GB2RS amateur radio news reading is a strange activity. It is very public, yet lonely, one is widely heard but it is done in private. There are constraints, guidelines resulting from a long standing agreement between the licencing authority and the RSGB made at a time when radio communication was very special. It still is, but the nature of radio communication and personal interaction has changed. Everyone can now have a radio transmitter in their pocket and world wide personal communication via mobile phones and the internet has become everyone's right. We are far ahead of the marvels envisaged in the early episodes of Star Trek.
I think the newsreaders can fall into two groups, egoist and modest, both of which aim to serve the RSGB in the best way they can. The effect of this is that some are 'presenters' and others are 'readers'. We are all volunteers but some get dragged in deeper than they expected. Our radio persona and the way we perform our duties varies according to our individual background. Any 'Radio Ham' who has listened to the classic Tony Hancock comedy (?) show of the same name without feeling embarrassed by a pang of 'There but for the Grace of God go I... ' should think again.
Recently I have been caught up in a unseemly and ill tempered conflict between an extreme member of one camp and an equally extreme member of the other. I have been asked over the air where I stand as a newsreader in relation to the egoist camp. The answer is not simple. This page is an attempt at explaining it. I have been told to position myself in the opposite camp by the coordinator. It has all got very personal and given me a lot of grief.
My problem is that I am torn between both approaches. While I think that some of the personalisation that coloured the readings that have caused all the fuss was a long way out of line I have a lot of sympathy with the arguments produced in support of it. Indeed, I have taken similar, but less extreme liberties with the script myself. You may be surprised to learn that I myself have recently been reprimanded, in a hurtful, indirect way, for volunteering the information that I too have been leaving out detail that is only useful to someone sitting in front of a computer and reading the bulletin for themselves from a monitor screen. And also, for removing complicated detail of no relevance except to those who already know it. I will toe the line in future and you will just have to put up with it.
The whole point of a spoken GB2RS bulletin is that it is personal. One cannot have a radio society communicating with its members solely by means of the internet. When a human reads the news there are benefits. Would anyone want to listen to a text to speech bulletin relayed from a computer? How appropriate would that be?
For the moment I remain a dutiful member of the team and I will not be goaded by the adverse over air comments of some of my fellow 'gentleman' radio amateurs and I will ignore the jamming that, sadly, has taken place. However, be assured, I will lobby very hard for discretionary permission to rework the supplied on-line script so as to make it more palatable for dissemination by voice. The Society does not have the resources to produce special 'voice' scripts. As an artist I am biased towards the presentation approach, but, though the temptation is there, I will not start a 'G4TRN Radio Show'. It will always be 'The GB2RS News'.
As in all walks of life the amateur radio world is inhabited by individuals of widely different personalities. Unfortunately we are not all 'gentlemen', though all the ladies I have contacted are worthy of that classification. There are, somewhere out there in the trackless voids of what used to be called the 'ether', bands of hooligans, spoil sports, louts and even criminals. Some of them will find this statement while looking for bigger sticks and a source of more hurtful insults. If you are one of these groups, and you will know if you are, think again. Express your views though normal, legal channels and be prepared to admit defeat gracefully if you don't succeed. And for some of you, 'policemen', vigilantes who patrol the bands, think carefully before you rain on anyone's parade. Consider your motives and remember that unidentified transmissions are themselves illegal.
In the September 2016 Bristol RSGB Group Newsletter there appeared a piece that was headed
This not my 'reply'. Its publication was not envisaged.
My suggested changes are part of an ongoing discussion by the GB2RS team on how to address the issues raised in the August newsletter piece 'Is GB2RS relevant today?
However, I now know that it is not possible for news readers to compile and broadcast their own material under the present licence conditions. I am hoping that it may be possible to work around this restriction by allowing local news to be compiled by readers (or other RSGB members) who then submit it to HQ for authorisation.
As you might have expected, I did send in a reply... and it was much too long for publication in the newsletter! The précis that I produced later, and expected to be published, follows...
Those GB2RS Broadcasts...
A News Reader's point of view. John G4TRN
I have a lot of sympathy with the views recently expressed in this newsletter. I do my best with the material presented, within the legal constraints of the service. As one reader said, 'I only read this stuff, I don't write it.' Editorial control resides exclusively at HQ.
You can see my comments on some personal issues above
The 'powers that be' know about it and I have not been asked to take it down.
It is the broadcasting aspect of the GB2RS news service that presents the problems... matters of editorial accountability and legislation. We are very lucky to be able make a radio news broadcast.
I direct fresh local news after the broadcast to someone who I know is listening, under my own callsign. The listeners to the broadcast will hear them too, but, technically, I am not 'broadcasting'. This is sailing very close to the wind!
Club representatives never pop up afterwards unless something has been missed out or scrambled. They could appear and promote their clubs.
A localised GB2RS broadcast cannot ever be 'local radio' under the present legislation. The broadcast permission is very much a privilege and it is vulnerable. News readers are strictly forbidden to add material. Permission to subtract material was not part of the original brief but it is now allowed. I do what I can to cope with tedious items.
GB2RS broadcasts should continue, they are a focal point for some listeners, regular and predictable, like the shipping forecast. For some it is their only regular contact with the world of amateur radio.
Yes, much of the script is of limited interest, but there is something for everyone. Official productions inevitably suffer from administrative content.
GB2RS is flawed and limited but it still has value. Its not Public Address. Listening to it is optional.
Comments and suggestions should be addressed to the RSGB. Contact the general manager. I am already engaged in discussion with parties involved with GB2RS scripts.
Here is an extract from my Ofcom NOV (Notice of Variation) that shows just how restrictive the regulations are...5. Terms and conditions
(And that was an interesting exercise in html coding! )