BE Informed No. 1.5
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Can I Take a Paying Job
At an Amateur Station?
John B. Johnston W3BE
Q. Can I take a paying job at an amateur station?
A. Perhaps. Your prospects are limited, but have been expanding. There are,
at present, three possibilities codified in Part 97: 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.
W3BE-O-GRAM: Upon accepting payment, be aware, you cease being
an amateur and become a professional.
What is a professional?
In our context, it is someone who accepts compensation for doing that for which an un-paid amateur does. For example: professional/amateur
Q. I thought our amateur radio service
was strictly for amateurs.
radio service name "amateur" seems to suggest that it may have been so intended originally, but now our amateur
service community ("hams") is comprised of two basic constituencies:
Amateurs, i.e., duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with
a personal aim and without pecuniary interest who utilize our radio spectrum allocations for the purpose of self-training,
intercommunication, and technical investigations in accord with 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).
Professionals, i.e., duly authorized
persons interested in radio technique with something other than a personal aim and/or with a pecuniary interest who utilize
our radio spectrum allocations to further those interests.
Q. I will be away during an upcoming DX-pedition. Could I pay a professional to work the new one for me?
A. While there is no rule that would prohibit you from paying a professional 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. Read Commercial Communications and Section 97.113(a)(3)(i) Operational Testing BE Informed No. 7.3.
Q. Could he make the DX contact using his station, or would he have
to come over to my station and use its apparatus?
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 as long as you can prove having Section 97.5(a) physical control of it.
Q. What exactly are amateur service
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
pecuniary interest. Section 97.111 authorizes an amateur station to transmit certain types of one-way and two-way communications.
Q. Must the governmental sponsor be a federal agency?
A. 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. Which part of our amateur service spectrum has been made available to the professionals?
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.
Q. Section 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 professionals
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?
A. 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.)
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. Must a person employed by a VE or VEC as a "Section 97.527 out-of-pocket expense" line item
be a ham?
A. No. That matter is
not addressed 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?
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. 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
tens of thousands of VEs who offer their examination services 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.
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 Section 97.509 Administering VE and a Section 97.521 VEC representative, even concurrently. The employment arrangement, moreover, is not a FCC rule matter.
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November 12, 2017
Supersedes all prior