Is Ham Radio in Australia on the Decline?

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by VK7HH, Jun 21, 2021.

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  1. SM0AOM

    SM0AOM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I am getting the impression that you are younger than me, perhaps 15 or even 20 years.

    Then you had no opportunity to live through the final years when most amateurs actually belonged to an elite. When there were no "no-coders" and the exams were quite hard and actually tested knowledge, although the present-day UK exams are less watered-down in comparison with too many other countries.

    I may repeat myself, but in the 50s and 60s did a majority of the Swedish radio amateurs, about 70%, belong to the educated classes and 2/3 had technical professions, were conscript or career military personnel or students at Grammar Schools or universities.

    I am old enough to remember the late 60s when radio amateurs were known for the good behaviour and their good standing with the Authorities.
    A good standing as a subject was even actually required in order to be considered for the grant of a licence. If you have had trouble with "the law" or was considered "unreliable", no licence.

    As amateurs behaved as adults, whining and complaining were practically unheard of, as it was considered to be very "bad form" and could damage the standing.

    When the national society addressed the regulator, it used a very courteous language.

    But already in the early-70s, the national society fell for the "CB appeasement strategy" in order to increase their membership against the will of the existing members, which started the "slippery slope" which we are on today.

    When the society finally became aware of the detrimental effects of lowering the exam standards in the mid-70s, they petitioned the regulator to make the exams harder again, t0 which the regulator replied; "You got what you wanted, so why complain now..."

    Last edited: Jun 30, 2021
    M1WML and US7IGN like this.
  2. KA0USE

    KA0USE Ham Member QRZ Page

    my thinking is more toward the outback stations (cow/sheep-type, not radio-type, stations) and how they network.
    do the locals in their area use cb or 2m simplex?

    and how are air ambulances summoned?

    do all critter-stations have a mast up high?

    this is a fascinating subject. all i know of australia is 'the thorn birds', 'miss fisher mysteries',
    and 'priscilla, queen of the australian desert'. maybe 'merry christmas mr. lawrence'. well, there was
    'fool's gold', too. and the seekers and daddy cool, and the beegees.

    AND aussies have no reverse gear in combat. they might move to the side to go around, but NEVER
    back up.

    anyway, do they chit-chat during the day or is station life too hard for chit-chatting?

    i am ignorant.
    M1WML likes this.
  3. G0KDT

    G0KDT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well you are probably correct on age, but age is no determination of 'elitism'. The 50's and 60's were not times when we had either the population or levels of technology and its associated introduction of QRM that such a population proliferate now. That was my point.

    Technology progression has made innumerable life benefits possible. The relative importance of issues to society will change based on what are perceived by those in power as getting greater benefits for the majority unless they are of a deviant nature. To that end Amateur Radio sadly pales into insignificance vs the likes of 3G, 4G and 5G internet tech for instance. There is more money to be made from licences and product in such areas too.

    My guess is that there may be a few elite out there that do better operating radio in the current operating environment, but I'd hazard a pretty certain guess that these days they are younger and are using modern tech to overcome the limitations they face. I am old enough (retired) to know that there comes a point when trying to follow some of the new technical theories no longer has the same dedication. The benefits of youth. Hi.

    None of this means that I wouldn't like things to be simpler or that good operating manners and procedure don't matter.
    M1WML likes this.
  4. SM0AOM

    SM0AOM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I am a board member of the Nordic Radio Society, NRS, which is a cooperative body between industry, academia, regulators and the user communities such as the military. NRS arranges conferences, is a participant in various consultations about new ruling and in general tries to coordinate efforts to increase the participation of younger people in radio engineering education and development.

    A recurring topic at the board meetings is the general difficulty of interesting people in the more traditional forms of radio, which still are in some demand among the users. The very few that chose "radio" as the subject in their MSEE studies almost invariably go the paths of 4G and 5G. Radio generalists are almost impossible to find nowadays.

    As a few other members also are radio amateurs, among them two professors emeriti in space physics and signal processing,
    the subject of amateur radio is sometimes touched upon. It becomes very clear that amateur radio is regarded as an anachronism which has failed to attract bright young people any more, compared to what it did a few decades ago.

    "Yesteryear", amateur radio was seen as an asset to society, not only because of the recruiting base for conscript radio operators and technical personnel in the Armed Forces, but also a training ground for "hands-on radio". The exam standards were quite high, and there was a selection process.

    However, the decline of quality have made the Authorities quite sceptic about the actual value of amateur radio. If you speak to representatives for the spectrum regulators, the EMC and EMF responsible or anyone else such as building planning councils, who have had the misfortune of having to deal with radio amateurs, their general views are that radio amateurs are a bunch of quite aged whiners and complainers who demand a lot but give nothing in return.

