For the first time in my amateur radio career, I’m beginning to look upon ARRL unfavorably. About 15 years ago after I acquired a lifetime subscription, my grandfather chastised me saying I’d eventually grow tired of the League and would regret my subscription. I’m sad to say I think that day may have come.
Over the years I’ve defended ARRL, in both in person conversations and online. ARRL attracts a lot of haters, often unfairly, for wrong reasons. For example, I’ve witnessed many hams hate ARRL, claiming they don’t like CW and worked to eliminate it, despite ARRL supporting code testing for Extra licensing in their FCC comments filings years ago, and offering daily code bulletins and practice over the air. Despite ARRL’s faults and shortcomings, amateur radio would not be where it is today, and perhaps not even exist, if it wasn’t for ARRL.
With the recent Code of Conduct and censure incident and the proposed voting and membership changes, I’m left with the impression of an organization that is closed, secretive, adverse to dissent, and focused on self-preservation. The Force of 50 debacle points to an organization eager to project to the public a disaster response “photo-op” image that neither the organization or the amateur radio service supports or deserves. Over the years I’ve personally seen other examples that support these two impressions but never dwelled on them as ARRL garnered my utmost respect as I felt that the League, despite its flaws, in general was taking amateur radio in the right direction. I no longer have that confidence in the organization.
While I could end my diatribe with the paragraph above, I really want to explore or ask, what is the solution to “fixing” ARRL? ARRL does a great job with publications and education, contesting, and lobbying the FCC. Does the large and seemingly complicated hierarchal governance structure really serve a purpose today? It appears that structure is geared more towards emergency communications initiatives than an effective membership feedback vehicle or advancing the radio art. Is this structure the problem and ARRL needs to be transformed into more of a flat, responsive, grass-roots kind of organization?
This article was originally published at Radio Artisan.