The FCC has called a hearing to determine whether the license of K 1 M A N should be renewed. If you’re not familar with the ongoing saga, you can read the FCC order which gives the Reader’s Digest version. It’s both entertaining and sad at the same time, like watching angry women smack each other up on daytime TV talk shows.
Periodically this ongoing
fiascocase is in the news, and it seems each time the topic of ARRL one-way transmissions (a.k.a. “broadcasting”) invariably comes up in the conversation. Technically the term broadcasting in the FCC amateur radio rules means one-way transmissions to the general public, however most folks appear to use the term broadcasting to refer to one-way transmissions to amateurs, like ARRL’s daily transmissions. I’ve heard arguments that what ARRL does isn’t much different than what K 1 M A N does. They both do one-way transmissions which is allowed by the FCC, but that’s where the similarity ends. K 1 M A N was cited by the FCC for control operator issues, interference, and broadcasting inappropriate content. Broadcasts in previous years often included rants and just plain off-the-wall content. The broadcasts certainly didn’t showcase the best in amateur radio.
Some radio amateurs argue against broadcasting in general (including ARRL broadcasts) because it interferes with QSOs. This undoubtedly does happen, and reading the FCC order, this was certainly the case with K 1 M A N. But the FCC text makes the case that interference was deliberate. ARRL broadcasts have interfered with ongoing QSOs in the past, but ARRL broadcasts on published schedules and frequencies, and ARRL has been doing it for six decades. Broadcasting on six or seven HF bands, it’s just not practical to have to seek a clear frequency on each band before each broadcast.
While there is nothing in the rules about the content of broadcasts, I think one also has to take into account just what is being broadcast and who, if anyone, is benefiting from it. I copy ARRL CW bulletins once in awhile just to brush up on my CW. The bulletins have news value and general appeal to most radio amateurs. The same could not be said of K 1 M A N broadcasts.
Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, I can argue that amateur radio broadcasting is no longer necessary. In the past the only way to get late-breaking amateur radio news was over the air, but today the Internet can provide news bulletins and code practice, and much more efficiently and conveniently. While this is technical true, I think it would send the wrong message to the public who (wrongly I think) often compares amateur radio and the Internet. Furthermore, with modes like CW, Hellschreiber, and RTTY, amateur radio is known for preserving old technical traditions. Eliminating broadcasting in favor of newer technology ironically (and perhaps sadly) would be antithetical to amateur radio.
Overall, I think abuses of one-way broadcasting in amateur radio are few and far between and the benefits of broadcasting outweigh the interference issues. QSOs undoubtedly will continue to occasionally get stepped on by ARRL bulletins and code practice. I’m sure we’ll have another egomaniac abuse the one-way transmission privilege in the future, but we can deal with that when it happens.
One final note on the K 1 M A N hearing; judging by past rants and broadcasts, I expect the defendant’s closing summation will sound something like this song (make sure you get into the first 40 seconds or so)….