    M1WML and NN4RH like this.
  5. US7IGN

    US7IGN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I know that a millionaire friend of mine from Ireland really wanted to hide from justice in Australia)

    I also really liked the films "Last Cab to Darwin" or "Rams"

    But age sets the criteria for determining this.

    Because it was a hobby and is becoming a hobby again, and not part of the training of future radio operators for the army, etc. Horse riding and fishing with a rod are also anachronistic, but people continue to do it. They just need to not stop them from doing it ...
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2021
    KA0USE likes this.
  6. NN4RH

    NN4RH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I appreciate your insight on this. But, what would save Amateur Radio? Or is it too late?
  7. SM0AOM

    SM0AOM Ham Member QRZ Page

    It may very well be too late.

    If amateur radio is not considered
    "worth saving" by those that have its ultimate fate in their hands, it will not be "saved", even if we could succeed in bringing the Morse requirement back and tightened up the exam standards in general.

    Since 1947, amateur radio has "rested on old laurels", and capitalised on its good-will from WW2.

    But in the 75 years that have passed, the views of how the radio spectrum should be regulated and distributed have changed fundamentally, spectrum has gone from a tightly Government regulated common resource to a commodity that is bought, sold and traded for monetary gains.

    Fortunately, there have been no concerted attacks on the spectrum privileges - yet.

    A major difference between amateur radio and other anachronisms is that unlike steam trains, sailboats or rod fishing it actively competes for a fundamentally limited natural resource which also has an immense commercial value.

    It needs an extremely good justification for its continued existence, and frankly, I am unable to formulate such a justification.

    In order to justify continued spectrum privileges, it needs to be shown beyond doubt that amateur radio does offer something that other competitors for spectrum do not provide.

    Some perspectives about the real value of the spectrum privileges enjoyed by amateur radio are that the total spectrum space for maritime mobile radio services in the heyday of HF was about the same as what amateur radio had world-wide, so a multi-billion shipping industry had its global communications needs satisfied in a comparable share of a natural resource as a small number of hobbyists. This would have been completely impossible if the "markets" had been the deciding factor for allowing spectrum access.

    Instead, amateur radio had powerful "friends in high places" that protected existing, and even allowed increased spectrum allocations.

    Now, however, have those friends that mostly were qualified scientists and engineers or signals officers retired and are replaced by lawyers and "bean-counters". These categories have no nostalgic feelings whatsoever about the value of preserving anachronisms, and only look into "the bottom line".

    Amateur radio is in a similar situation as the radio scientific community, which has faced increasing pressure on the small spectrum privileges it has. In some cases, commercial pressure on spectrum and the inability of deregulated spectrum authorities to protect them have resulted in very expensive scientific projects gone worthless. However, the scientific community still has considerable political influence.
    A Nobel Prize looks good to the voters...

    My own views are that amateur radio is back to a similar political situation that it faced in the mid/late-1930s. Commercial pressure and increasing spectrum demands for propaganda broadcasts would eventually have pressed amateur radio off the map, but instead the Allied victory in WW2 saved us.

    A major difference then and now is that amateur radio could show its competence and that amateurs lived up to high standards.

    Today, standards have declined, and worse, the constant whining, complaining and bickering have reached the eyes and ears of the regulators. They see absolutely no "point" in actively preserving something that provides only aggravation and nothing else in return.

    Considering the age profiles, a major portion of current "first-world" radio amateurs will be dead within one or two decades, and will not be missed by the regulators. It is a very far stretch to expect them to actively promote a growth in numbers with their experiences and the commercial pressures as the background.

  8. US7IGN

    US7IGN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I strongly doubt that. Even medium and short wave broadcasting is getting smaller and smaller. IMO the commercial value of the HF portion of the spectrum is only decreasing.

    UHF is of course under pressure, but judging by its activity, it is not very interesting even for amateurs ...
    VK3UA likes this.
  9. SM0AOM

    SM0AOM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Please note that this was written in the 'past tense'.

    Today, HF use is in a general decline, much due to the globally increasing man-made interference problems.

    If not stopped, RFI will make HF unusable for all user categories.

    PU2OZT likes this.
  10. US7IGN

    US7IGN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Also, do not forget that they are significant only in the immediate vicinity of objects of human activity. It is worth leaving the city and the RFI does not interfere at all. Unless, of course, you do not carry them with you)

    Therefore, the main is interest of people to do this. Perhaps their number will significantly decrease, but there will be those who are really interested in it.

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