, provide a repeater, etc. For the purpose of obtaining a Section 97.5(b)(2) club station license grant, however, it must be an assemblage of at least four members, at least one of which must hold a Section 97.5(b)(1) operator/primary license grant. The club must have name, a document of organization, management, and a primary purpose devoted to amateur service activities consistent with Part 97.

Q. Why would they want a club station license?

A. It is simply to obtain another call sign for whatever their reason. It carries no operator privileges.

Q. It sounds superfluous.

A. It is. The notion of a club station call sign is artifact left over from the earliest days of radio. Our regulators’ original perception of what constituted a radio station was much different than today. A century ago, a radio station was a massive aerial structure and a mystifying building filled with inexplicable ozone-smelling apparatus and heroic operators showing off their uncanny ability to communicate messages over long distances without lengthy interconnecting wires. 

   Erecting such massive installations was beyond the abilities of most individual amateur operators. So groups of them pooled their resources and constructed modest club stations. High schools and colleges were magnets for this activity. Thusly, for them, club station licenses were made available. 

   Now that a widely affordable imported amateur station can be clipped to one’s belt, the need for pooling resources has dwindled down mostly to special operation station applications such as repeaters. The club station license, however, having taken on a life of its own, continues solely for making additional call signs available to the already-licensed even though they don’t actually need them in order to carry out their Section 97.119 station identification announcement obligation

   Our regulators have outsourced some of its Section 97.5(b)(2) club station license granting work to several Section 97.17(b)(2) Club Station Call Sign Administrators who each have tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. Their services are voluntary, uncompensated, and unreimbursed. They collect necessary information from the club station license trustee applicants and submit it to the FCC in an electronic batch file whereupon the ULS is updated.

Q. Do the CSCSAs also process license grant renewals?

A. Yes. Section 97.21(a)(1), however says in pertinent part: A Club Station Call Sign Administrator shall not file with the Commission any application to modify a club station license grant that was submitted by a person other than the trustee as shown on the license grant, except an application to change the club station license trustee. An application to modify a club station license grant to change the license trustee name must be submitted to a Club Station Call Sign Administrator and must be signed by an officer of the club.

Q. Do all of our club’s members have to be hams?

A. That is a matter for your club to decide. It can range from no hams to only hams. To receive a Section 97.5(b)(2) club station license grant, however, there must be a designated license trustee to hold the grant. That trustee must be a person who already holds a Section 97.5(b)(1) operator/primary station license grant. The designator and other members do not have to be licensees.

Q. Can a non-citizen of the United States be the station licensee trustee of our club station?

A. Yes, provided the non-citizen (“alien”) is a person who holds a Section 97.5(b)(1) operator/primary station license grant, is designated as your Section 97.5(b)(2) club station license trustee by an officer of your club, and has relinquished the club station licensee trusteeship of all other FCC-licensed club stations.

Q. Who can operate our club station?

A. That is up to your Section 97.5(b)(2) club station license trustee, who must designate the Section 97.105 control operator. The FCC will presume that the club station licensee trustee is also the Section 97.105 control operator, unless documentation to the contrary is in the station records. 

Q. Does a club have to get a club station license grant?

A. No. There is nothing a ham can do over that which he or she is already authorized to do with their Section 97.5(b)(1) operator/primary station license grant. Operating privileges are authorized only by an amateur operator license grant. Every FCC-licensed amateur operator also has a primary station license grant; it is granted together with the amateur operator license. One - but only one – Section 97.5(b)(1) operator/primary station license grant may be held by any one person.

Q. Who selects the club station license trustee?

A. The Section 97.5(b)(2) club station license trustee is selected by the club in accordance with its own procedures for doing such, preferably codified in the club’s document of organization. The appropriate officer of the club then certifies on the application form for a club station license the name of the person who is the license trustee selected by the club.

Q. Can the club station license trustee be a reciprocal operator?

A. Not as such. The foreign ham, however, could be selected by the club as the Section 97.5(b)(2) club station license trustee if that person already holds a Section 97.5(b)(1) operator/primary station license grant.

Q. Does the trustee-designating club officer have to be a ham?

A. No. The only club member that must hold a FCC-issued amateur operator/primary station license grant is the Section 97.5(b)(2) club station license trustee. One family member who holds a Section 97.5(b)(1) operator/primary station license grant, for instance, can enroll his non-ham children, siblings, parents, and friends into the club to round out the four-person minimum membership requirement.

Q. Is there any limit to the number of club station license grants that can be held by the same club?

A. No. Unlike the number of possible amateur operators, which is bounded finitely by our World’s total population, the possibility for the number of club stations is unlimited.

