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ONCE WERE GENTLEMEN
Amateur Radio has always been the domain of those highly moral gentlemen wishing to pursue their hobby whilst showing due deference and consideration for others.
Sadly things are changing!
We seem to have less gentle folk around these days.
Is it just a sign of the times that we now experience undignified and uncommonly bad manners on our sacred bands?
What happens when the Amateur Radio code of conduct falls by the way side?
What happens when stations are deliberately interfered with and the enjoyment of those dedicated to the best interests of Amateur Radio is diminished when interference turns to abuse, harassment and that to serious affront?
Do we sit on our hands, say and do nothing while a few rotten apples ruin our precious hobby?
Or do we take our responsibility to our brothers and sisters seriously by taking affirmative lawful action that protects the best interests of all while upholding the code of conduct?
If you think the latter I would have to agree.
While there is a strong opinion that to ignore the interference is the way to go, I would ask you what if the interference continues to the point that your hobby and the joy it brings, is stolen?
Do we leave the rogue out there to burn anyone they please?
If your response is to take proactive action, what can we legally, lawfully do?
The answer is not much at all.
If you call the RI's they will ask that you to take the initiative and record the interference. But that does not always work, as there are times when it is unidentified and no discernable ID is possible. That being the case why do we pay our license fees to use a band where we are experiencing interference, abuse, harassment, and serious affront? A good question maybe left to another day.
What about self-policing?
Well, vigilante's are out, so what about a more pragmatic approach using all the skills of the amateur and our resourcefulness?
After long and careful consideration and much discussion with those experts - including RI’s - on how to handle the problem, a way thru the minefield of obstacles on how to tackle the problem may have come to light. The following suggestion is an initiative on "how to" deal with interference for your consideration and discussion.
Radio hobbyists have many unique skills that we treat as everyday fun things to do.
One such skill is the art of "Radio Direction Finding" or RDF for short.
In my neck of the woods there are many skilled in the art of RDF who are able to turn a beam antenna toward a signal and approximate the location of that signal. When triangulated with a second or third RDF station the approximate location of a signal can be more accurately determined.
Mobile stations can also be used to get an accurate fix on the location of a signal. Simply using signal strength the signal can be further narrowed to a location, possibly to the exact location of the originating signal. Having done this, there arises a legality that must be carefully handled as carefully as threading a needle.
At no time must any reference be made of any names or possible call signs of any person or persons as this could be considered a breech of the laws of privacy and defamation.
Rather the details should be noted with this in mind.
Remember we are governed by the “rule of law” not the “rule of the jungle”.
Just say someone broke into your house while you were out and found your equipment, turned it on and commenced to cause interference up and down the bands. Maybe a junior member of your family was happily enjoying their illicit freedom without your knowledge – there are a myriad of reasonable scenarios that one could put forward as to why the interference was occurring.
Put yourself in the shoes of an innocent person for a minute and ponder how you would feel if you were accused of causing interference.
My guess is you would not wish to have your good name and call sign bandied around as causing interference when the matter was clearly out of all reasonable control.
Keep in minds most of our laws are centre around “what a reasonable thinking person would think about the matter”.
So having located the source of the interference what next?
My suggestion is to discretely contact your local RI’s along with your local club and pass on the information.
If you do not have a club organize an informal meeting and discuss the matter.
Maybe there is another alternative not covered here that could be lawfully pursued.
If you don’t already have a club perhaps you could organize a local club and establish an Amateur Radio community and get together further advancing your precious hobby and kill two birds with one stone. My experience is that events can galvanise a community. Use it !
However I suspect that there is a club in your local community already.
In any event you have information that should outline all the details.
My recommendation is that this should then be provided by way of a personal letter to the station licensee asking them to respond in a reasonable period of time, say 14 days.
Keep it simple and to the point and DON”T FORGET TO BE COURTEOUS. The tone of the letter should be friendly, pointing out your findings and asking if they would like to respond with a possible explanation.
Remember there is no law compelling the station licensee to respond – your letter is just a note informing them of the matter and asking if they might like to put the record straight.
It should allow them every opportunity to have their say.
