BE Informed No. 1.5
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Can I Take a Paying Job
At an Amateur Station?
John B. Johnston W3BE
I take a paying job at an amateur station?
A. Perhaps. Your prospects are limited, but have been expanding. You have, at present, three possibilities:
Firstly, you could accept compensation for being the Section 97.105 control operator of a Section 97.5(b)(2) club station while it is transmitting telegraphy practice or information bulletins according to specified conditions. Secondly, you could
accept compensation as an incident of a teaching position during periods of time when you are using a Section 97.5 amateur station as a part of classroom instruction at an educational institution. Thirdly, you could participate on behalf of an employer
in a Section 97.113(a)(3)(i) emergency preparedness or disaster readiness testing or drilling and operational testing immediately prior thereto.
Q. What is a professional communicator?
A. In our context, it is someone who accepts compensation for doing
that for which an un-paid amateur does. For example: professional/amateur athletes. Our amateur service community (“hams”)
is comprised of two basic constituencies:
An amateur is a duly authorized person interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary
interest who utilizes our radio spectrum allocations for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication, and technical investigations.
This definition is codified in SEC. 3. [47 USC 153](2) of the Communications Act, international Radio Regulation (RR) No. 1.56 and Section 2.1(c) the United States Code of Federal Regulations Title 47, and Section 97.3(a)(4).
A professional communicator
is a duly authorized person interested in radio technique with something other than a personal aim and/or with a pecuniary
interest who utilizes our radio spectrum allocations to further those interests.
There appears to be a constant churning by persons moving back and forth between categories
as commercial opportunities come and go.
I will be away during an upcoming DX-pedition. Could I pay a professional communicator to work the new one for me?
A. While there is no rule that would prohibit you from paying a professional communicator to work as the Section 97.105 control operator of your Section 97.5(b)(1) primary station, Section 97.113(a)(3) prohibits communications in which the Section 97.103 station licensee or Section 97.105 control operator has a pecuniary interest, including communications on behalf of an employer, with certain exceptions codified therein. The
issue, therefore, is whether the person you hire and the work to be done can meet the criteria for one of those exceptions.
One possibility may be Section 97.113(c)(3)(i) operational testing.
Q. Could he make the DX contact using
his station, or would he have to come over to my station and use its apparatus?
A. Either way can be acceptable as far as Part 97 is concerned. You could choose to designate him to be the Section 97.105 control operator of your Section 97.5(b)(1) primary station. Document the arrangement in your station records just in case things go sour. The ownership of the transmitting apparatus
is irrelevant if you can claim legitimately as having physical control of it.
Q. What exactly constitutes an amateur station?
A. An amateur station consists of all
the transmitters, receivers and combinations thereof, and all accessory apparatus, at any one location, necessary for carrying
on radio-communications in any of our three amateur radio services.
Q. What exactly are amateur service communications?
A. According to Section 97.3(a)(4), et al, they are radio-communications for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations
carried out by amateurs, that is, duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without
Q. Must the
governmental sponsor be a federal agency?
No. Section 97.113(c)(3)(i) says only government. No exceptions are specified. That could include, therefore, federal, state, county, borough,
parish, city, tribal, etc., even foreign governments. Part 90, Private Land Mobile Radio Services, on the other hand, provides exclusively for the licensing of non-federal governmental entities.
Q. Our amateur service spectrum is being taken over by professional communicators
to correct shortcomings in the federal and non-federal government emergency services communications infrastructure. The era
of duly authorized amateurs interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary
interest is fading away.
Observably. Private land mobile radio services communications by emergency service providers is regulated under Part 90. Those rules establish a Public Safety Radio Pool and provide for the licensing of non-federal governmental entities - including
law enforcement and fire protection – as well as medical services, rescue organizations, veterinarians, persons with
disabilities, disaster relief organizations, school buses, beach patrols, establishments in isolated places, communications
standby facilities, and emergency repair of public communications facilities.
As you note, those types of communications are now spilling over onto
our amateur service spectrum, with professionals taking over from amateurs, apparently for the very reason you cite.
Our contemporary amateur service community, however, seems
to be more intent on transitioning to a social media where members of the general public intercommunicate by making radio
Q. Which part of our amateur
service spectrum has been made available to the professional communicators?
A. Section 97.101(c) says at all times and on all frequencies, each Section 97.105 control operator must give priority to stations providing emergency communications, except to stations transmitting communications for training
drills and tests in RACES.
97.503 says that our VEs’ exams must be such as to prove that the examinee possesses the operational and technical qualifications
required to perform properly the duties of an amateur service licensee. Our examinations, therefore, are unsuitable for the
professional communicators now moving onto our frequency bands. Their employers are the logical parties to determine who best
serves their needs. If some form of FCC certification is mandatory, wouldn’t the Part 13 commercial operator license
make more sense?
No, that would be even more ludicrous. Section 13.3 says those rules that require FCC station licensees to have certain transmitter operation, maintenance, and repair duties
performed by a commercial radio operator are contained in Part 23, Part 80, and Part 87. Part 80 contains the rules for stations in the maritime services and Part 87 contains the rules for the aviation services. (E-CFR does not show a Part 23.)
Those professional communicators are obviously not migrating to our amateur service bands to carry out transmitter maintenance
and repair duties. They are being deployed there to participate on behalf of their employers in emergency preparedness or
disaster readiness tests or drills and operational testing immediately prior to such test or drill.
Q. Does a person employed by a VE or VEC as a “Section 97.527 out-of-pocket
expense” line item have to be a ham?
A. No. Our regulator does not address that matter in the rules. The person accepting pay, however,
would obviously not be a volunteer. He/she would be an employee of the VE or of the VEC. So, any necessity for the employee
to be a ham would depend upon the management practices and employment policies of the employing VE or VEC.
Q. Is there a limit on what our VEs and VECs can charge?
A. Yes. Our VEs are supposed to accept
no more than their actual Section 97.527 out-of-pocket
expenses for performing their Section 97.507 preparing and Section 97.509 administering. They appear to be remarkably ingenious in keeping their expenses very low.
Our VECs are supposed to accept no more than their actual Section 97.527 out-of-pocket
expenses for performing their Section 97.519 coordinating and processing. Two of our VECs - Anchorage Amateur Radio Club VEC and Laurel Amateur Radio Club VEC – are highly successful in furnishing their services without incurring any significant out-of-pocket expense. They
do not charge. Any costs incurred are covered by the associated club and/or members.
Q. Are there provisions in place to keep VE and VEC out-of-pocket expenses from skyrocketing?
A. Only the probability of very low head
room for an examination fee that most potential applicants are willing to pay, and the fact that there are at least two VECS
and probably thousands of VEs who offer examinations gratis.
Q. It needs explaining that a VE cannot act or perform the duties and responsibilities of a VEC or
any of that organization’s employees.
A. Right. Neither our VEs’ Section 97.507 preparing and Section 97.509 administering duties and responsibilities extend to performing our VECs’ Section 97.519 coordinating and processing duties and vice-versa. There is, however, nothing in our regulator’s rules that would prevent the same otherwise qualified amateur operator from serving both as a VE and a VEC representative, even
simultaneously. The employment arrangement, moreover, is not a FCC rule matter.
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November 5, 2016
Supersedes all prior editions