The RSGB

Details are yet to emerge about the nature of the misconduct that led to the dismissal of the RSGB’s General Manager Peter Kirby. However in one or two blogs and forums it is already being suggested that this should be an opportunity for root and branch change at the RSGB, a chance to get rid of the “old school tie brigade.” I don’t agree.

I may be an old fart now, but when I first joined the RSGB back in 1973 I was 20 years old and it was an even more traditional organization than than it is today. Most of the officers held two-letter calls that indicated they had been licensed since before the war. Radio Communication (it was years until it became the more trendy RadCom) had more of the air of a professional electronics journal. But did I feel that the RSGB was an old boys’ club that should be run by more know-nothing-but-think-they-know-it-all youngsters like me? Did I write letters asking for Radio Communication to be dumbed down to make it more understandable to newcomers? No I didn’t. The RSGB did have a bit of an air of being an elite group, but I was proud that it now included me. And instead of grumbling that the contents of Radio Communication were over my head I aspired to understand what was then a mystery. Unlike other radio services ham radio is a hobby with a long tradition and that is one of the things that is reflected by the RSGB.

I never attended an RSGB annual general meeting. But when these were held they were usually followed by a “black tie” dinner. I’ve seen Big Issue sellers more smartly attired than the average radio rally attendee and I have often wondered if these formal dinners were part of the same hobby. But the fact that I had no desire to attend such functions did not mean I felt they should not occur, or that the people who attended them could not possibly represent the interests of people like me.

I think the RSGB has done quite a good job so far, especially considering the differing and often conflicting demands of its members. Britain was one of the first countries to drop the Morse proficiency requirement and to introduce a licensing scheme that made it easy for the very young and those with limited technical knowledge to enter the hobby. These are hardly the actions of an RSGB dedicated to maintaining the status quo, to resisting change, to keeping ham radio an elite club of people who know code and understand circuit diagrams.

I don’t think the misdemeanours of one salaried officer should be allowed to overshadow that achievement. One bad apple doesn’t mean you must cut down the entire tree. We live in an egalitarian age where everyone’s opinion counts and it seems that many want an RSGB run by people like them. I just wonder where that would lead. If you look at history, the times when Britain was great was when it was run by leaders who were in their 60s and 70s. Now the country is run by political careerists in their 40s and 50s and look at the mess we’re in. We need an RSGB that can shape the future of the hobby but still respect the the past.

Julian Moss, G4ILO, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Cumbria, England. Contact him at [email protected].

6 Responses to “The RSGB”

  • Jeff N1KDO:

    I’m an American member of the RSGB and I hope that they can get their finances in order. I am a member because I enjoy reading RadCom. And I am glad to help support my beloved hobby in your country, too.

    However — I do hope some financial reforms can help to lower the cost of membership. I know that the overseas mailing of RadCom has got to be expensive, but the cost for a US amateur to join is almost twice the price of an ARRL membership. I think a lower price would make membership more accessible to more people.

    73 de n1kdo

  • Alan GI7GSB:

    I think its time they sacked the lot of them..down to the last council member and let the real radio hams run the society.
    this is the society that claims to repersent the UK radio hams?? they have less than 40% of UK hams as members …paying members sre leaving in droves…i left and wont return untill they get real radio people in to run our so called national society…this is of course the same society who lobbyed to get the foundation license farce through so every idiot now is a radio ham..and you cant say you havnt heard them on air with their 10watt 1K amps……RSGB…More like the RS CB….wont be sorrt to see them go

  • Jason O'Neill:GM7VSB:

    Julian,
    Great post.

    Alan,
    Do you think you could fill Peter Kirby’s boots if offered the job at RSGB HQ?
    Is there another organisation that can claim to represent UK Radio Amateurs?
    Can you recommend other people you would like to see running the Society?

  • John G8KHS:

    I agree with Jeff N1KDO, the RSGB should make Radcom available to overseas suscribers at a more reasonable rate and stop ripping them off. One way of doing this would be using Zinio or a similar e-distributer.

    Very good article from Julian G4ILO, he has touched on many points the RSGB needs to address urgently.

    Under the control of Peter Kirby I found arrogance was the main problem of the society. If you disagreed with Kirby then you were ignored, bullied or even alledgedly threatened. The staff & a few volunteers who sucked up to him were “looked after”.

    Radcom was dumbed down and the nasty policy of “you pay for the membership but the magazine is free” ensured that anyone who was critical of the content were ignored.

    The RSGB discarded quality and embraced money making at the expense of their members who have been leaving steadily over many years.

    I sincerely hope that the AGM in May will be well attended by members who will show their support for a society that will listen to them and show guts & leadership.

    73 to all de G8KHS

  • Clive GM4FZH:

    It is sad to think though that one amateur because of his position steals from other amateurs. A reflection on our society?

  • John GM1TDU:

    Clive: Whoa! “Financial irregularities” doesn’t necessarily = stealing. Beware of the rapacious Messrs Sue, Grabbit & Runne who, in these dark days, will gladly take on a “No win, no fee” basis what could be a slander case. And even if true, beware of the libel laws. Don’t forget: The greater the truth, the greater the libel.

    There now, sea-lawyer time over.

    Meantime, let’s hope that PK’s replacement is legal, truthful, honest & decent. Members – I’ve been one on and off for nearly 30 years – deserve a Society GM who’s top class. That won’t be easy to attract given the general parsimony of the membership, most of whom are either pensioners (like me) or earning not much above the UK national average of about £25k pa.

    In my view, a suitable calibre of GM has to cost the Society at least £75k pa. Even at that cost, he’ll only get around £60k pa before tax etc with the rest going in employer’s NI, pension and perks costs. Otherwise we’ll get what we pay for – a second- or third-rater.

    And we know where that can lead.

    Thanks for reading this, boys.

    73 de John GM1TDU

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