… Who/What Are We Joining?
5 Dec 2017
Some (many?) new hams may not even consider the ARRL as they join the hobby. What is it? What does it do for us – individually or collectively? “$49 for a radio magazine???!!!”
First, many can be appreciative of the ARRL for helping provide some of the training materials and certainly the Volunteer Examiner program through which you were able to study, take and pass the test to get your amateur radio license – congratulations!!! A significant value-add of the ARRL made that possible – otherwise we might be struggling to find a ‘nearby’ FCC examination facility 250-500 miles away from home – that would be sad.
Second, but perhaps more significant and further back in time, we can appreciate the ARRL for the FCC continuing to allow this International avocation to exist, thrive and grow in the United States and elsewhere. This is truly a unique privilege with many different benefits, offerings and justifications to remain intact, WITHOUT a lot of government, commercial or public scrutiny or competition. It is a privilege. One that is more restrictive if it exists at all in many countries around the world.
Third, like it or not, the ARRL is so far our ONLY lobbying/advocacy organization for amateur radio in the United States, and helps supports the same for many other countries. This is not perfect, we don’t always get our wishes in the U.S. or globally, but we still exist for their efforts.
Fourth, the ARRL does offer SOME access to SOME plausibly relevant, correct, accurate good-practice information hams need and want to know. QST and other publications may be the only source of ‘technology’ many people get or have ready access to.
Fifth, the ARRL offers at least a loose framework and some guidance for us to provide services and remain relevant and respected in our local communities. Though through ARES it is not a well-organized, if at all, emergency response/assistance entity, it provides some level of consistency that validates our help in local and global communities.
Though we can become members, the ARRL is NOT a “ham club”. When you become a member you become mostly if not only a funding contributor to their staff and resulting lobbying and legal resources at levels above our day-to-day practices. We’re supporting the hobby’s advocacy before the FCC (regulatory, now law-making body) and occasionally/rarely to the U.S. House and Senate. Yes, you get QST. Yes you get access to some ‘current’ news, but mostly you get a lobbying group – like the AARP, NRA, etc.
The ARRL’s advocacy efforts are very focused on a specific, limited number of issues – they project representing ALL of amateur radio in the United States. Your preference for one issue over another is never accounted for, there is no counting of Yay or Nay supporters – it’s the ARRL Board’s way or nothing.
Oh, yes, you also get to submit nominations, run yourself and vote in the elections for region directors who manage much of the ARRL’s daily and lobbying operations – but sadly you are not really *represented* democratically – there is no mechanism for that. You select a preferred representative who is hopefully allowed by another committee to actually be a candidate, and then defer any and all decisions to whomever wins or is allowed to remain in office, without accountability, knowledge of how they voted, meeting minutes, etc.
If you can accept everything above the prior paragraph, indeed your membership dues and any resulting benefits are worth it. Ultimately, the ARRL is the only “elephant in the room” in the halls of D.C. working for us. We need that. That does not happen without funding. There is no other reasonable, viable way to bring the weight, gravity, preferences of our million-member NON-REVENUE-GENERATING, A-POLITICAL hobby representation to bear on governance and preferred results.
While there are some legitimate concerns about how the ARRL does business, amateur radio overall needs the advocacy. No shame in not joining – this is not a recruitment drive and I’m not running for office or applying for employment. Just an observation and opinion about what you’re getting, or not, as a member. I’ll cover other concerns in another blog post and a petition.