But should any one of those other Section 97.5(b)(2) club station license grants show on the ULS a Section 97.19 vanity call sign, all of the club’s other stations would become ineligible for a new vanity call sign. The upshot, therefore, is: If the club wants a new vanity call sign, it should not designate as its new Section 97.5(b)(2) club station license trustee anyone who is already the license trustee of any other club station having a vanity call sign.

   Section 97.19(a) limits an amateur radio club to one Section 97.3(a)(11)(ii) vanity call sign. A club may, however, have just as many Section 97.3(a)(11)(i) sequential call signs as it wants; each one for a different club station having a different license trustee. If a club currently holds multiple vanity call signs and it wants another (new) vanity call sign, however, the club will have to surrender all of its current vanity call signs to get the new one.  

Q. What does all of this regulatory gobbledygook mean? 

    Section 97.19 Application for a vanity call sign.

   (a) The person named in an operator/primary station license grant or in a club station license grant is eligible to make application for modification of the license grant, or the renewal thereof, to show a call sign selected by the vanity call sign system. Effective February 14, 2011, the person named in a club station license grant that shows on the license a call sign that was selected by a trustee is not eligible for an additional vanity call sign. (The person named in a club station license grant that shows on the license a call sign that was selected by a trustee is eligible for a vanity call sign for his or her operator/primary station license grant on the same basis as any other person who holds an operator/primary station license grant.) Military recreation stations are not eligible for a vanity call sign. (Lots more.)

A. On the surface, it means at least three things. Firstly, our regulator has tiptoed away from its statement that the FCC will issue public announcements detailing the procedures of the vanity call sign system. The rule section wherein it resides is now one of the most extensive in Part 97, running on for some 1,045 words.

   Secondly, it means that our regulator spared none of its word arsenal whilst regulating our radio service where there is no minimum age limit.

   Thirdly, it means that if your club has one or more vanity call signs, it is no longer eligible to get another one. Apparently, too many of our more desirable call signs were being stockpiled by some greedy hams by gaming the club station call sign administrator system and the vanity call sign system. 

    The rules seem to plug all loopholes… except one. If your group wants more vanity call signs for its station, it can simply form more clubs.

Q. Our club station license trustee has moved away. The person we want for our next trustee holds an Amateur Extra Class. He is agreeable to taking on the job, but he is already the license trustee for another club that also has a vanity call sign. Does Section 97.19(a) mean that if we designate him as our club station licensee, we will have to give up our vanity call sign?

A. Yes. He is a person already named in one Section 97.5(b)(2) club station license grant that shows a call sign that was selected by a trustee (him). As such, he is no longer eligible for an additional Section 97.3(a)(11)(ii) vanity call sign. Your club will have to either forgo its vanity call sign for one from the Section 97.3(a)(11)(i) sequential system, or designate as your next club Section 97.5(b)(2) station license trustee another amateur operator who is eligible for your vanity call sign. So, your candidate would have to relinquish his other club station license trusteeship before applying for a modification to your Section 97.5(b)(2) club station license.

Q. Our club has three vanity call signs: one for our repeater, one for our field day station, and one for our clubhouse station. Do we have to forgo any of them?

A. No. Your club probably obtained them before February 14, 2011. So as long as you renew them immediately prior to every tenth anniversary, they are yours to enjoy for the foreseeable future.

Q. Can we obtain another club station call sign from a Club Station Call Sign Administrator?

A. Yes, but only a call sign from the Section 97.3(a)(11)(i) sequential system. Your club officer, moreover, must designate a different member as the license trustee for each new club station license. No new Section 97.5(b)(2) club station license will be granted to a ham who is shown as the license trustee on an existing club station license grant.

Q. Can our club members form another club for the purpose of obtaining another vanity call sign?

A. Not just for that stated primary purpose. It must have a primary purpose devoted to amateur service activities consistent with Part 97. Put those exact words into your document of organization. Your group would also have to select a different member for each new Section 97.5(b)(2) club station license trustee. Once a club station license is granted, your new club would be eligible for a vanity call sign. 

Q. Would we have to assemble another station just for the new club station call sign?

A. No. There is no requirement that an amateur station must actually physically exist just because of holding any Section 97.5 amateur station license grant.     

Q. Can we obtain from a Club Station Call Sign Administrator a new club station license with a former club member’s call sign?

A. No, not directly. There are two separate transactions required to obtain a new club station license having a vanity call sign. Only the first transaction is processed by the CSCSA. With that transaction, your club obtains a Section 97.5(b)(2) club station license grant. It is only after that grant appears on the ULS may your club apply directly to the FCC for a vanity call sign. See Call Sign Systems Vanity for the procedural details.

Q. Who are the club station call sign administrators?

A. For the current listings, visit Licensing Club Stations on the FCC web site. 

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April 3, 2017

Supersedes all prior editions