[AMRadio] Re: "My ARRL, Wrong !!!"

VJB wa3vjb at yahoo.com
Fri Apr 25 12:58:07 EDT 2008

The people who run the ARRL for the time being are
reluctant to support an activity that’s at odds with
political behavior at the League. I haven’t seen
anyone dispute the notion AM is not on the ARRL/QST
favored list, so don’t count on any sudden revelations
in what their club will or won’t promote. I will use
the Fessenden reference as an example, in a moment.

Independently of the League, the AM Community has long
enjoyed a leadership role in creating events that
bring people on the air to enjoy themselves regardless
of the hardware they happen to run. This influential
presence comes from regular, routine operating time
where we can routinely be found on the bands. That
ongoing visibility distinguishes us from temporary
bursts of activity seen during hit-and-run contesting
and other scheduled, short-lived events.

Bill, W2DGB has pointed out the successful AM event
organized annually by the Antique Wireless
Association. I want to take a moment to tip my hat to
Gary, WA4IAM, for his past few years of carrying a
brightly-lit torch for the AWA’s support of AM.

There are additional high-visibility operating events
we may proudly claim.

The AM Bandwarming Party was a huge success in 2006.
It was the first organized activity to honor the
implementation of the FCC’s decision to step around
the ARRL’s meager proposal and provide an adequate
reapportionment of the phone bands on 80/75meters and
on 40 meters. 

The Heavy Metal Rally has been building its
participation the past five years, and 2008 seemed the
most successful, measured as follows: The AM Community
now holds the hobby’s record for the number of Special
Event Call Signs allocated for a single event (more
than two dozen), and the QSO level was extraordinary.
Propagation conditions supported as many as six AM
roundtables spaced comfortably among other
non-participating QSOs from 3675-3890Kc.

Regarding the dark and negative view of AM as seen in
Tom, W9LBB wrote:
>But there are surely historic events 
>that could be commemorated with 
>an AM Night. What about Fessenden's 
>first audio transmission? 
>Yes, I know, it's not well documented 
>and is being challenged, it was 
>possibly on Dec 20 and again on Dec 24th, 
>but what of it? 

What of it, indeed !!!

Fessenden unquestionably used AM to establish some of
the world’s first voice communications, and this
achievement was commemorated in 2001 as part of the AM
Expedition to Thomas Point Lighthouse. Special Event
station K3L placed this offshore beacon on the air for
the first time as a civilian communications station.
K3L marked not only the 100th anniversary of
Fessenden’s transmissions from Cobb Island, about 40
miles to the south and also in the Chesapeake Bay, but
also the founding of the Coast Guard, and 125 years
since the lighthouse was constructed about 2 miles out
in the bay. 

Fessenden’s legacy is murky, including documentation
to support the dates and circumstances of his voice
communications.  What is never questioned is that
these transmissions involved Amplitude Modulated
signals. So it’s easy to think AM might finally be the
focus of a League-sponsored operating event in late
2006 that began to take form two years this month.

The ARRL’s Allen Pitts, who handles promotions to the
media for the League, asked for my input about a
“centennial” Fessenden event, saying “Yes, I am basing
the centennial on the Christmas Eve 1906 event. That's
the one that is the first "broadcast" and seems to be
the one that the media is most interested in.... so we
go with that.”

Pitts was still new to his job and probably had not
been fully indoctrinated against talking to AMers and
especially doing anything that might look like the
ARRL is actually promoting the mode. He was friendly,
favorable to a high AM component, and eager to
cooperate on promoting and crossover with various
broadcast audiences.

I took him at his word and began my outreach to
prominent AMers in broadcasting and other licensees in
the industry who might provide coverage and/or

By the time the final ARRL promotion began, there was
not a single reference to AM, and the event completely
ignored the proposed crossover between hobbyist radio,
the AM broadcast industry, and the technical community
who enjoy “playing radio” at home after a day of radio
at the office.

I think someone “got” to Mr. Pitts, and quickly
rehabilitated him like they do in Beijing to adhere to
the party line.

Signs that he was in the House of Correction began
showing up in June, when he provided me with an update
that made no reference to AM: “We had a meet of
several managers early this week and came up with an
interesting operating event for phone mode on all
(legal) bands.  The bad part was that while it was an
interesting event for the hams, it had no PR value and
did not involve the non-ham nor have much media
interest.  So
back to square 1.”

I wrote back, and said, in part, “Allen thanks for the
update, but unless the "phone mode" was something out
of the ordinary, such as the specialty of AM, the
outcome was predictable.

Part of the problem is the ho-hum nature of
"mainstream" operating. It really takes something
novel to draw interest among us, let alone to draw
some outside media coverage,” I said in my email, and
that seemed to be the end of the brief glimmer of hope
for a staff-led promotion of AM at the ARRL.

The end result was the ARRL’s “Hello” campaign that
culminated in a brief nod to Fessenden, without any
visible rationale or logic as to why he has anything
to do with Amateur Radio. I would rather have heard
something about Nikola Tesla.

So, there you have it, the Reader’s Digest condensed
version of why the people who temporarily run the ARRL
haven’t got a clue as to what they’re missing by their
deliberate exclusion of AM from their attempts at
supporting the hobby.


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