The letter should ask the station licensee if there was a problem and if there was a reasonable logical explanation why the interference took place. As I said already there may have been a break in.
This allows the innocent a chance to clear their good name and to avoid any possible allegations of defamation.
This accomplishes several things immediately.
It places the station "ON NOTICE" that you have found a source of interference, even if it was not wilful.
It allows the station a fair go.
Remember we are Aussies and believe in a fair go.
Keep in mind that mediation is the best solution so try to work it out your selves, as gentlemen, and those worthy of the privileges of holding a license.
Take and hold the high moral ground. Don’t let your self be provoked or react to provocation. Remember you are an amateur radio operator not an oaf or thug trying to threaten or intimidate.
Keep accurate records of all events and or conversations.
Doing this will bring it into the open, as to frequently a rogue will hide behind a wall of obscurity.
If however the station licensee is that sort of person we do not wish to have in our ranks then they will 9 out of 10 times - I am reliably informed - shoot themselves in the foot and admit the episode and tell the writer to get lost in no uncertain terms.
If the person is a villain - Bingo! You have a record of the incident and a response from the station licensee responsible for the interference.
But what if it happens again?
If as in STEP 1 the interference can be tracked down and identified to a certain location without any doubt, a second letter should be sent to the offending station asking to "show cause" why the a complaint should not be passed to the ACMA for their action allowing approx 14 days for the response.
Once the response is received - or maybe not received and 14 days has elapsed - all records documents etc should be passed to the local RIs for their archive and any action they choose.
This suggested method takes into account the self-policing policy of the Amateur Radio code while dealing directly with the problem of interference in a pro-active manner while alleviating the onerous chore of busy RI’s tracking down the problem. A task the RI’s often as not, little enjoy.
If the truth be told the RIs will often side step the Amateur Radio operators pleas for assistance as the Amateur has multiple bands and modes while the business man down the road experiencing interference from say a pager, has one channel and is loosing money hand over fist due to the errant pager causing interference to his work channel - so the business man gets the priority. Sad to say Amateur Radio hobbyist falls at the bottom of the list.
So above is a suggested method of identifying the problem and dealing with the matter without the vigilante element etc.
So what if it happens again?
My approach would be to contact your local club and call for the matter to be put on the agenda at the next "General Meeting.”
At this meeting the matter should be given full and complete coverage of all the facts so that everyone has as far as possible a full and complete understanding and knowledge of the facts.
Invite the station to attend to put their side of the story, as mentioned above there may be unusual circumstances.
This also allows the station responsible for the interference nature justice.
Those who act in a manner detrimental to Amateur Radio often hide in the shadowy world of secrecy; if they are a rogue, this will expose them to all, but, as likely as not they may not attend. At least the local community is aware and can decide how they wish to handle the problem of any rogue element.
Perhaps the club may choose to write their local member of Federal Parliament asking for the matter to be referred to the ACMA Minister with a recommendation of cancelling the licensee's privilege.
Whatever, but they, the local community should decide.
Also don’t exclude the possibility that there may be a reasonable logical explanation and that the station needs help to eliminate it.
Don’t be too self-righteous. Remember we are a hobby that likes to help each other.
If there is no hope of mediation and resolution the local operators may choose to shun all contact with the station until it can be established that the person is suitably penitent.
At the end of the day these suggestions are meant to plug the hole that exists between the toothless tiger of self-policing and direct action by the ACMA RI’s.
It brings the matter into the open in a positive and lawful manner that will not see any person or club labelled as defamatory and most of all lets any villain know they have no longer any cloak for their actions.
There may be other better ways and means of handling the matter of interference that are not covered here that are peculiar to your area. I don’t have a monopoly on all good ideas.
The main point here is to bring the matter of interference into a forum for discussion and possible action that hopefully will see the matter amicably resolved while protecting the rights of all. It is possible to pick the suggested advice to pieces as it is always easier to pull down then to build, to criticise rather then praise – after all that’s human nature.
Try to keep that thought in mind and enjoy our hobby while doing what we can to keep it special as amateur radio operators are special and a cut above the rest.
See you around the traps.
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