Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Responsibility of the Amateur Radio Operator

As the casual reader of this blog has no doubt noted, I have been blogging about the question pools used for the amateur radio examinations in the United States, focusing (so far) on the Technician exam.  The NCVEC just announced the 2010 edition of that pool, and I'm going to have to take a look at it soon and comment on it the way I did on the 2008 Extra pool when it was released.  However, I want to grouse about a particular question on the old pool first, and I'm going to continue to blog about the old pool for now because that's what people will be testing against until July, at least.

Question T1D08 asks: "What is your responsibility as a station licensee?" and gives (like all other questions on these tests) four choices.  Now, of course, amateurs have many responsibilities as station licensees, many (but not all) of which are set out explicitly in the various regulations in Part 97 and elsewhere in Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations.  Hams are, obviously, required to follow those regulations; this is so blindingly obvious that it almost should go without saying.  Which is, I suppose, why the correct answer to this question is "Your station must be operated in accordance with the FCC rules".  There is really no excuse for getting this one wrong.

It is worth noting, however, that the other three options for this question are not only wrong, but relatively obviously wrong.  "You must allow another amateur to operate your station upon request" is nearly the exact opposite of the real rule, which is that you are never required to let anyone use your station and are responsible for any transmissions by anyone you do let use it.  "You must be present whenever the station is operated" is simply not true; there are many situations in which you may be absent from the station or its control point while the station is being operate.  And the third, "You must notify the FCC if another amateur acts as the control operator", is dismissable on the grounds that the FCC is certainly not interested in getting constant such reports from amateurs.

I question the merit of questions like this one: they're so easy that anyone with even mediocre test-taking skills can get the answer without knowing anything more about amateur radio than the fact that it's regulated by the FCC.  One small bright spot on this: it appears that this question has been dropped from the 2010 pool, although I won't know that for sure until I do the full match-up and comparison.

This post has been brought to you by pool question T1D08.